“I’ve seen more police crime-tape in the three months I’ve lived in this part of London than the many years I lived in Los Angeles,” I found myself saying to a friend recently.
There had been a shooting one block from our house and the whole main street was taped off as we got up on Sunday morning. This is the neighborhood in which God has put us.
When you think of London, what do you picture? Will, Kate, and the Queen? Parliament and Big Ben? Castles, red buses, tea and scones?
All of those are of course here, but that isn’t the part of England we see every day (except the buses, and the tea). In the short three months we’ve been in this neighborhood, we have had at least three major crimes within a two-minute walk of our front door.
Why did you move us here, Lord?
This wasn’t part of our plan, but it was clearly part of his. There are some major advantages: we live in an amazing house that we would never dream of living in prior to this. The kids can get to school easily from here. Our team is all in East London. All of these were core necessities for us, but had you asked us if we wanted to live in the neighborhood we currently reside in, you would have heard a resounding NO.
But what does God say?
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” - Isaiah 55:8-9
We are still getting to know our immediate neighborhood, but one thing is clear—this is a part of London that needs God. And who is going to get God into this neighborhood? That is our challenge.
As we were praying the other day, asking God why He moved us here from a part of London we loved, he seemed to indicate to us that rather thinking of this as banishment we need to think of it as a promotion. We still can get to our old neighborhood easily and often find ourselves there, but now God is challenging us to expand our ministry into this new neighborhood.
We live in an old vicarage – a home originally built to house the pastor of a local church. The property is known to the local alcoholics and drug addicts as a place to get prayer and a sandwich. I was woken up at 2am on Christmas morning by an incoherent homeless man ringing our doorbell. He then proceeded to try and make a bed at our front door.
Learning how to handle these situations is challenging, but ministry opportunities seem to abound here. We recently got a grant to fund work among the local homeless, which we are excited to use, but balancing ministry and safety is a concern. We are surrounded by public housing and are one block from the psychiatric ward of the local hospital.
But, when we seek the Lord, he seems to indicate that we are here for a reason. The verses above are preceded by:
“Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” - Isaiah 55:7
Surely this is the hope for us all, and the hope for those in our new neighborhood.