My husband and I moved into our house seven years ago this past June. I was serving at the local university with InterVarsity which is what brought us to Sacramento in the first place.
I grew up in rural Maryland - fifteen minutes from the closest grocery store, rural Maryland. We had an idyllic neighborhood where we shared sugar and pools and had neighborhood holiday parties together with many families from our 100 household, isolated community. What’s more, there were people from many parts of the world in our neighborhood: Greek, German, Taiwanese, Latvian, Irish, Japanese and so forth. I LOVED our neighborhood.
Fast forward past a family divorce and college and many years of campus ministry with InterVarsity and global and urban mission trips under my belt.
We moved to Sacramento so I could continue to love and serve college students in this new city 10 years ago, right after we were married. Right away, I fell in love with this city, the City of Trees. Friendly, lush, historic, diverse… beautiful.
I also felt an immediate inclination towards Oak Park when we moved here, not knowing too much about the city. I think God was already stirring our hearts for this community. For years, I prayed God would move us onto the right street in the right part of the neighborhood with the right neighbors. When we viewed our home (where we’ve lived in the past 7 years), the person showing the house knew a neighbor across the street who had been praying for a nice, Christian couple to move in for some time.
Beginning the day after we moved into our house, I walked with two neighbors, both Christians, three mornings a week. We added praying for our neighborhood as part of our morning walk. Coming from three very different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, we shared who we were and where we came from with one another. After our morning walks dissolved, we met once a week to pray for one another, our friends and families and our neighborhood.
Because I became friends quickly with these two women and their families, they invited me into relationships with other neighbors. At the same time, I was recruiting graduating students from the local InterVarsity chapter to continue living in this community as well, to learn from and love our neighbors together.
A year after moving here, we had a brand-new InterVarsity graduate move in with us. Sometime after that, more students who graduated moved into the neighborhood. Through the community found in the neighborhood as well as through regularly occurring community dinners, weekly prayer and Bible studies, lots of InterVarsity alumni have decided to make their home here with us.
It is one thing to move somewhere on your own to be involved in seeing God’s Kingdom work; it’s another thing altogether to live with others who care deeply for people in a certain neighborhood and want to see God glorified all over the place. This neighborhood is amazing, as are the people in it – people as diverse as our world in life experience and culture. There is beauty and strength and depth of relationship here.
What started with morning walks and a couple new friends has blossomed into many forms: prayer and Bible study; breaking bread; loving, walking with and advocating for our neighbors. There’s currently a conversation about founding a non-profit that works with neighbors who are adversely affected by changes in immigration law.
A mustard seed, when planted, becomes so big that it provides shade and rest to those who need it. Those of us who have relocated are together with our neighbors in building shade in a way that brings glory to the King of this incredible Kingdom.
Heather Haight is the director of the Sacramento Urban Program. She loves living in Oak Park, family biking and making zucchini bread pancakes. Her post is the first in a series around the key components of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). Some of our Urban Project staff and students will join with many other Christians in New Orleans for the annual CCDA conference, September 11 - 14, 2013.