I have to say, when conversations of moving to Miami first began, I wasn’t all that excited.
For starters, it’s hot there.
REALLY hot. I much prefer scarves and pants and cool weather and crisp leaves and pumpkins and hot tea over sand and sun and salt water.
Also, I really LOVE Africa. (Yes, I know it’s not a country but I haven’t met anyone/read about/seen photos of/documentaries on any part of it that didn’t capture my heart. And I also know it’s hot there too.) If I’m going to pack up these people, let’s just get THERE.
But the more we prayed the clearer is became, Miami is where He wants us.
Our new Miami neighborhood is West Coconut Grove. Again, if you’re thinking of the ritzy-Neiman-Marcus-Mercedes-Benz Coconut Grove, we’ll be on the OTHER side of the tracks.
The side where Bahamian sailors settled as the first black residents of South Florida in the 1880s. The West Grove is still predominantly Afro-Caribbean. Remnants of an old segregation wall still stand, physically dividing Coconut Grove into what society would clasify as the “have’s” and the “have not’s”.
Income inequality in Miami is the third-highest among US cities – evidenced by the vacant lots, boarded homes, and empty storefronts – juxtaposed against Neiman Marcus and Mercedes on the other side of the old-yet-symbolic segregation wall. While Miami’s poor lives on as little as $11 a day, just a few blocks away homes sell for millions.
Poverty in the West Grove is not immediately apparent. Palm trees don’t shout B R O K E N E S S ! For the most part, the homes are brightly colored Bahamian style shotguns – drenched in the ever shining Florida sun.
Listen and you will hear it. Slurred words. Late night shouting. Little ones crying a little too long.
The soul-poverty is most apparent in it’s youngest victims. The ones whose families have been torn apart by oppression and addiction, depression and eviction.
The sun and it’s vitamin D are not enough to restore family. Preserve the unit designed to protect a child, provide for them, nurture them. But there’s a greater Light who can.
I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
The mission of our West Grove team is family preservation. To come alongside our neighbors as friends and as family support. To be light in deceptively bright and sunny darkness. Not because we have it all figured out, but because we know the One who purposed every. day. for them.
We know the One who knit them together and called them by name. The One who sent His son into poverty and brokenness to set the captives free. We know Him because He freed us.
And free people free people.
My short visit was long enough to observe what I already knew; my new neighbors have a lot to teach me. How to be courageous. How to neighbor well. How to grieve again and again and again. And how to throw down a mean BBQ.
Tomorrow I’ll share more of our teams mission of family preservation, our involvement, and how we feel God has uniquely equipped us to do life in the Grove. Stay tuned!