InnerChange has been in central Los Angeles for many years, before it became trendy to move here. Our work is centered in the Westlake/Pico Union neighborhood of LA, a very dense neighborhood home to many recent immigrants from Mexico and Central America. InnerChange practitioners begin their ministry by moving into struggling communities, becoming neighbors, listening to and praying with the community. In walking with our neighbors as we seek the peace of the city together, the InnerChange team is embodying the core of Christian Community Development.
In this current season of ministry, we are concerned for our neighbors. Our area is being squeezed between downtown and Koreatown, and rent is rising very fast. I am often amazing that people can still make their rent. Of course, it means working long hours and many people sharing small spaces. But we continue to lose the lower end of housing in LA––which is a huge struggle for our neighbors. Yet, I am always encouraged by the resilience of my neighbors, the sacrifices families make for their children, the ways those with very little are also very generous. And I am encouraged by those working together for the good of all in LA.
It is in this complex and resilient community that we are excited to host a Go & See tour during the 2016 National Conference. The Go & Sees this year are focused on specific areas of LA. Our Go & See will feature the Westlake/MacArthur Park neighborhood, which is one of the densest areas outside of Manhattan. The poverty level is very high, but it is also a very vibrant place, full of life and hope. The Westlake/MacArthur Park neighborhood is an area where many immigrants first land when they come to LA, so the Go & See will emphasize issues of immigration and the global economy unique to our community.
As a practitioner, I have learned, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” Doing things in collaboration is not the fast way. But it is a better way. The work belongs to God, not to us. We know this, but we often don’t act that way. Years ago, my husband John and I went to a CCDA marriage retreat in LA. That retreat was so important in the early years of our relationship. One of the things John Perkins said was, “People should look at your marriage and see God.” Since then, we ask each other, “What do people see when they look at us?” We hope they see our joy in God and love for one another. In the midst of doing justice and loving mercy, we can easily neglect the last part of Micah 6:8, walking humbly with God. Our lives reflect what matters to us. We can do much good work, but our lives are our loudest witness.
Our hope for the 2016 National Conference in LA is that this gathering will create new depths of unity and collaboration, the inclusion of many who have not always been included. For those coming to LA, I trust they will be refreshed and restored by our gathering to go back to their own cities with renewed hearts, new friends, a deeper sense of calling, and added tools to seek the peace of our cities.