A Woman's Calling to the City

“I hope you understand that I don’t plan to live with much; I plan to settle in a broken city in need of the Gospel. That’s what I feel called to do and I will not compromise what God is calling me to.”

These were the words my husband said to me in the beginning of our courtship, making clear to me his heart for inner city ministry. Strongly desiring to be with him, I assured him I would willingly follow him anywhere regardless of what I would have to live without. His passion for taking the gospel to the most rugged, avoided places was one I could not argue was unnecessary.

But, when the time came for us to move into a city I grew up acknowledging as “most dangerous”, I immediately tried to find an escape route.

“Can’t we just live right outside the city in a nicer-looking, less dangerous town and travel into the city for any gospel-related purposes?”

I didn’t find it quite necessary to actually live in a bad neighborhood. To top it off, I was expecting our first child, further producing in me an unwillingness to make such a move. I insisted we consider how a move like this would affect our family, our children. As we discussed my concerns and searched the scriptures, every reason I had for not moving into a broken city, were the same reasons we decided it best. So, being washed in the Word is what helped me transition from worldly desires to the will of God for me and my family.

 

FROM SUBURBAN TO URBAN

The first setback I had at the idea of moving into “the hood” was that instead of living in a clean, quiet neighborhood with neatly-cut lawns and white-picket fences, we would have to live in a littered neighborhood with potholes and run-down homes. Our sweet sleep would be interrupted by loud music and motorcycles driving by at all hours of the night. And, of course, the sound of gunshots and sirens.

I wish I could pretend that I am as used to such uncomfortable occurrences as my husband is - who was born and raised in a similar environment. But that would be a lie. I am often tempted to desire the “ideal” house in the safest neighborhood possible. Yet, a constant reminder that our home on earth is but temporary is enough to keep me from holding on to the prettier things in this life. These words of our Lord help to keep me focused on the future reward rather than the present deficiencies.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break up and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
— Matthew 6:19-21

 

That’s not to say I have absolutely forsaken all care for home decor and a clean lawn, but that I am learning to accept some imperfections and long more for my eternal home rather than a fleeting one.

 

FROM THE FEAR OF TROUBLES TO THE FEAR OF GOD

I developed a fear of the inner-city and its people at a young age. I can think back to a scary time when I was about 8 years old. My grandparents, the only members of my family that haven’t left the city for the suburbs, had everyone at their house for Christmas Eve festivities. That night, I witnessed a random man in all black walk through my grandparents’ project front door while gripping tightly a sharp knife, ready to attack. Instead, he walked straight out the back door. Fortunately, anyway.

This incident helped to form my existing fears of the ghetto. Along with the daily news of another rape, another robbery, another murder. Not to mention the stereotypes that were expressed by those closest to me.

With these things in mind, it is easy for me to become anxious about what could happen to me and my family. This is especially true for me as a new mom who desires to raise children among the most depraved environments in our country.

But if I choose rather to neglect the fear of God and His calling, I deny His power to protect and shield me and my family from all harm as I shy away from the places He has called us to. But in understanding God’s omnipotence, I rest in knowing He is present in my need for protection and I tremble before Him recognizing His right to punish me in my disobedience.

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
— 1 John 4:18

 

FROM STRANGER DANGER TO LOVE THY NEIGHBOR

One of the biggest challenges that I face as a wife, mother, and missionary is how to protect myself and my family from worldly influences while actually being an effective influence to the world.

To explain, as a child, I was adamantly instructed not to speak to strangers (as I believe most other children are) for the fear of what someone I didn’t know could do to me. Because of this, I grew to disengage outsiders, always considering my own good first.

As I got older and matured in the faith, I realized my disconnect from those not in my family or church did not align with God’s Great Commision. Still, transitioning into a crime-infested neighborhood, I am tempted to view every stranger as a potential danger.

But, the undeniable truth is Christ came to save the least, the last, and the lost of this world.  Thus, I have come to grips with the truth that my love for any and all sinners must trump the fear within me to go to those whose sheer appearance would make me uncomfortable.

 

ACCEPTING THE CALL TO MISSION IN THE CITY

If there’s one thing I have learned out of this transition to the inner city, it is that my husband isn’t on mission alone but that as a family, we are on mission together.

Natalie Robinson