July 10, 2012

The Journey So Far

It has been 44 days since our moving truck rolled into the 901 and we began referring to Memphis as home. Still not fully legal, as it were, because driver's licences and tags on the car still proclaim our Maryland-ness, but I think the time has come to change that. I will be a Tennesseean. Or whatever it is that we are called. Memphians, at least. I do know that much.

I couldn't have asked for a better hometown replacement than Memphis. It fits. The work that's going on here is unbelievable. The Memphis Teacher Residency, the program that I am a part of, has done an incredible job of getting us acclimated to the city. We've learned the history of civil rights, of music, of business... areas in which this little town has shaped the trajectory of an entire nation. We've explored neighborhoods, met with and interviewed community leaders, residents, and young people. Many people have come and spoken to us, sharing with us their dreams for the city and what they're doing to help reach them.

I have worked for many years with fellow members of the 20's (and 30's) club as we've struggled to find real world examples of Christians living out their faith. Those not simply in the bubble of church and Christendom, but those who live and interact with regular people. Those who live a life that is focused on them, not us. In Memphis, I have found it many times over.

There are groups like the Binghampton Development Corporation, an organization that does things like purchase run down houses and apartment buildings (many of which were used by drug dealers) to fix them up or tear them down and leave something safe and livable behind. They have created an urban farm in the city to provide produce for poor residents who might not otherwise have healthy food. Infant mortality is the worst in the nation here in Memphis and they are seeking to turn that around. Christ Community Health Services provides healthcare to Americans who live in poverty. They only work in the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Doctors and other medical professionals who work with them actually choose to live in the impoverished neighborhoods that their patients do.  Service Over Self (SOS) serves as a catalyst connecting dilapidated housing with an army of young people from around the nation who come into town to fix it up. All these people are unabashed in stating that their fuel and motivation comes from Christ and seek to tell all those they serve about him. And this is only the tip of the Memphian iceberg (though I don't think an actual iceberg could ever survive in Memphis, even in winter.)

For the past month, I've started the coursework that will give me a Master's degree in Urban Education in May. One class has been completed, with others continuing, while others have yet to begin. This week and next, we (there are 31 of us) are observing the opening 2 weeks at KIPP Memphis Collegiate Middle School. It's crazy to think that kids are already starting up their school years but some are! The school I'll be working in doesn't itself start up for about 3 weeks, and the majority of students in Memphis City Schools don't start until then, either.

There are so many great things that have been happening in Memphis and I'm excited to be here and join the work that has been started. I can't wait to see what God has in store.


Ruth Abel said...

Proud of you, Ryan. Thrilled to be here with you!

Padmini D. said...

Hi Ryan, I will keep you, your family and your ministry in my prayers. How can I help you? Love, aunty Padmini

Ryan Abel said...

Thank you, Aunty! I will let you know. Prayers right now is the biggest way.