July 05, 2014
For those of you who have never heard of the Parkside Apartments or who are unfamiliar with our ministry there and the journey we have been on, here are a few posts to get you up to speed. In a nutshell, for about 8 years now, a small group of Christians from a few area churches have intentionally moved into this low-income apartment complex to live with and serve our neighbors. Parkside boasts about a dozen different nationalities, most of whom are refugees or other immigrants. As we build relationships with them, we are often overwhelmed by the blessings we receive in return and humbled by their gracious hospitality. Many of our neighbors come from vibrant Christian backgrounds and teach us more about our global body of Christ. My husband started the group there 8 years ago and I joined 3 years later. For us, the diverse, lively community that Parkside provides is about as close to heaven on Earth as you can come.
This past February, Parkside’s owners sold the complex to a huge real estate investment company called Windy City RE, LLC. Since their business model states they flip properties quickly for profit, we were worried about what this would mean for the residents of Parkside. At first, Windy City communicated that they were not kicking anyone out and that they would renew all leases. As people moved out, they would renovate the vacant units over the course of the next several years.
The renovated units are actually quite nice. They have granite countertops, new tile and chrome appliances, but the units still have issues with bedbugs, mold, insufficient parking, and structural deficiencies that make it unsafe for many of our residents. But even more disappointing, the renovated units will now rent for $900 for a one bedroom (with a limit of two people) and $1300 for a two bedroom (with a limit of four people). These elevated rent costs (much higher than similar apartments in the area) and occupancy limits disqualify most of our neighbors from applying to live in the renovated units.
As of mid-June, we found out that the management will no longer be renewing any current leases. When leases expire, tenants may pay month by month until they find another place to live or until the management serves them a 30-day notice to vacate the premises. Within the next year, as leases expire, all of our neighbors must find new places to live. This past week, at the end of June, a half dozen families started the exodus, some moving down the street, but most moving to Elgin or Aurora, or as far away as Nebraska or Texas.
After living here for five years, to say I am heartbroken by this slow disintegration of my community would be insufficient. When I moved into Parkside five years ago, I hadn’t been so passionate about or inspired by a place since I lived overseas. Over the next few years, I fell in love with my husband here, got married here, and we brought our first baby home here. This past year, as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve finally been able to bond with other women over the universal struggles of motherhood. Every day, hoards of kids from the four corners of the world knock on my door asking if my daughter, Zipporah, can come out to play. Zipporah is just one year old, so she doesn’t really play, but they love to push her around on her scooter or hold her hands and walk up and down the sidewalk. When Zipporah and I are getting restless sitting around the house, I just open the door and she has dozens of playmates, eager to come in and read books to her or play tea party. This is what I am lamenting most profoundly. I know my neighbors would echo this sentimental attachment as well. Not only does Parkside provide a safe community for them and their children, but it is the place they rebuilt their lives after escaping unspeakable horrors in their countries of origin. It may not be fancy, but for many, this is the first place they were able to call home in a long time.
I’ve known for a longtime that Parkside is a dilapidated old complex with lots of problems and I feel that nobody should have to live in apartment full of mold or pests. But the vibrant, accessible, hospitable, international community that fills the courtyards cannot be found elsewhere. Where else will Zipporah grow up learning Spanish, Swahili, and Burmese? Where will all my neighbors go? Will they be as safe, valued, and loved in another community? I must put these questions into God’s tender hands, and trust that He who brought many of my neighbors out of war, persecution, poverty, and many other extreme situations, will provide them a new place to live.
People have been asking how they can help. Here are a few ideas:
June 30, 2014
At the end of July, Church of the Resurrection has the privilege of hosting an annual national conference called Caminemos Juntos. Here are the five most important things you need to know about this conference:
#1 – Caminemos Juntos means “Let’s walk together.”
¡Caminemos Juntos! as a conference seeks to spark a church planting movement among Hispanics and to unify current Anglican Hispanic churches throughout North America. We have a yearly national conference and a leadership training institute, Instituto San Pablo. Six of these congregations are part of our diocesan family here in the Upper Midwest. But it isn’t just for Hispanic leaders. It’s also for normal Church of the Resurrection folks who want to start ‘walking together’ with the Latino brothers and sisters in our own diocese.
#2 – Walking with our immigrant brethren is a priority for the Anglican church.
People might ask why they should care about this conference. Not only is it an amazing opportunity to begin to truly walk together with our Latino brothers and sisters here in the Upper Midwest and from all over the world, in addition, this past year, Archbishop Bob Duncan sent out a special communiqué challenging the ACNA to a new season of walking together with our immigrant brothers and sisters from all over the world and launched a new initiative called the “Anglican Immigrant Initiative." The purpose of this initiative is to equip congregations at the local level to serve and reach under-resourced immigrants using the unique and timely tool of immigration legal ministry. There are currently 11 million undocumented immigrants who have to navigate a confusing legal system and who are often taken advantage of. In meeting immigrants' practical legal needs, we also hope to meet their spiritual needs through evangelism and the starting of 30 new immigrant congregations. Here in the Upper Midwest we are leading the way by starting the first center in Oak Park.
#3 – Caminemos Juntos is at Church of the Resurrection.
The 2014 conference will be held July 31- August 2 at Church of the Resurrection. With the conference so close, there is no reason not to stop in or get involved!
#4 – You don’t need to know Spanish to attend.
But what better chance to brush up on those 2 years of high-school Spanish? Regardless of your linguistic abilities, all workshops will be bilingual. The conference will also offer workshops on multi-cultural ministry and outreach, church planting, and evangelism. Special guests will include Archbishop Tito Zavala from Chile and the worship band Kyrios Band also from Chile.
#5 – There are many ways to get involved.