By Chris Lahr
I grew up in Huntington, Indiana in a town that is currently 98% white and was considered a “sundown town” (a place that did not allow people of color in after dark http://sundown.tougaloo.edu/sundowntownsshow.php?id=872 ). I started following Jesus the summer before my senior year of high school. Though I grew up in the church, it was then that I moved from being a believer of Jesus to being a follower. I went to Eastern University outside of Philly. During my first year of college I traveled with our African American choir called the Angels of Harmony (I was the official groupie). It was through these relationships and trips with them into the city that broadened my worldview.
During college I started a group of us going into the city to hang out with homeless families. Weekly we would hit the streets and spend time with our newfound friends. After a while we started going down with nothing but ourselves and we would sleep on the streets. We did this to alleviate power dynamics, and God said don’t worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will worry about itself, so we tested God on this…God was right… God took care of us.
I then went to Asbury Seminary. It was a tough transition moving to a rural area and back to a predominantly white world. It was an important time though. I camped out in the missiology world and studied culture, multiplexing, etc., which were life-changing. During seminary I took a class on Black Theology. During the class we talked about racism in the North and we talked about a town that had a commemoration in the 1980s of a “slave house” that was used to hold runaways slaves until they could be returned (it was a law, much like returning immigrants is today to their home country). Come to find out the slave house was from my hometown! I was shocked and this sent me on a journey of self-discovery. I did an intensive study of my hometown and its racial background and it opened my eyes to the realities of racism in our nation, and in my life.
After Seminary my wife and I and our 11month old baby moved to inner city Philly (we now have three kids 17, 14, and 10). We moved in Kensington to be a part of a Christian community called, the simple way, which grew out of the homeless work we were doing in college. We were a part of this community for about a year and then we moved to Frankford neighborhood (still in the city) to be closer to a couple of families that were going to our church (Iglesia del Barrio). In Philly we learned that our calling is not to be missionaries but to be neighbors. We live in the neighborhood we serve and we have learned many lessons along the way.
My wife is a nurse doing home visits in our neighborhood for moms and babies. I help run a ministry called Timoteo, which is Spanish for Timothy. Timoteo is a sports ministry that focuses on mentoring youth (www.timoteosports.org). Living in the city has changed my perspective in life. My faith is a street level faith and touches real people in real life situations.
I have also viewed this election through the eyes of the city as well and this has created an unsettling feeling, as I feel the fear of the people who may be most effected negatively by all that is going on. That said, I do not forget where I have come from. I come from a place radically different from where I live now and people there think much different from myself, but I still love them and respect them. To be honest I am a little torn these days because I want nothing more than unity, especially within the church. But I cannot ignore my instincts that are screaming inside that something very terrible is about to occur in our world (I hope I’m wrong). On the one hand I want to speak only words of affirmation and unity, but I also feel the need to warn and speak against injustice that adamantly opposes God’s Kingdom.
Chris and Lara Lahr live in Philadelphia, where they raise three daughters. They have been married twenty years, with 17 of them taking place in the city, where they reside. Lara is a community nurse working with babies and mamas in their neighborhood. She is currently going to school to become a midwife. Chris works with a non-profit called Timoteo (www.timoteosports.org). Timoteo is a mentoring program that uses flag football as a means of mentoring urban youth. Timoteo serves over 300 youth in the neighborhood and over 150 adults. The Lahr’s are strong believers that they are called to be neighbor’s (instead of missionaries), which calls them to celebrate, struggle, worship, and live life in the neighborhood they serve. Chris is a graduate of Asbury Seminary and Eastern College. Lara is a graduate of Asbury College.