From the inner city to a suburb the Arthurs would call ‘home’

From the inner city to a suburb the Arthurs would call ‘home’

“I think we’re almost there,” I (Sarah) said, hands at ten and two on the wheel of the moving truck we had called home for the past thirty hours. As we eased down the suburban-country road south of Lansing, Michigan that Memorial Day morning seven years ago, our rusty Subaru trailering behind us, Tom and I gazed with interest out the truck windows. A newish subdivision, a church or two. Two farm stands (hooray!), followed by a barn with pygmy goats, and then more subdivisions. Garage sale signs by the dozens. Bus stops. Most properties well-manicured, even picturesque. And then–unexpectedly–a trailer park, across from which we read the sign for yet another subdivision, “English Meadows.”

 

“That’s us,” Tom said. But we had already Googled-mapped it and planned to enter from the south; it was all about parking our long, rattling entourage so as not to block anyone’s driveway. I made the next right, and the next, noting the subdivision’s greenspace, complete with ponds and walking trails and the tree-less look of a place that had once been farm fields. Now came a line of condos on one side of the street, all identical. On the other side, the sort of suburban houses one would expect: neutral colors, unpretentious but well-kept landscaping, the occasional picket fence. And one of these houses would be ours for the next however many years.

My palms began to sweat. Was this really happening? Were we really getting ready to pull up in front of a house in suburbs, the house to which we had been assigned by the bishop–by God, really–welcomed by helpful strangers, in the last place on earth I ever expected to live?

 

Was this really happening? Were we really getting ready to pull up in front of a house in suburbs, the last place on earth I ever expected to live?”

 

Don’t get me wrong: we were grateful. Grateful that our bishop had understood Tom’s desire to learn church-planting culture and assigned him as the second pastor of a young church-plant near one of our state’s largest urban centers. Grateful that the church had already welcomed us, twice, for visits, with open arms.

Grateful that the church had carefully, thoughtfully, and on a shoestring budget, purchased this suburban parsonage for their new pastor to live in. These were people who already loved us, based on no merits of our own, because that’s how God loves. They had already spent dozens–maybe hundreds–of hours cleaning, painting, and dealing with all the stresses of new homeownership–by committee, no less. And now they had given up their Memorial Day celebrations to stand in the driveway, waving, as we made the final turn after thirty hours in that blessed truck.

“Wow,” I murmured to Tom as I put the truck in park. “People mow their lawns here.”

“People can afford lawn mowers here,” he said.

“Or they’re still paying them off with credit cards…It’s so odd to not see any homes boarded up.”

“Yes, but look at the for-sale signs. That’s probably the suburban version of the same thing. Foreclosure is still foreclosure.” He paused. “We’d better get out. They’re going to wonder what we’re doing.”

I took a breath, gripping the door handle. “Right. Let’s do this.”

We stepped out, waving to the smiling folks in the driveway.

“Welcome home!” they said. 

{To be continued}

 

Part one of a series detailing Sarah Arthur and her husband, Tom’s,  journey from Durham, NC, to Lansing, MI. Expanded from the book The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (Brazos Press, 2017).

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