I grew up in a faith-based family with an aunt and uncle who spent most of their career as missionaries overseas. They spent many years in Japan and the Philippines establishing Christian churches. I heard enough stories from them when they visited on furlough to know that I was not equipped for their somewhat nomadic lifestyle. I love to set up roots in a community and to have a large network of family and friends close by.
Listening to my aunt and uncle’s conversations about distant lands always brought to mind the question of how I could invest in my own community, that is, not in a far or distant land, but right at home. That question—How can I invest in my own community?—continues to nudge me to examine my own city through the lens of social justice. What injustices are hidden below the surface? Who receives less access to care? How do I define the margins within my own community that people find themselves relegated to? The more I stare right in front of me, the more I realize I have work to do right here.
I also wonder how to do the work well. For me, the first step is connecting with people and groups who have lived experience of being marginalized, such as people with disabilities. The more I listen, the more God lays on my heart a deep desire to ask questions, to listen, and to work alongside my sisters and brothers who have been marginalized. God helps me understand that he has designed me to love community and to love building relationships. Working within the realm of social justice does not require a long journey to a far off place. Rather, it simply requires a deep desire to make positive change in the world, and that can happen where I am living right now.