Five months ago our family moved from Tucker, a suburb of Atlanta, to a house two miles from the Stewart Center. Our new proximity to the Center and our oldest son’s entrance into kindergarten have linked my personal and professional lives and given urgency to my work as director of the Stewart Center.
Our new (very old) house has blessed our family with more space, a great neighborhood and the opportunity for me to ride my bike to the Center. The new location has also allowed my family to connect to the Stewart Center’s ministry more than was ever possible when we lived in Tucker. The new neighborhood has introduced new schools, stores, doctors, churches, restaurants and relationships. By living near the city’s center we have developed relationships with people from diverse backgrounds who have enriched our lives and broadened our perspectives. Our connection with the city has grown as we have built bonds with others that inhabit the urban environment before, during and after the work day.
Before the move my thirty minute commute gave time for decompression and provided distance between my work and family lives. It is now a challenge to distinguish the personal from the professional. The Stewart Center’s Kroger is now my family’s Kroger. The Grant Park pool is now a place where the Stewart Center kids and my kids swim together. My son, Ty, now attends one of the schools served by the Center’s after school program. Because the Stewart Center is a part of my community I take more seriously how the ministry impacts its neighborhood as well as specific people. When work and life intermingle relationships based on shared experiences replace those that originate from vocation or calling.
I have worked to improve the Stewart Center’s ministry and build the organization since arriving in December of 2009. The Center’s board of directors and staff have committed to a plan designed to establish the Stewart Center as a leader in academic enrichment in Atlanta. This goal is pursued daily by staff, volunteers, and board members and is supported by the contributions of individuals, foundations, businesses and churches. The Stewart Center’s cause has always been noble but it turned personal for me when my kindergartener began attending the after school program this semester. Ty only attends the Center once a week but his presence has pushed me to increase the pace at which we improve our programming. I am more critical of our efforts and attentive to our progress now that I have ‘skin in the game.’
As it turns out ministry should not be confused with volunteerism or a period of time or a special place or a calling from God. Ministry is living the presence of Christ wherever we are. I wish I had known that while living in Tucker, and Montgomery, and Auburn and Clemson. Where we are is where we are called.