Monday, January 16, 2012

For the Love of Durham

I spent the first eighteen years of my life in Durham, NC, and when I left, I never planned on going back.  I didn’t hate Durham and I would adamantly defend it against its (many) critics, most of whom, in my opinion, were sheltered from the realities of life in a diverse city.  Technically, I haven’t lived in Durham for over 12 years, except for a few months here and there, but a strange thing has happened in all that time.  I now love Durham.  And I want to live there, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why God has not yet opened up that particular door.           
                Not only do I love Durham, but I appreciate its history and its problems and all that it taught me in a way that I couldn’t at 18. 
                In the past, my parents have both expressed that they wish they could’ve sent me to private school. But it was not to be, so every single year I’ve spent in education has been in a publically funded institution.  I’m not going to share all my views on different systems of education, but I am so incredibly grateful for going to Durham Public Schools.  They’re not exactly highly-ranked, and my alma mater has been in the news for such unsavory things as weapons, so perhaps it’s a little strange that I have such love for my experiences. 
                But by the time I graduated from high school, I had shared a classroom with people of at least five different races/ethnicities and adherents to all of the world’s major religions.  Durham is a wonderfully diverse place, economically, racially, culturally, religiously.  I didn’t discover issues of race as an adult, I grew up with them, and while I haven’t always (and still don’t) deal with them well, and I certainly don’t have any good answers, I’m glad that people who are not like me were always around me.  I’m glad that the poorer sections of Durham are unavoidable—if you live there, you can’t pretend that poverty and racism don’t exist.  You just can’t.
                Durham isn’t the same place it was in the 90’s.  For one thing, it’s way cooler.  For another, I truly believe that God is moving in Durham in ways I could never have predicted.  People who are passionate about God are working for justice and reconciliation.  New communities are forming, and downtown is vibrant.  Renowned chefs are using locally grown agriculture products, and food trucks have sprouted up for every cuisine imaginable.  Nonprofits have been established that are seeking to serve the city in Christ-honoring ways.
                It’s not perfect. Racial divisions still exist and inexcusable injustices have been committed.  Crime is prevalent.  Public transportation is terrible.  Gangs have long since infiltrated the middle and high schools.  People are broken and not being loved well.  (And, of course, there’s the pesky little problem of that horrible university that’s located in Durham, and no, I’m talking about NCCU.) 
                But I do know that I want to be a part of what God’s doing there.  I am crying out for a truly multiethnic church to be planted downtown.  I am longing for hard conversations and racial reconciliation and a community that isn’t just hip and progressive, but also loves Jesus and pursues His passions. 
                My grandmother can tell me stories about POWs coming through Durham on their way to Butner in World War II.  I have roots in this state that go back over two hundred years.  I don’t know all the reasons why God brought me back to this place that I never wanted to return to, but I want my family’s legacy here to reflect God’s grace, that the good news of Christ might be proclaimed.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound

1 comment:

  1. love this! And thanks for helping me to see cool parts of Durham too. We hated it when we first moved here, but it has grown on us a lot. The downtown area is really cool, and I'm looking forward to getting involved with our church's efforts to help refugee families here. Glad you ended up in this area :)