Ms. Samuels, Peterson Ave, and God’s Glory

Bethany Dudley–Requip

Written by Steve Blom–Imag(in)e, Sauk Village

When I joined the Beautification Committee of Sauk Village this past Summer I saw it as a unique opportunity to be a part of something positive that the community was already doing.  It would be a chance to use my head/heart/hand gift of landscaping, and to develop some relationships.  Little did I know…

As a committee, we re-instated the Hootsie Awards.  This is an annual award given to those nominated by their neighbors for the work they put into maintaining and improving their properties.  As committee members, we were asked to judge the nominated properties in various categories.  Unable to go out with the rest of the committee on a Saturday, I went by myself on a Monday afternoon.  Almost through with the list I turned onto Peterson Ave.

What’s important to note is that Peterson Ave. is “that” street in the Village with the reputation.  It is labeled and avoided.  Comprised of a series of duplexes connected by mismatched siding, boarded windows, and uneven roof-lines people from outside of Sauk Village stereotype the rest of the community using Peterson Ave. as the standard.  My greatest concern was that being parked on the side of the street taking pictures would be viewed by some of the neighbors as another bank photographing a foreclosed home or worse.

“What could anyone possibly do with this tiny piece of property in this neighborhood to be nominated for an award?” was my judgmental thought-of-the-day as I pulled up to Ms. Samuels’ house.  I sat there, somewhat stunned, thinking to myself “THIS is what someone can do.”  A couple of minutes into my note-taking the garage door opened and out walked a woman who is looked at me suspiciously.  I rolled down my window and introduced myself.  Immediately her demeanor changed.  I told her that I loved her yard:  her use of fountains, the pavers and planters, the various ornamental trees and shrubs…”It’s beautiful!”  Ms. Samuels began to cry, looked to the sky and said, “Thank you, God. You have no idea what that means to me today.”  She told me that she understood the reputation of the street she lives on, and that she felt called by God to bring some beauty and peace to this neighborhood.  She shared that she is a breast-cancer survivor, and that she wants to live every day for God’s glory.  This landscape, this simple act of creating beauty, is one of the ways she is connecting with her neighbors.  We talked for a while that afternoon, and before leaving she blessed me with one of those hugs that makes you feel like you are a child being embraced by the Savior himself.

A month later, the winners were announced at the Village Board Meeting.  When Ms. Samuels’ name was read for 2nd place, she jumped over her husband’s legs, danced her way to the front, hugged every person on the committee and the Mayor.  She thanked God not for allowing her to score a touchdown, but for giving her the joy and ability to share his love in this way.  Ms. Samuels’ joy was being 2nd place.  In a room often filled with anger and arguments, this woman from Peterson Ave. filled it with love and peace.

We’re still learning about and developing trust within this community, and we probably always will be, but one of the greatest affirmations up to this point is that God is here in ways I hadn’t imagined.  Despite the labels we are so quick to assign others and ourselves, the evidence of redemption at work is irrefutable.


Neighbors Uniting

There are 77 neighborhoods in the city of Chicago.  Each of these neighborhoods are unique in culture, food and resources. When a Chicagoan meets a fellow Chicagoan one of the first questions that is asked is “where do you live?”  This might sound strange to an outsider; after all they just said they live in Chicago.  But to a true Chicagoan this is an important question, for the neighborhood you live in tells a lot about you.  It helps identify you.  Each of the 77 neighborhoods has an individual identity and reputation.  It is crucial that any church planter, community developer or intentional community member understand this and get to know and understand the neighborhood they are in

For the past eight month I have been meeting with three fellow pastors who have the vision to plant an intentional transformational community in each of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods.   Our mission is to develop transformational urban leaders who embrace and advance how God is holistically at work in local neighborhoods.  Our vision is “To see God’s Kingdom come and God’s will be done in neighborhoods everywhere as it is in heaven.”

We met with a group of individuals who are either already living intentionally in a neighborhood or interested in moving into a new neighbor with the purpose of neighborhood transformation.  There was an air of excitement as these men and woman gathered together to share vision, mission and passion.  Some were contemplating the importance of being an intentional neighbor for the first time, while others were excited to discuss what they have been doing for years.

This September we plan on beginning the first cohort of Neighbors Uniting who will come together to share, learn, greave, celebrate and discuss the messiness that is living intentional as a great neighbor.

Celebrating Education Together

The room was loud, kids, books, and games were everywhere, parents were on the floor and paper covered the wall. To many this scene would scream chaos but to the families of Rogers Park it was the very essence of community. The evening was about celebrating education, with school starting the following week the timing could not be better.

Parents and children alike had a great time reading with each other, playing math bingo and memory games, sculpting out of clay and putting puzzles together. The volunteers from the community who put this evening together where thrilled with the participation and excitement the parents displayed at the opportunity to spend this time getting their children excited about starting school in a few days.

While all of the games, art and books were exciting, it was the wall covered in paper that got the most attention. Each person was asked what they were good at, what gifts they had and to write/draw them up on the wall. No one was excluded from this exercise as the paper reached all the way to the floor so that everyone could reach and if you could not write you drew.
By the end of the evening the wall was covered with the amazing gifts that were represented in the room. Neighbors found out things they never knew about their neighbor before. People who had never met found they had things in common with each other and connections were made.

The evening ended with new friendships made, others deepened and a sense of pride in the gifts that they possessed as a group. Discussions were had on when they could get together to use these gifts for the benefit of the community. The event not only celebrated the start of a new school year but also the continuing education that Rogers Park has many common and unique gifts that need to be shared.

Bethany Dudley

Requip’s Website


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