Have you ever relocated? Knowing that Americans are extremely mobile, I’m guessing you have moved from the house you grew up in and have, at least once, established a new home or business. People relocate for many different reasons ranging from work, to health, to love, to family, to education. Underlying almost all of these is the strong desire to strengthen human relationships in pursuit of those aims. God well understands the idea of relocation. The desire for better relationship was the reason God relocated to be with us in the form of Jesus Christ. He loved and cared for us so much that he came to us as a child, and He has been with us ever since.
Relationships were the reason the Pekary family relocated to East Palo Alto. Shannon and April were compelled by a desire to share their relationship with their God with their community and their neighbors of East Palo Alto. The Pekarys became familiar with the idea of relocating to poorer neighborhoods and cities here in America through the writings of one wise pastor, Dr. John Perkins and in relocating the Pekarys took the first step of a process of what Perkins describes as critically important component to spreading God’s justice, triumph and love here on Earth.
Perkins is an African-American pastor with an amazing testimony and life story (you can read about it in the book “Let Justice Roll Down”) and has been in ministry since the 60s as passionate vessel for God in the areas of racial reconciliation, civil rights and community development. He’s been a pastor at several churches and has been at the forefront of founding and advising many different organizations that are involved in empowering and developing poor communities and neighborhoods—the most prominent being The Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). In his book “With Justice for All”, Perkins describes the different steps necessary of working for biblical and just community development.
With his first step Perkins echoes Christ’s call for believers to go and live among the poor. He describes his own struggle to obey Christ’s command to return with his family to Mississippi (from where he originally left) in order to share the gospel. Perkins shares with his readers with words of profound truth when describing the need for relocation:
“Neither politicians nor philanthropists can offer people what they need the most—the incarnate lover of Christ. Unless the church fulfills its responsibility to proclaim by word and deed the “Good News to the poor,” the poor have no true hope. We, the church, bear the only true gospel of hope. Only through us can the power of Christ’s love save and deliver them. The fate of the America’s poor is in our hands.” (pg. 56)
Relocation is not a value that Perkins has created out of thin air. Relocation is what Abraham, Moses and Nehemiah did. It’s what God did. We would not have the gospel today if Christ had not relocated and dwelt among us. Perkins writes,
“The incarnation is the ultimate relocation.” (pg. 89)
To relocate and live among those who are poor, to seek to make their needs our needs, to live out the gospel by working for the improvement of our neighbors’ lives in every manner—this is what Jesus did and we, as Christ followers, are called to imitate in obedience. Perkins stresses the divine importance of relocation:
“Not only is the incarnation relocation: relocation is also incarnation. That is, not only did God relocate among us by taking the form of man, but when fellowships of believers relocate into a community, Christ incarnate invades that community. Christ, as His body, as His church, comes to dwell there.” (pg. 89)
In relocating to East Palo Alto and sharing their home and lives with their neighbors the Pekary family have positioned themselves to share Christ’s love in daily action and deed. And now, with RYAA, the Pekarys are helping to spearhead an organization that serves the youth of East Palo Alto in a Christ-like manner—beginning with being physically, emotionally and spiritually near and present to those they serve.
This blog post will be the first of a series of blog posts that will be discussing the idea of “relocation”. Keep tuned! We will be bringing you future posts on this subject from the perspective of those who have decided to make East Palo Alto their permanent homes.