Sunday, January 4, 2009

city tours

I probably should have warned everyone that I would be disappearing from the internet for a week.  I guess I had a few things lined up to post while I was away, but I certainly haven't kept up the usual pace.

Becoming a New Monastic :: Part Next

Over the past week I've been in Milwaukee, Detroit, Pittsburgh, or in a car somewhere in between.  In Milwaukee and Detroit I was touring with two of the other three guys in my currently-homeless intentional community.  Four girls also joined us, from various places, and for various reasons, but we were all exploring the idea of intentional community and urban ministry together.  At the time of the trip, those cities were the top two on our list of potential places to plant ourselves in the coming year.

I'll try to fit a synopsis of my experiences here, but if it gets too long I'll split the post.

Several months ago, when Milwaukee was first put on the table, I had some serious reservations.  It was one of those gut feelings.  Something just didn't feel right.  But we talked about the city as a community over several conference calls, and I began to force myself to pray for Milwaukee, and my attitude began to change.  When it came time to drive out there, I was feeling good about the possibility of moving to Wisconsin.

Our experience in Milwaukee was not exactly what I was expecting, though I hadn't really thought through my expectations, but it was a really great experience.  We stayed as a group in the house of a single Venezuelan woman, and were greeted on arrival with a feast of Puerto Rican, Columbian, and Venezuelan fare, cooked up by some fantastic women from a church in the latino section of town.  A bunch of people from that church ate with us, and we were given freedom to pepper them with questions about their city.  It turns out everyone loves Milwaukee.  People who grow up there tend to stay, and people who move there don't leave again.  The statistics probably say otherwise, but that was the general vibe I got during the conversation.

The evening included frozen custard (Milwaukee has its own version of Abbott's--it's almost as good.) and a late game of sardines in the large house where we were staying.

With some spontaneous worshipful music in the morning we boarded a 15-passenger van and were given a tour of the city by Jen, a woman working for InterVarsity in Milwaukee as the coordinator of their urban plunges and other urban ministry efforts.  She was able to show us some of the sites where God is doing cool work through people.  In particular, we visited "Kids in the Hood."  It's a ministry run out of the home of a woman named Debbie.  She was fantastic to talk to -- a woman clearly marked by God's hand, dependent on Him and quick to hear his voice.  It was very good to hear some of her stories and just sit at her feet, in a sense.  She reminded us that urban ministry is really hard, there's no romance.  They've been broken into 25 times over the last 18 years.  The funny thing was, if you hadn't told me I was in the hood, I'd never have guessed.  Most of the houses around were independently standing duplexes in really good condition.

And that typifies our whole experience in Milwaukee.  It was really nice.  We had lots of fun.  All the people we met were really great.  Everyone seemed upbeat and excited.  God is working, stirring new things, growing passions in the hearts of people to serve him in their city.

One of the girls we were traveling with is a Milwaukee native.  She grew up in the projects.  She told us later that we didn't get to see the whole picture, that there are some parts of Milwaukee that we missed, parts that aren't so "nice" as the hood we got to see.

Taking all that in, as we were leaving Milwaukee to head for Detroit, I was pretty convinced that our community would end up in Milwaukee.  We had good relational connections, and a really positive touring experience.  Then we arrived in Detroit.  More on that next time.

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