The song itself doesn’t start until halfway through the following clip, but if you have time, watch the whole thing. It’s definitely what I’ve been thinking about this week.
The issue of choosing a neighborhood based on perceived safety has been on my heart so much I wrote about it for WORLDMag.com today. Is safety a valid concern for a Christian family when seeking housing options? I’m struggling with it. What say you?
As my family is preparing for our upcoming move this summer, we spent the better part of this spring break week checking out our new locale, getting a feel for the city, and looking at some housing possibilities. As our new situation coincides with helping to plant a church right in the heart of Oklahoma City, and my husband’s job will take him 30 minutes north of town half of the week and 30 minutes south the other half, it seemed ideal for us to find a house right in the middle.
We drove all over town armed with a list of addresses, a charged-up GPS, and a full tank of hope. Everything we found fell in one of two major categories: way out of our price range or way beyond our handyman capabilities (which are basically limited to paint and my dad’s phone number).
While there were several homes that fit our budget, they were either really tiny or really run down. By the end of Monday, we walked away with three possibilities-all within our price range-but all in what some might consider semi-scary neighborhoods.
Tuesday was a day filled with a fair amount of stress over that. I admit to feeling a lot of tension over whether or not this should be a concern for us. I admit to placing safety pretty high on my list of housing ideals. And I admit to not knowing if that’s really OK or not.
I’ve had Derek Webb’s song “Rich Young Ruler” stuck in my head all week and believe me, I’m thinking about it a lot. Here’s an excerpt:
Poverty is so hard to see
When it’s only on your TV
Or 20 miles across town
Where we’re all living so good
We moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
Where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
From going through our trash
He says, “More than just your cash and coin
I want your time I want your voice
I want the things you just can’t give me.”
In the midst of wrestling with all of this, we received another housing lead from a friend. This house is still in the city, though at the very north edge of it. Of all the things on our “ideal” list, it has about 95 percent of them and was listed at the same price to the dollar that we are hoping to sell our home for in St. Louis. And the neighborhood feels safe (we drove past two different police cars parked in driveways, which was somewhat comforting to me).
I love the house, but I’m struggling to figure out if that’s OK. Is it any less godly to live in a place where you aren’t afraid to let your kids ride their bikes on your street? If you’re helping to plant a church somewhere downtown, is it acceptable to live 12 minutes north? Does God call people to the suburbs as well?
7 thoughts on “Is it okay to want to feel safe at home?”
I don’t think it is wrong, but I believe more and more that there is an opportunity we usually miss when we choose the neighborhoods that we perceive to be safe. This is easy for me to say, because I live in a “safe” neighborhood, and that’s one reason I selected it. But I see some (even young couples and young families) targeting the “less safe” neighborhoods and moving in BECAUSE they want to help the people there. They are making an incredible impact for the kingdom. I wish I had been that brave, and that courageous for God. Here’s a link to what I am talking about: http://pure-and-lovely.com/sneak-peek-current-projects/2011/3/10/the-yellow-house-project.html
As a child I grew up in a neighborhood that was frequented by the SWAT team. We were burglarized 3 times and numerous times found crowbar marks on our sliding door. At the time no one in my family were believers. I often had nightmares of people breaking into our house. As a mom, I struggle with this. Idealogically as a follower of Christ, I believe that we should not abandon these dangerous neighborhoods. However, my childhood fears are hard to overcome. If done with much prayer, the leading of God (& strategically in cooperation with other believers) I could do it. Thought provoking.
I definitely go back and forth on this. Our major issue with the houses in the “scary” neighborhoods is that they also need a scary amount of work done on them and we’re just not the handy type.
We lived in a meth-lab neighborhood for a couple of years in Colorado Springs and the police helicopter circled our area so many times we would just go out on the front porch with a baby on our hips and wave. They were close enough to make eye contact with. I always expected a bad guy to jump the fence one day and make a run for it through our yard…
Where we live now is across the street from an interesting apartment complex. We see police cars and other combos of ambulance/fire over there every five or six weeks or so. The incidents usually appear to be drug related as in we’ve seen the officers searching cars several times. It doesn’t feel scary to me, necessarily, and I do let the girls ride their bikes up and down the street here, so maybe I’d relax once I got to know the new scary a little bit too.
The house we’re seriously interested in getting and is in our range right now, is about a 12 minute drive from the center of Oklahoma City. It feels close enough to both be involved and have people over and the house is big (I’ve been praying for a place to comfortably host lots of people in) so I could definitely see it being a blessing to the church community even though it’s 12 minutes away.
So much to still think about…
I’ve been challenged by John Piper’s church and philosophy that everyone working for the church has to live close to downtown Minneapolis(?) in not-very-nice areas.
There’s a couple from our church that bought a house in the not-so-nice area to minister there but where we live isn’t really a huge crime area so I don’t see much “danger” to it (though I know they’re making a huge difference there and are truly a light for Christ so I think it was a good move).
A little more research might help, are you talking the occasional drug bust or are you talking about someone taking someone else’s life on a daily basis? How far is far? How far will he be traveling? Gas prices keep going up, how much spent in gas? What about shopping and kids’ activities?
We had friends who moved out of a very difficult housing area b/c they didn’t feel their family was capable of working through it at that time. Or that their area of ministry should be their next door neighbors.
What is the demographic of the area? If everyone speaks Spanish and your church plant is not Spanish-speaking then you might want to live in an area that you’ll be inviting people to your church. I think our old church should’ve had a Spanish outreach (the music minister was at least conversationally Spanish if not fluent) and a dog outreach b/c there were so many neighbors around the church who had dogs and walked them frequently (maybe a meet-n-greet dog day on the lawn or a vet talk). 🙂
It’s a good question and something to pray about and see where God directs you.
I have lived in the sticks of Oklahoma, I have lived in the nicest suburbs of Tulsa, I have lived in the heart of St. Paul…the bottom line is to follow after the Lord wherever He wants you…whether it’s the sticks, inner city or suburb, the lost are everywhere…
And His direction is all that matters.
Your family will be a blessing to any neighborhood. The number one thing I see in Des Peres and broader West County is the brokenness of family, in a different way than perhaps in the city. People are empty. In the suburbs there are often just more resources to try to fill the emptiness with stuff and activities. Families need to see Christian families live out their values and faith in a real way. Young moms need to spend time with moms who don’t idolize their kids but who love them well and parent them thoughtfully. Husbands need to meet husbands who serve their wives out of grace and not from guilt or by demand. And couples need to be challenged to live in unity, not self-sufficiently and independently; they need to see a Christian marriage modeled, even if imperfectly. Families need to hear that there is hope beyond this world. Your home can be a home where your kids’ friends come to see Christ’s love fleshed out among you all.
Safety is weirdly not something I think of a lot when I consider where to live. As someone who lives in an urban neighborhood (the most socioeconomic and racially diverse one in our area) I would say that I think a lot of being a neighbor is being in situations where you have equity. So, you need to have activities for the kids and such that bring you around the poor and “other” in the neighborhood on equal footing, especially if none of the neighbors are going to be sending their kids to the same school (university model is not particularly easy for working parents.) I am seeing more people move to the ‘burbs after years in the city, with very few if any relationships with neighbors who aren’t white professionals. For them, why not live where the public schools are good and all the yards are neatly manicured?
I guess I’m saying, if the neighborhood is the right place to minister for your family, the safety thing is easy to get over. But if you aren’t feeling connected to the community, it isn’t worth living there.