Written by S. Nguyen
Eighteen months ago, my husband and I married and moved into our neighbourhood. We were excited to be a part of a movement called MoveIn—regular Christians moving in among unreached, dense, and low-income neighbourhoods all around the world.
For us, this meant moving into a predominantly Hindu neighbourhood, where many of our neighbours are immigrants from India. While we love the community, often the building is not what we would prefer. The elevators often go to the wrong floors, people drink and smoke in the halls, leading to frequent fire alarms, and we know of many nearby drug dealers.
Many of our neighbours would move out if they could, but due to their circumstances, they cannot. This compels us to stay. Once a week, we meet in an apartment to pray for our neighbours, and then outside of that, try to be available to build relationships and be light and salt in our community.
I love summertime, as it reminds me of the mission God has called us to in our neighbourhood. It’s easy to get complacent over winter—as Canadians, everyone is tucked into their own apartment. But summer reminds us, as doors open, cricket matches start up again, and the park overflows with children, that God has placed us here for a reason, and we need to be obedient.
Last year we ran a summer camp in the neighbourhood. We took the kids to a giant splash pad, to the mall, and bowling. For many of the kids, it was their first time.
One memory that stands out clearly is the end of the first day of camp. It had been a long day, and we were tired. Four-thirty rolled around, and parents began to arrive to pick up their kids. Soon, only two kids were left—a brother and sister. Most of our workers went home, but I stayed back with a few others, waiting.
By 5 p.m. I was concerned and called the mom, “Fifteen more minutes,” she repeatedly said in broken English. We continued to wait. Fifteen minutes stretched into 30, and then 45. Soon, my workers were beginning to voice their complaints.
While I tried to quietly shush them so the children wouldn’t hear, inside my thoughts reflected their words. Who just leaves their kids and doesn’t pick them up? What kind of mom does this? At what point do I phone the police? What if she doesn’t come back?
Finally, at 6:30 p.m., I watched as the mother ran towards the park where we were with her kids. In person we could communicate more clearly. She had been at work in a different city. She had no car, and her husband was back in Sri Lanka. The only connections she had here was her brother. He had promised to pick her up and then take her to pick up her kids. He never showed up, and wouldn’t answer his phone. She had to take multiple buses to get here. What should have taken 30 minutes by car ended up taking two hours by transit.
I am ashamed at how quickly I judged her without understanding her situation. As someone who grew up with privilege, familiar with this country and culture, I hadn’t taken the time to understand the life my neighbours live and the challenges they face. Part of what we are excited to do in our community is to just love our neighbours and do what we can to advocate for them.
After she hugged her kids, this dear woman ran to me. “Thank you for being with my kids,” she said, before kissing me on the cheek. Two hours of impatience was certainly worth the love she showed me.
There are many things we plan to do this summer: run camp, bring our hedgehog to the park to meet families, and hand out water to those playing soccer or cricket. But what we are most excited for is those small moments where we get to see Jesus in the eyes of our neighbours, and the ways we can receive what they have to teach us. And, most of all, what a life of sacrifice truly looks like.