My Ghetto Life
I remember Friday nights of wandering in and out of the living room (a different person’s house each week) while adults were sharing prayer needs, daily challenges, and discussing the Bible. Throughout my childhood, my parents were involved in a small group with some other church people.
Us kids would eventually get bored with all the adults talk, talk, talking and go play. We would fight, get into mischief, have fun together, and often be nuisances, but week in and week out, our parents met. For years and years. Actually, I think the group met for two or three decades. That is pretty impressive.
In fact, I would have to say that that group changed my life. When I was in middle school, they were studying the book of Isaiah. They reached chapter 58, and they got stuck. They could not seem to move on from verses 6 to 9:
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”
Because of this passage of Scripture, my parents and another couple decided to move their families to the inner city, and I mean the ghetto (which reminds me, teenagers sometimes use the term “ghetto” as an adjective, and frankly, I really can’t figure out what it is supposed to mean. As far as I can tell, “That is so ghetto!” can apply to pretty well anything. What I'm talking about is a real ghetto).
In the early years, we would watch prostitutes working the sidewalk from our dining room window; the house across the street was often used as a drug house; and there was a bar directly behind our house. My parents bought a huge, old three story house to be able to help poor people who needed a place to stay.
Different people stayed with us for different periods of time like an elderly man and a single mom with her three kids, but mostly we had a succession of refugees escaping from war-torn regions of El Salvador and Guatemala. These refugees stayed with us temporarily while they were on their way to Canada (Let me interject here that this was all perfectly legal. They were in the US legally and going through the paperwork to go to Canada legally. Somehow Tim always insists that I make this important point).
It was a very interesting experience full of ups and downs, successes and failures, but one of the most impacting aspects for me was that I saw my parents change their entire lives to serve the poor because of something they read in the Bible. I mean, who does that?
When people would ask my mom why would a nice middle-class family move to this poor, dangerous neighborhood, her answer would always simply be, "Isaiah 58."
This is my Bible heritage. I cannot forget it. And I want to make sure that I pass on to my own kids a Bible heritage. How will they see me living my life differently because of what I found in the Bible? What will your Bible heritage be?