written by Renee Deuplisea
Imagine living in a city with the most prestigious colleges in the world, where people travel to from all over. Imagine living in a city where public school graduates have less than 10 percent chance of attending college. A city where there are numerous neighborhoods made up of multi-million dollar homes, while just three miles away, the majority of residents fall below the poverty line. Imagine living in a city where people commute to every day to go to their high paying jobs or their ivy league colleges. A city where there are more homeless people than beds in the homeless shelters. Imagine living in a city with thousands of college students. A city where gangs, violence, and drug addiction are rampant. Well this is where I live; It is better known as Boston.
I moved here three years ago for school. The first month I was here, I secured a work study job working at a preschool in Roxbury, the part of the city were folks were not living in those kazillion dollar homes. It was here that I first witnessed the great division within Boston. I would ride the bus just twenty minutes and be met by children who would come to school hungry and in the same clothes as the day before. Children who had parents who were unable to read to them. Kids who would tell us about the gun shots they heard the night before. Kids who didn’t know their dads. Children of high school students. Kids who got sick but couldn’t afford to go to the doctors. I remember the first day I got there, the children rubbed my milky skin and held their arms up to mine. It took me a few seconds to realize, but they seemed fascinated with my difference in complexion.
After doing some research, I discovered this is not uncommon for Boston. There are “white” neighborhoods like West Roxbury, made up of mostly educated, well to do folks. Then, there are “black” neighborhoods like Roxbury and Mattapan, where less than half the kids graduate high school, and less than ten percent will enroll in college. Sad when you think about it, seeing as over 300 thousand people move to this very city every year to attend college.
Boston’s colleges and universities have a major impact on the city and region’s economy, with students contributing over four billion dollars annually to the city’s economy. These facts prompted a series of questions. What if when students did more than just boost the economy? What if we “loved our neighbors as ourselves?” Perhaps students like myself have an even greater opportunity to show the residents of Boston who Jesus is by modeling His teachings! What if college students teamed up, both young and old, and worked together to see lives and communities transformed. They could be a part of something bigger: changing the lives of local residents, as well as their own.
This is where the vision for C.R.E.A.T.E. was born. I was concerned that while I was paying well over 30 grand a year for college, there were people in my neighborhood hungry, cold, homeless, neglected, and abused. What resources did they have to succeed? After some prayer, serious Bible reading and seeking advice from people much wiser and older than myself, I saw a path before me. The only way things in Boston could ever change for the better is if a bridge was built between communities. Boston has been historically separated. The privileged and educated must use their gifts and skills to serve the underprivileged and the marginalized. We must move into these neighborhoods, to stay and to integrate ourselves into the daily grind. Rather than pushing out the locals, we go to them….stay, and love.
The plan is to buy a house in Mattapan, a 2.8 square mile section in southern Boston. In fact, we have already fallen in love with a house. Although it has been empty for well over ten years now, the house is beautiful, and it’s located across the street from one of the largest housing developments in Boston. We want to buy this house, fix it up and immediately start to love the poor and the orphaned the way that Jesus has loved us. There’s a whole bunch of practical stuff to do for our neighbors, like GED tutoring, financial planning courses, free child care, and some other services that leaders in the neighborhood told us would be helpful. But more than that, we want to form relationships. We want to invite our neighbors over for dinner, we want to learn about them, we want to learn from them, and hopefully in the process, we can share the love of Christ with them.
Are there any Christians in Boston? I want to invite you to be a part of this. Give up a few years, (heck, maybe your whole life), to living simply in this intentional community so that together we can love with no limits. We have a vision of something bigger than ourselves. A vision of growth, emerging leaders and equipping more people to go out and do the same thing in other neighborhoods of Boston, New England, America, and the world. The most exciting part here is that you can be a part of this. And if spending the next few years living in Mattapan isn’t for you, we also need lots of prayer, a website, handy people to fix up our future home, and fifty-thousand dollars. That could be only $1,000 from 50 families or individuals that agree with my plea. For more details on how you can get involved, please email us as CREATEboston@gmail.com.
You will be hearing a lot more from us over here in Boston. Thank you Enoch Magazine for helping us get the word out. We look forward to all of you being a part of this journey.