I have seen amazing changes in the city of Chicago the last 15 years. We are a city that is being gentrified by the day, with the wealthy and upper class returning to the center of the city to take advantage of its amazing assets: a world class skyline, an amazing lake front, out of this world restaurants, great parks and museums, and the World Champion Chicago White Sox!
Especially the barrios of Humboldt Park, La Villita, and Pilsen have gone through unthinkable transformation. 10 years ago, you could buy a city lot in Pilsen for $10,000. Today, that same lot will cost you between $200,000 and $500,000.
Latino churches have overnight found themselves surrounded by new middle-class 'neighbors' right in the barrio, while many of their members have been forced to move away from the communities where they have grown up all of their lives--because the can no longer afford to live there.
The pastors of these churches are dealing with 'White Real Estate Might' instead of 'White Flight' that was experienced 20-30 years ago, which gave their flocks an opportunity to move into these traditional inner city neighborhoods.
Now, in the face of all of these changes, what do we do if we care for the barrio? What do we do if God has called us to love our Latino neighbors and neighborhoods?
BARRIO SHALOM. This is what God has been speaking to my heart as I have been reflecting, studying, and praying about my role in La Villita. Seek the 'Shalom' of my barrio. Seek the wholeness, and vitality, and spiritual revival of my barrio. Seek to invite, encourage, and engage others to enter into a journey of working together for the Shalom of La Villita.
What this will look like is yet unclear, but if it is to be deeply Biblical, it must be rooted in community. It must be rooted in the fullest understanding of what Shalom is:
- Peace- Our neighborhood is so violent with gangs and domestic violence
- Love- We all desperately need a safe place to let God expand our heart for the Prince of Peace. We all need grace and forgiveness
- Justice- A way to deal with the injustices we see in our barrio and in all barrios around our globe, and beyond
- Fiesta- Real fiesta will spring forth when a group of broken people who are seeking God find their joy in celebrating the good things that God is doing in our midst, in our barrio, in our world
Our barrio is amazing, in that we have so many positive elements to our community. Thriving businesses; lots of homeowners; many churches; some economic diversity; good leadership on many fronts. But we are a community of need of SHALOM.
Families are afraid to let our children and teens out because of gang violence. Men abuse their wives and girlfriends and children far too often. Fear and violence are clear manifestations of evil in our barrio.
I am convinced that Kingdom people in our barrio can unleash God's love and justice with such a powerful force, that SHALOM can flow like a gushing stream--in the place of violence. This is something worth praying for, working for, and worth living for.
Along the way, let's party...as we give glory to God for what He is doing to bring His Shalom to our needy world.