I never wanted to live in a big city—not really at least. I used to visit Chicago on the weekends and imagine calling this place home, but in those days, I didn’t understand the cost—the rent and gas money, the struggle of traffic, the strange isolation even when you’re surrounded by people. My imagination focused only on the parts that felt lovely. I’m a girl born and raised in a small farming town. What do you want from me?
Nonetheless, in 2015, I visited this magical neighborhood so close to the northern suburbs that some people (mostly those downtown) hardly consider it part of the city. And to be totally honest, I get it. This neighborhood is strange and beautiful and all kinds of different. Its culture is unrecognizable from most of Chicago, because it’s a true blend, a mosaic, a beautiful mash up of countries and cultures, languages and loves.
Chicagoans call it Little India, and after only a few steps on this sacred ground, it captured my heart.
Little India is just that—a microscopic version of India. But it’s also a bit Pakistani, Persian, Burmese, Thai, Sudanese, Bosnian, Indonesian, Malaysian, American, and so much more. In this neighborhood live most of the refugees resettled in Chicago. Their cultures and languages and countries of origin make it one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago and our country.
When I visited the neighborhood in 2015, I was a recent college grad with big dreams, hopes, plans and an even bigger heart. Sometimes, this beautiful combination is dangerous, because, alongside all those traits, I needed wisdom. I needed the humility to learn from everyone. I needed to learn to hold empathy and truth, compassion and candidness.
For five years, I tried to move into the neighborhood and serve those who were making it entirely wonderful. I knocked on doors repeatedly, sometimes feeling like I was putting the full weight of my dreams behind my constant thuds. Every time the door remained close. Sometimes it opened just a crack, only to shut again.
Until it didn’t.
Until one day, when I lived in Mae Sot, Thailand, I responded to an email from a couple who run a tiny organization in Little India with the words, “I don’t know how to make it happen, but I still want to work with you.”
The rest is history—albeit a long and complicated history. In June 2020, after a minor delay from a global pandemic, I moved to this beautiful neighborhood, and the world became my neighbor.
And it was nothing like I imagined.
Today I am nothing like I imagined.
And I’m sure that tomorrow will bear little resemblance to what I imagine.
Friend, I am little more than a small-town girl who moved to Chicago. I believe the Father called me to this place and equips me day after day as I rely on Him. And it is a learning curve. It’s a growing process, a stretching, a letting go and depending on the one who called me.
A Holy Process
There are these beautiful verses in 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 which say, “Now, may the God of peace and harmony set you apart, making you completely holy. And may your entire being—spirit, soul, and body—be kept completely flawless in the appearing of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. The one who calls you by name is trustworthy and will thoroughly complete his work in you.” (TPT)
Wholeheartedly following Jesus means walking with Him, going where He asks us to go, stepping where He asks us to step, and allowing Him to make us holy—body, soul, and spirit.
This is my story in Chicago.
Just a girl from a rural town living in Chicago and serving a global community.
Who fell in love with a neighborhood and chooses to love that neighborhood when it’s challenging.
Just a girl learning and unlearning and relearning lessons from people and situations and conversations she’s never experienced before.
Who builds bridges across languages and cultures and countries.
Just a girl fumbling through this big city and beautiful ministry.
A Calling We all Carry
I believe we are called to places and people and work. Sometimes this looks specific. Other times it looks as vague as love God and love others. Both callings are equally challenging and overwhelmingly beautiful.
Over the last year, I have experienced the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. And I want to share these moments with you. As best as I can, I want to invite you into the stories, introduce you to the people, help you experience Little India as I experience it. This place is more than a neighborhood. It is a community loved by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Let’s walk these streets together and experience the Kingdom together.