|I've gotten over my rancor about the constant barrage of ministry articles that speak of the huge ministry needs in urban areas and how everyone in the suburbs is just fat and happy. I grew up in the 'burbs and it was hell. Just today as I was reading Weblog | Emergent Village | Being the Church in Suburban America, I've seen the first glimmer of hope that some missiologists are becoming alive to the idea that the suburbs are desperate for Christ too.|
When we moved into our neighborhood in 1979, it was your typical brand new suburban tract development with mostly middle class white families. It had maybe a dozen streets and several hundred similar looking homes. With new construction, newly planted lawns and trees, newly paved streets and driveways, many young families and first time proud homeowners, the neighborhood looked fresh and appeared as a signpost of growth and health in our community. People living the American dream. At least that's what it looked like on the outside.
Venture into the home life of the families there and the relational and spiritual needs were overwhelming.
Within 4 years of living there, by the time I was 16 I had one friend arrested for brutally murdering a baby he was babysitting, 2 friends in rehab (and more who needed it), friends who had abortions, friends who were physically beaten by their parents, a friend whose parent took their own life, friends who were arrested and though we didn't talk about it at the time, the signs of sexual abuse in my friends' lives can be seen in retrospect.
We had multiple drug dealers and many users in the neighborhood, including a boy directly across the street whose bedroom was in the downstairs of a raised ranch. With his bedroom window at ground level it became a walk up take out window for drugs.
I remember playing catch with my brother in the backyard one day. He threw the ball over my head and it went 2 backyards down into the weeds. I ran over to pick it up and as I bent down to pick it up I found it amidst several seed trays of marijuana. More than a single user would need. That guy was a dealer too.
Almost all my friends in the neighborhood used drugs. One hundred percent of them were teenage drunks, and most of them starting by 12 or 13. So many parents in the neighborhood worked at Anheuser-Busch or the then active Miller Brewing plant, and had literally pallets of beer in their garages. Many were also alcoholics and drank so much they didn't keep track of how much was really missing.
Sure we did normal teen stuff like play pick-up street hockey, baseball, football and other games, we went fishing, rollerskating, bowling and to the movies but most of our lives revolved around drinking, drugs and sex. Now as an adult and parent of my 12 y/o women-child daughter I'm honestly scared to death to let her out of my sight when I think about what girls like her were involved in. So many jr high and early teen girls in my neighborhood were sexually active with older boys and really weren't worried about protecting their technical virginity by only participating in os.
Beyond the aforementioned there was the arson, racism, constant bullying and fighting, vandalism, stealing, porn, playing with real guns and ammo, M-80's and other explosives and adults who facilitated so much of this stuff all woven into the fabric of our beautiful new neighborhood with new homes, nice lawns, paved streets and shiny people — all pursing the American dream but living the American nightmare.
This was just my neighborhood. I heard that one neighborhood over where my cousins lived was worse.
Don't ever believe the lie that the urban areas are so needy for the Gospel and ministry and the suburbs are somehow less so. The suburban desperation runs deep and is pervasive. No law, social policy or money thrown at the problems with solve them. Only when the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, shines in their lives will the darkness flee and hope be restored.
Thanks to Brad Boydston for the link to the Emergent Village article.