Do Not Fear

Do Not Fear

A few weeks after Hannah’s fiancé moved into his new neighbourhood, there was a shooting in the lobby of his apartment. The bullet went right through a teenage boy’s ear just missing his brain.

A few weeks after Hannah’s fiancé moved into his new neighbourhood, there was a shooting in the lobby of his apartment. The bullet went right through a teenage boy’s ear just missing his brain. While the shooting was gang related, Hannah worried that her fiancé could become an inadvertent victim of gang violence. However, Hannah would eventually call this place home; a neighbourhood that she now says she loves. 

Hannah Mohajer (Price) (BEd '10), a school teacher, is part of a growing movement of young Christians moving to communities that have high crime and poverty rates, low standards of living, and are largely unreached. The purpose of this movement is to establish groups of prayerful individuals who live in the community, sharing in its joys and sorrows, while being salt and light to those around them. They take The Message’s interpretation of John 1:14 as an example to follow, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.”

“Jesus became part of the mess, He became part of the neighbourhood and all that entailed,” Hannah says, “I think that if God calls us to people, He calls us to share life completely with those people...I think that living out the gospel is living your life wherever you are and with whomever you are with, while praying that you can be salt and light.” Hannah now participates in weekly prayer times with Christian members of her community; she also started the program, Stories Under the Stars, where she reads bedtime stories to children in her community once a week. At first, however, Hannah had doubts and fears to overcome as she entered the community.

While Hannah did not fear the violence in the community, Hannah had other fears to confront. Hannah was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to meet people and that it would be difficult to share the gospel. Many Christians in similar situations had dealt with people who were suspicious of a hidden agenda. However, she soon discovered that many of the cultures she engaged with were more open and willing to talk than her own culture. “In the suburbs you don’t really speak to people,” Hannah says. “You don’t usually know the names of your neighbours, but in these communities it is very easy to meet people.” She says that her neighbours, from countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sudan, and Ethiopia “know what hospitality means. If you meet someone in the elevator, five minutes later, they would invite you for tea in their apartment.” Many of her friendships developed out of the hospitality of her neighbours rather than a one-sided effort on her part.

Julius Naredo (BA '09), a site supervisor for Urban Promise who is also involved in the movement, had similar experiences of learning from those around him. He lists the Karen people (a Burmese subgroup) as a group that inspired him within his community. “They work hard and they share everything with each other. The children often have to mature fast because they translate for their parents.”

Julius leads kids and junior high camps, hosts after school programs, tutors, coordinates volunteers, and helps out single moms in his community. “I’ve seen so many people or churches where they go and meet in a different community [from where they live] and they don’t minister to that place. It didn’t make sense for me; it didn’t feel like church, it didn’t feel like family, it just felt like a club. It was only for those people. I knew that God could do more for me if I just moved in.” Julius now lives with a Zimbabwean and a Filipino roommate in a high density, low income neighbourhood in Toronto. “I didn’t have a set agenda,” said Julius of moving into the community, “I just wanted to get to know people and let them get to know me.” Julius stresses the importance of listening to God in prayer, listening to mentors, and listening to neighbours. “There’s a lot of listening and observing because it’s definitely different...you have to stop talking, just listen and observe.” Both Hannah and Julius saw God open doors for them when people asked, unprompted, to tell them about Jesus. Both have seen people come to Christ and ask to learn more about Jesus.

Hannah and Julius admit that not everyone is called to that lifestyle. “It is something you have to count the cost of,” Hannah says. “Following God is not always safe, but being in the centre of God’s will is the safest place you can be as a Christian, because if He’s called you to something then He will equip you for that. He doesn’t want you to fear. He wants you to trust Him and follow Him wherever He leads.”