As 2 white people who grew up in majority white suburbs, we get the question a lot: “Why are y’all moving here?” It’s a valid question, I mean, we stick out like sore white thumbs in our side of the neighborhood. For those of you who might be wondering the same thing, here’s why we’re here…
We were introduced to Binghampton (pronounced bingHAMPton), a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Memphis, TN a little over 3 years ago. We were living in Birmingham, AL and the company I was working with (Boosterthon, an event based company that serves elementary schools in various ways all over the country) took time each summer to come together for company-wide service projects focused in a city where we had school partners. Summer of 2009 was the Boosterthon trip to Binghampton. We spent time that week putting on block parties, helping landscape yards, doing home repair and connecting with some great people doing incredible work (you can see a ‘highlight’ video of the trip here). We met BC Chamberlain and his family that week, a white family with 3 young children living in Binghampton doing youth ministry. Meeting the Chamberlain family ruined us in a good way. We were so attracted to what they were giving their lives to – and began to feel the pull to give our lives to the same kind of work.
Liz and I hard at work 3 years ago – Ironically, where we were standing in this picture is 2 houses down from a family we are now very close friends with.This is Ms. Jeanita (Asst. Director of the Lester Community Center) making her grand entrance at the Lester Center Day Camp’s block party – see the excitement in her eyes? That’s because she was about to high-five me.
It was in Binghampton Elizabeth and I also felt God’s call to adopt from Memphis. This is a longer story that I will probably write about later, but 8 months after our Binghampton trip, we were back in Memphis meeting our son Amos.
While in town for the adoption, I was offered the opportunity to take over the city of Memphis for Boosterthon. 2 weeks after arriving back home in Birmingham with Amos, we found out that our daughter, Evie, was on the way (completely unexpectedly, I might add)! 8 1/2 months later, we had 2 children under 9 months old and were planning to uproot and move to Memphis for work.
As we settled into life in Memphis, we started to make friends in Binghampton. More and more, as we spent time there and became more familiar with life in the neighborhood, we began feeling not just a pull, but a leading from God to move our family there. I had long since dreamt of working in a school setting that would allow me to mentor young boys, host special events for children and provide exposure to and experiences in areas of life that were not readily available within the four corners of most urban Memphis communities. As the Achievement School District (read more about the ASD here) began to establish itself in the state of TN, Cornerstone Prep School was designated to take control of the historic Lester School in Binghampton. Conversations began early on seeking to find someone who could start and develop after school programs at the new school. This person would also parter with other community organizations to find volunteers and unique opportunities to serve the students of Binghampton.
Did I mention that we found out we were pregnant again in the midst of all this chaos? Well, we did. Back to the story…
After hearing about the opportunity in Binghampton, I couldn’t sit still…or sleep…or think about much of anything besides how much I would love it. At the end of an extensive 6 week interview and “audition” process, I was hired to be the Family Advocate for the Binghampton Development Corporation. I would work in the school each day doing exactly what I’d been dreaming of doing – pouring into students’ lives, hosting special events, building relationships with families and coordinating after school programs. There was only one stipulation – the family accepting this position would be moving into a house that was to be built across the street from the school. More on this in the next post…
It was a crazy season of life for us – one we’re thankful for – but ok with not replicating any time soon! I’m 7 months in at this point and I am completely overjoyed to be in this position. I love these kiddos and love being a part of their lives. They are smart. They are hilarious. They are resilient. Some live in conditions I’ve only seen equaled in our time in Haiti and yet you won’t hear any complaints from them. Binghampton is a proud, fiercely loyal community that loves their children and Elizabeth and I are humbled to be beginning our life here in “the Hamptons” alongside so many wonderful people.
I’ll talk more about the house and what I actually do day to day as well as introduce you to some of the amazing people I get to work for and with in the coming days, but don’t worry – not all of our posts will be this long (ok, ok – for those of you rolling your eyes, I’ll concede that some WILL be this long). Love and appreciate you all!
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