Mrs. Newton and I got into another one of those “blog worthy” discussions the other night as we reflected on our move to a new city and search for new friends here.
As for culture, Fayetteville is a far cry from Monroe, Louisiana, where deep fried food, thick accents and rampant poverty abound. Well, Fayetteville proudly boats that it is “funky,” with funky generally meaning it is progressive politically, socially and culturally. Faintly like San Francisco or Santa Fe but not quite as socialist. It is a young city where the average age is 30 or so. Fayetteville is also a major college town with a vibrant arts scene, organic food stores and city parks everywhere. Come to think of it, Fayetteville is the polar opposite of Monroe. Oh, add 30,000 more citizens in a metropolitan area of nearly half a million people.
As we faced the prospect of moving up here to launch Restless Heart Ministries, get closer to her family in Kansas, and find a better area to start and raise a family, I know Mrs. Newton was a bundle of emotions — fear, sadness, excitement… rinse, repeat… Among her fears was the prospect of moving someplace she did not already have ready-made close friends. Shannon is a social creature, and her community of friends in Monroe was deep and meaningful to her emotional, spiritual and social lives. Her church was near and dear to her heart. Her workplace provided weekdaily interaction with friends and associates. Fayetteville? She knew some people. We both did. But none were part of her inner circle. And so fear and trepidation about moving to a new city was always near the top of her emotional strata.
But she wanted to move. We both did. I had fewer hang-ups, since Monroe was a new community to me and I’ve moved five times over the past two years. I was used to a change of scenery. She wasn’t. No matter how much I tried to reassure my darling wife that God was moving ahead of us to Fayetteville to prepare our way, and that He would take care of our needs, it was really tough for her to face the prospect of finding new friends and a new church family. I understood. Yet I didn’t. Yet I did. It’s complicated!
Fast forward to today. We’ve settled into life here in Fayetteville in a great rental house and Shannon’s counseling work is taking off in a big way. God is providing for us and it has been wonderful and reassuring to see! We have found a neat little Anglican Church to call home and Shannon is slowly making new friends here. I’m finding out that our ministry is really needed here in Northwest Arkansas and other people are really excited about it.
Our conversation the other night brought up God’s faithfulness in Shannon’s mind. She went to a women’s small group on Saturday morning with other ladies from the church and she had a great time. “They’re so authentic and kind and neat, ” she said. It was wonderful to hear! God has been so good to us, she continued, and she can now see that He is providing for her every need, from work to church to friends. Awesome! I was then reminded of a verse I should have remembered long ago. I looked at Mrs. Newton and said, “See? God has people in this city.” She laughed.
The apostle Paul endured a lot of scorn as he proclaimed the gospel of Jesus across the Roman world, largely from the Jews. During one discouraging episode in Corinth, God came to Paul in a dream and said,
“Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent. For I am with you, and no one will lay a hand on you to hurt you, because I have many people in this city.”
The overall lesson we are learning through this move is that God, indeed, has people in every city. They are faithful men and women who are being sustained and empowered by His Spirit to proclaim the Gospel and defend the weak and befriend the lonely. He had people in Fayetteville just as He did in Monroe. He was already here — in this place — and we were moving into His presence and, by His will, set to interact with His people. In less than three months of living here we have seen the mighty presence of God. After all, He has people in this city! And in every city.
God goes before us wherever we go. As His dearly loved Children, rest in this assurance. He is a loving Father who desires our good and will gladly bless those who seek Him. New city? No problem! He already has people there!