By Anne Wilson
At some point in our journey of faith, many of us lie awake at night, wondering if we’re doing what God has called us to do. Sometimes those late-night conversations lead to questions like, “God, is this what you want me to be doing? Is this where you want me to live? or work? Should I be doing something else?” Questions like that are normally followed by, “But wait, what about my house? my community? my family?”
To be sure, God certainly calls people to relocate or start a new season. From the inception of the church, God has been calling people to go. But some were called to a deceptively harder mission—staying put. Could it be possible that the restlessness and tension we feel is God creating something new on our streets, sidewalks, and front porches? Is it possible to gain a new vision for the people who live 10 feet away? If so, how does that even happen and where do we start?
For Becky Crow, the scarier question wasn’t about where God was sending her, but rather, to whom. Instead of lying awake wondering if God wanted her to pack her things and move across the ocean, she was asking, with a bit of trembling, “God, how can I bless the community in which I already live?”
The Early Days
Becky lives on the west side of Indianapolis and has resided there with her family for over 20 years. She and her husband, Jeff, moved there when their first child, Jacob, was 2 years old. Shortly after her son was born, Becky knew almost immediately that she didn’t want to resume life as normal. But she needed to find a way to still financially contribute to her family.
After lots of brainstorming, calculating, and rearranging, she put the things she loved the most together—child care and being with her son. She opened up her own licensed day care, and shortly after that, her daughter, Amy, came along. For almost 20 years, her day care was bursting at the seams. Families all around the Indianapolis area sought out Becky—she was not only an excellent child care provider but also a dear and loving friend to the families she served.
Coming Up Empty
So no one was more shocked than Becky when the tide changed in 2012. For the first time, she had open spaces in her day care. “All of a sudden I wasn’t getting phone calls, and I’d never had a problem being full.” With a significant drop in income, Becky was forced to ask some hard and scary questions. Had something changed? Was God trying to tell her it was time to move on? Did she need to find a different career?
For years it had bothered Becky that her day care didn’t reflect the diversity of her neighborhood. But she had never considered that God may have wanted her day care to look different.
“With an anxious heart, I started praying that my day care would simply look more like my community. I asked God to bring families to us. I didn’t have grand intentions at first. It truthfully began in fear. I was worried that I would have to give up doing what I really loved, and it was the first time I started thinking clearly and asking God what he really wanted to do through my day care. I realized that maybe I was having a problem because God wanted me to see things differently.”
Around the same time, Shepherd Community Center offered a class sponsored by her church called Poverty 101. Becky went, seeking God’s guidance in what he wanted her to do next. “I started to understand that, unintentionally, we sometimes only interact with people that look like us and sound like us. I started praying that God would surround me with people who did not look like me or sound like me.”
Through the class and a lot of research, she recognized that one of the big reasons she wasn’t getting phone calls for her day care was because she wasn’t available for families with lower incomes. On accident, she had isolated herself from those whom she deeply desired to serve.
Fresh Eyes and Prayerful Hearts
Around the same time, a group of friends started gathering on Tuesday evenings in living rooms to pray for their church, community, and families. They all went in a little unsure of their exact purpose, other than they knew they needed to pray. Over time, they collectively recognized that what God really wanted was to give them fresh eyes for the people they worshipped with, cooked dinner for, and lived around. Through a lot of prayer, God gave Becky a new vision for her neighborhood, and more specifically, her day care.
So Becky got to work, figuring out how to bless lower-income families who lived in her neighborhood. Through some programs offered by the state, she found out that she could offer lower prices for single parents and those who might need financial help. And slowly, month-by-month, her prayers were answered. Calls started coming in, spots filling up. The day care that once misrepresented her community was now an international village, bursting with different languages, backgrounds, and family dynamics.
Gathering Around the Table
But it wasn’t only her day care that God wanted to change. The change spread throughout her neighborhood too. At night Becky and Jeff started walking through their neighborhood, praying for families and getting to know people’s stories. Over time, relationships began to develop beyond surface level.
One evening a neighbor stopped by to let them know that another neighbor had passed away. “He was someone we both knew and called friend; he and Jeff chatted across the yard from time-to-time. The morning after he died, Jeff and I went over to his wife (Lisa)’s house just to say we were so sorry. But during our time there, we realized there was a lot more as neighbors we could be doing for her.”
So Becky invited all of her neighbors over one night for a meal, to gather around the table, tell stories, and pray with Lisa. “We had a dinner together and laughed so much. It wasn’t all focused on her; we didn’t want to make her feel weird. We just decided to get together and talk about what our strengths were and how we could be of help. We are putting back together a very fractured community, making all things new. It’s not perfect. And whether everyone realizes it or not, together as neighbors we are helping a widow—we are living out the gospel.”
On the outside looking in, Becky’s story isn’t much different from any of ours. She’s a wife, mother, and active member of her church. The renewal and revival of her job, neighborhood, and family didn’t begin with grand plans or expectations, but it started with a circumstance that forced Becky to her knees. And it all began with a very simple prayer, “God, help me live out the gospel in the place I already live.” As Becky would admit, it’s been messy and slow, but God has given her a renewed purpose.
Imagine what all of our neighborhoods, communities, and families would look like if we prayed a similar way. Maybe for some of us, instead of asking where we should go, we should be asking for a renewed vision for the places we already live, work, and play.
Anne Wilson is a freelance writer in Indianapolis, Indiana.