The Inner-city

Before going to Mobile I had a far different vision in my mind of what the inner-city looked like. I guess I just did not understand the term and so the image in my head differed from what I encountered during the first day in Mobile. I imagined pot-holed streets,  decaying buildings gloomily crowded against each other with jagged windows, abandoned businesses, dark and creepy rat-filled alleys, etc – you know the image I’m describing. In other words, downtown Johnson City! (just kidding! Sort of.)

Instead, I encountered something that was far less melancholy (though there were some buildings/streets that fit that description above) when it comes to physical looks. However, I’ll be the first to admit that when I was given time to quietly ponder what I had seen in the inner-city on the first/second day, slowly realizing what type of situation a lot of these people were in, it quickly depressed me. I didn’t understand how I could possibly help these people.

The ‘problem’ was so enormous that I felt like even if all of us spent the entire week working with just one family we might not even see any long-term progress after we left. Throughout the week my patient and good-natured teammate, Holly, along with everyone else from Blacksburg, in their own way, unknowningly led me around to realize that I wasn’t here to solve anyone’s problems. Because I couldn’t. I can’t. Instead I was simply here to show each person a way to access someone who can do much more than merely solve their problems, as long as they give up everything for him: Jesus Christ through his church. Of course, the pessimistic side of me still tends to come out sometimes and I think everyone is just being way too optimistic – but in the end I just remind myself that the campaign group and I were just playing a tiny part in the overall plan God has for Mobile and the church down there.

The people in Mobile along with the experience and fraction of understanding I received from this trip has changed the way I view needs. I used to have a very basic view of two completely separates types of needs: spiritual needs and physical needs. Physical needs always seemed so simple to me: I need food and clothing. Now I realize there are needs that involve so much more and are a combination of both physical and spiritual aspects (emotional problems, addictions, relationship/trust issues, etc). I have also realized more fully that we all have these problems and middle-class Christians are just much better at hiding them, whereas the inner-city people don’t mind letting you know upfront.

In Mobile I tried to do a lot of observation, mainly because I quickly realized I had no understanding of these people and their culture so I just needed to think about what on earth was going on. I hope to return to Mobile next year much more prepared and ready to work with these people the best I can. I also think it would be awesome if I could go back sometime this Summer/Fall for a few days and maybe work with some campaign groups down there. It is a long drive, but I think it would be worth it. You never know, maybe God will lead me back to Mobile in the future. I wouldn’t mind.

– SB


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