On the other end of the phone was a woman named Elmarie. She told me of a few properties she wanted to show me, so I went for a drive (this was early February). In the first place she showed me, she was trying to size me up. She didn’t really get who this random American guy was coming to look for properties for a variety of people. She then asked me what we did for our ministry.
About a minute into the description, she asked me who we partnered with, and I happened to mention the church she attends. She started crying. She told me that she and some of her friends in the neighborhood had been praying together that a Christian community would come into their neighborhood to restore things that had been lost there. Now, when I heard that, I thought two things:
1. That’s pretty cool.
2. That’s code for something I’m not sure I want to be about (it could be heard “restoring things that had been lost” to be kick out students and poorer people that are “dirtying up this place”) I wondered if we were going to have problems.
The longer I spent with her, though, the more I recognized that we could actually have a real conversation about my second observation. I recognized that she, being in her position of employment, could connect us to the entire neighborhood. Even sharing what I shared about our work with restorative efforts for the poor ignited her attention. I think we found the person of peace in the neighborhood!