Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gladness and Need in the Neighborhood

"Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need." - Frederick Buechner

All of my life, I felt a desire to tell the stories of how love survives in overlooked people and places. But in recent months, God's hand has taken that desire and made it into a living opportunity.

One week ago, our Hispanic neighbors, the artisans of Refugee Beads, and our other family and friends gathered under two tents on the lawn by the leasing office of our apartment complex. They were joining us to celebrate the coming birth of our son, Jack Lawrence North.

Miguel was there, along with Guzman, La La, Georgie, and David, all of whom played on a soccer team I used to coach. Several moms from the neighborhood also came out, eager to show their love and support. Our friends from Iraq, Burma, and Bhutan joined us, playing games and sharing a meal.

Five years ago, when we moved into this neighborhood, we did so with the idea of finding and nurturing God's love. I did part-time work to support our ministry, driving an armored van for a year before joining She Is Safe as Director of Communications. The whole time, I balanced the emotional and mental demands of outside jobs with my deep concern for the lives of immigrants and refugees in our neighborhood.

With the recent outpouring of love from our neighborhood, a growing interest among the youth in spiritual matters, and the growth of our little family, Ruthie and I feel a need for me to focus on doing the work that I love among the people I care about.

That's why we're working to bring me on to the Refugee Beads team as a full-time Communications Director. The birth of a child seems like a weird time to make a major transition, but we feel a need to ride this wave of opportunities to grow Refugee Beads, deepen our relationships with our neighbors, and better tell the story of what God is doing here.

Please join us in praying for this move. If you would like to contribute financially to this work, please donate to our GoFundMe Campaign here. We need to reach our goal of $10,000 before we can make this transition.

Thank you so much for your prayers, friendship, and financial support. We can't wait to write you with the good news about what God does with our growing family in the coming months!

In Christ's love,

Ian and Ruthie 
Our neighborhood is full of stories worth telling. I have teamed up with a group of artists from Open Table Community to explore and share the life of our neighborhood. We're calling the collective "Storyboard." Our first video project features our Afterschool Program Director, Miguel Martinez, and his mom. Click this link to watch it.

Ignacia's Story - Mother's Day 2014
Watch the Video
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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

House for Sale

This house just went up for sale in our neighborhood. It is nothing glamorous, but is the most well kept piece of property with-in a square mile of us. Of course we could never afford it, but I was shocked that not even a small part of me desired it. It is close by, we could still minister to the  neighborhood, it would be "more" to share.

But I have learned that the things we own require something of us; our time, our resources, and our attention. It is very easy for those of us who have resources to acquire more and more stuff or better and better opportunities for ourselves or our kids, until we have no choice but to serve the money that makes it all possible. And somehow the more we have, the more we need. We become trapped. I fear this trap. 

 "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Luke 16:13

We just emptied out our storage unit  from when we moved to Atlanta 5 years ago. We "needed" it because all the "stuff" we thought important enough to move from Chicago to Atlanta wouldn't fit our apartment. After not touching most of it for 5 years and paying $50 a month, we finally made the time to go empty it out, and give or throw things away. Yuck! What a waste, right? That stuff took our time and energy to move, not only once, but twice, and then also cost us financially. 

So I see the value of living in a small place where we are constantly reminded to live simply. I like living somewhere that requires little upkeep. This gives us more opportunities to care for people rather then maintaining stuff.  

Believe me, I like nice stuff. I love to decorate, and I love shopping : )  But all those things are so much more fun and meaningful if they have purpose and if they are actually used to love others. 

(Newly decorated shared room in our apartment for Baby North and After School Program kids)

Maybe one day a house would help us in loving God and loving others better, but for now, it would only be a distraction, something robbing us of the rich blessings we currently enjoy. 

We have so many opportunities to share God's love here. So we live with a joy that this world can not offer. God has lavished us with his goodness. Everything we have, we can see is from his hand. 

Is it often hard, scary and discouraging? Yes. But that's what makes the beautiful moments, small victories and met needs all the more sweet and satisfying! It's what gives us perspective and what keeps us turning to God and not ourselves. 

I don't share this to say how good we are. Because we are not. Only God is good (Mark 10:18). But I share it to testify of God's faithfulness to his promises, and inspire you to live differently in light of who God is and what he cares about. 

We need Christians who make choices that reflect the Christ they follow.

When we trust God with our lives and our children's lives, as we go about his work of loving those in need,  God will do far greater for us then we ever could have done for ourselves!

"For if you give, you will get! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give--large or small--will be used to measure what is given back to you."
Luke 6:39

"For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
Jeremiah 29:11

"But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint."

Isaiah 40:31

"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:19

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid."
John 14:27