Adventures with Larry & Caleb: How Did You Choose Where to Live?

Upstream co-founders, Larry McCrary and Caleb Crider, are living in very different places: for Larry, Madrid, Spain; for Caleb, Richmond, Virginia. Along with their families they’re not just teaching Tradecraft missionary skills, they’re also applying them. So we wanted to tap into their unique experiences and at the same time parallel their local and global perspectives. So “Adventures with Larry and Caleb” will be an ongoing series throughout the year where we ask them one mission-related question at a time. Here’s the question for this week:

How did you choose where to live?

Larry McCrary

When we sensed the Lord leading us to live in Europe again, we really sought to be open to live anywhere. We knew we had a heart for the peoples of Europe. We knew we loved Spain. We knew we loved Madrid. So as we narrowed in on Madrid, we asked ourselves, “What part of this sprawling metro area do we live?” Here are a few things that helped us figure it out:

  • Prayer We spent time in prayer, asking the Lord to lead us to the area we needed to be. We also asked our prayer partners to do the same. Once we received our official documentation to live and work in Madrid, then we started praying even more specifically for an apartment and a good landlord. The last time we lived in Madrid we were on the outskirts of the city in a really strategic area for our work. This time around we sensed the need to live in the middle of the city.
  • Mapping – Another aspect of our search for where to live included mapping out the city. We started with a 30,000-foot view of the city, and from that identified some areas that we wanted to be in. Key to us was a location where we could get on the metro, bus, or train easily. Once we identified several of those spots, we then dug deeper. To be honest, we reviewed the chapter on mapping that Caleb wrote in Tradecraft. One of the places that we wanted to live close to was a “node”. These are essentially places where many connections are made as countless people come and go. In Europe these are often located around centers of transportation. The place we eventually chose has many restaurants and cafes that serve as gathering spots. It’s also easily connected by metro or walking because it’s in the center of the city.
  • Transportation – We do not currently have a car, so we needed to be somewhere that we could easily access our colleagues, some local ministry areas, and the airport. We travel a lot! So a big part of our discussion revolved around transportation. Madrid has the best metro system of any place I know. Seriously. It works! We have found that by not having a car, we end up talking to many more people in the course of the day. Having a car would make it too easy to isolate ourselves. It does add the inconvenience of more travel time, but the gain of great conversations is worth it by far.
  • Intentionality – In Genesis we see God telling Abram, “I will bless you…and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). As we prayed, we asked for a place where we could be a blessing to our neighbors. We have always wanted to be a blessing no matter where we live. We want to extend hospitality to those around us. We also want to receive hospitality. In finding a place to call home, we wanted to be where we could bless others.
  • Recreation We love to work hard, but we also like to play hard. So being close to a park and sports facility was important to us. Just being honest. It’s ok to look for things you love!

Caleb Crider

Because we approached our move to Richmond just as we had approached every other move we’ve made on mission, deciding where to live was no simple task. Before we could even start to explore the various districts of the city, we first wanted to establish the criteria by which we would make this decision. While serving overseas, determining where to live is a strategic decision; a good choice provides you with access to people and puts you in a good position to model for nationals what their lives might look like if they were to be in Christ. A bad choice can reinforce negative stereotypes (“They must be rich Americans”), isolate you (socially and literally), or communicate something other than what we intend (“We’re too good for you,” or “We’re with the CIA”).

We started by asking work colleagues where they lived and how they had come to the decision to live there. We were shocked and frustrated by what we heard: “We found that we could get a lot more ‘bang for our buck’ out in the suburbs,” they said. “We wanted good schools for our kids,” was common. “The neighborhoods are safe.” “It’s super convenient there’s a supermarket and a Target nearby.” Comfort? Personal benefit? Safety? Convenience? Are these the criteria by which God’s people make such important decisions? We wanted to be guided by Kingdom values, not worldly ones.

So we determined to live where we could be part of positive change. Richmond is one of those suburban-flight cities where everyone who could get out did. We would limit our search for a home to the city limits. It’s also deeply divided along racial lines, so we wanted to live along one of the social fault-lines. Some neighborhoods showed signs of urban renewal; we loved the idea of helping to shape that in a way that blessed others. We believed that living like this would allow us to reach across social and cultural barriers to point people to Jesus.

Having established our values for life on mission in Richmond, we explored the city. Knowing the sort of place we wanted to live really helped eliminate sections of the city from consideration. On foot, by bike, by car, during the day, in the evening, and at night, we explored. We passed through rough neighborhoods and quaint communities. We saw people that looked just like us and people who looked very different from us. We interviewed random strangers about the stories of different areas of town. We prayed that God would make it clear to us where should plant ourselves. We found an apartment in one area that we could rent by the month to give us a sense of what the neighborhood was like and to buy us some time to search. We prayed a lot.

We ended up finding our house quite by accident. We had scoured all the real estate websites and classified ads online. One day, as we were out exploring, we were detoured from the main road by a marathon route. As we wound our way through the neighborhood, we saw a hand-written sign advertising the rental of a beautiful little house in the heart of a quaint neighborhood. Right away, we knew that this was where we needed to live.

We’ve been in the neighborhood about a year and a half now. Last summer, we bought a house and moved three blocks away. As we try to put down roots, we are investing in the community by coaching soccer, participating in neighborhood social gatherings, and volunteering at our kids’ school a few blocks away. We trust that God will continue to guide us on His mission, and we are committed to thinking strategically and living by Kingdom values every step of the way