Barberry village, a diverse and economically clinging to life community, nestled comfortably beside the booming metropolis of Portland, much like a starved mouse lying beside a strong and healthy, although a bit strange and sometimes hippie-ish, dog. The village consists of four wings of two-story buildings that have a light brownish hue reminding one of both dry, cracked sand and moist, freshly shaped clay. There is an office situated in the center of town complete with a community center and pool area, altogether forming the nucleus of the village. Three laundry stations are strategically located so the town’s tenants can easily reach one, and they are somewhat hidden half way under ground, giving those buildings a two and a half story illusion. There are shrubs and bushes of the sorts that grow easily in the northwest and boulders and strong standing trees wherever they can grow or sit without looking too crowded or too alone. The trees and stones speak of the area in which the village dwells, an area called Rockwood.
Rockwood has a reputation to many people, for being a dangerously poor neighborhood that is filled with violence, theft, and a culture as diverse as the fans at a Nickleback concert. Rockwood’s original residents were middle class Caucasian Americans who would commute to work in Portland. Over the last decade and more these “average” Americans moved further from Portland in hopes to escape the grime of the urban jungle. The area further east from Portland, Gresham was home to many Asian families who, after being bought out by the middle class Caucasians moved closer to Portland. With the large city of Portland growing larger, the African American culture living just on the rim of the east side of Portland were forced to migrate further east, landing them in Rockwood around the same time as the Asian culture. Within the same scope of time a large exodus of Hispanics seeking an area to call home took up many of the houses and apartments that the middle class Caucasians left behind. Various other cultures shifted in to the now low-income area while some of the more traditional Caucasians chose to bunker up in their homes. The result is a model of what America is, a melting pot of nearly every culture on earth.
It was because of this reputation that I now found myself taking residence in the village of Barberry. It all started when I decided to ask God what I should do. After a week of praying and fasting (sucked, but worth it) I felt God calling me to Portland. Once there I spent a year of trying to push my agenda on God, and in the last few months decided to let Him have His way. My friend David and I one day decided to dream over pizza and coffee about a priesthood of people, who would answer the question that the people of earth have been asking since Jesus left us, “God, where are you?” With all the poverty and sickness and hate that is now, just another part of life, swirling around our everyday habitat, how can there be a God who is, by His own definition, against those things? The answer is, us. God’s people. Christians are sanctioned by Jesus as His “holy priesthood” and as such we are now God’s hand in this world. Once I understood that, life becomes an answer. The way I live, the goals I strive for, the people that I saw as annoyances or some kind of new reality show become people worth sacrificing my entire world for. So over pizza and coffee David offered a proposal of something I knew needed to happen. We talked about a new way of living and going to church. A fusing of life at home and life in the brick building we attend every Sunday.
I just finished moving the last of my things into the 117th apartment of the village. I see people who are, not depressed, but not living joyfully either. People who carry burdens that they know and I know, they can’t possible carry alone. What are those burdens? I can’t begin to understand them. For now I must be content listening to them speak. Guarded words at first, but maybe later, when they can know that I’m not here to hurt them, maybe then they can allow me to try to show them God’s love, God’s desire to save them. Save them not from hell, although I don’t believe God would want anyone in that accursed pit, but to save them from the daily hell that everyone, who doesn’t have the Holy Spirit to shoulder they’re pain for them, trudges through. We planned our first lunch to get know the people of the village. Using priests from Champion, a local Rockwood church for running and supplying the luncheon. It goes down tomorrow. I plan to ask my Lord to ready the hearts of all of us.