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:
What does it take to love a new place?
Sometimes you fall in love with the place you are serving before you even get there. Other times it can take quite a while after you arrive. In 2000 my wife and I took a vision trip to Madrid, Spain. We walked around. We prayed. We met people. Over several days we not only knew we were to live there, but totally fell in love with the place. After several years of work in Spain we then moved to Germany. It was heart-wrenching in so many ways to leave. We knew, however, it was the right thing to do and the right season to do it—but it was still hard. It was a totally different setting for us. Yet we came to love “the shire,” as we called it. Who could not love living in the Black Forest?! It was such an enchanting place.
Now we have come full circle in our overseas journey. Again we find ourselves in the city we fell in love with many years ago. This time we live in the center part of the city. We love the sights, the sounds, the people, the food, the cafe con leche, and even the big city noise. Looking back, there have been several things that have helped endear us to this city:
Friends – We were able to make quite a few Spanish friends who have become life-long friends for us. Having close friends in the city where you live gives you a sense of community. We also have expat friends, but they come and go. Having national friends gives us deeper roots in the place we’ve decided to call home.
Presence – We lived in Madrid during the 2004 train bombings. In fact, I was supposed to go to a coffee appointment later that day in the very place the bombings happened (obviously that was cancelled!). We saw our friends greatly affected by this in having their loved ones injured or killed. We walked with them through the tragedy, and it formed our love for the city and its people even more.
Hardships – God has so richly blessed and provided for us, but, as all of us do, we have still experienced trials. I think that as you overcome these trials in a foreign place, it can somehow give depth of affection for that place. There is something about walking through a hardship while on mission that reminds you a place is worth the sufferings you’re going through to be there.
Music – I love Spanish music. Sometimes I understand the lyrics, and other times I just sing along. But embracing the music of Spain has given me a delight for Spain. Even when we lived elsewhere I would still listen to Spanish music. It would always move me. Music is so intimately connected to the heart.
Involvement – Volunteering. Going to local festivals. Eating what they eat. All of these cultural aspects deepen your love for where you live. The sense of mutuality of a shared place always builds a deeper bond.
Fourteen months ago, my family moved from Portland, Oregon, to Richmond, Virginia. Though I was certain God was leading us to a role that would put me in a position to help equip churches for mission, this was the first time we have ever moved without a clear sense of calling to the place. We’re no strangers to the challenges of starting over in a new city (we have lived in five cities in the last 15 years), but this move has been the most difficult of them all.
We had lived a car-less existence and gotten around by metro in Barcelona. We had been bicycle commuters in Portland. We find comfort in diversity. We consider ourselves to be urbanites. Boston or New York City, we always thought, would be desirable places to live. Richmond (population 200,000) was not on our list of urban landscapes we had always dreamed of exploring. Nevertheless, Jeremiah 29:7 was beating in our hearts:
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
We decided to approach our move to Richmond the same way we approached past moves to foreign places. We dedicated ourselves to learning the culture, history, rhythms, and norms of the city. We explored every part of the city, making observations and taking notes. We joined sports teams and the PTA. We invited ourselves over to neighbors’ houses for dinner.
Through the process, I’ve concluded that in order to love a place, you have to be there. I don’t just mean that you have to be physically present within the city limits, but that you have to make deliberate and intentional efforts to put down roots, build relationships, and invest in the place. We have paired our wellbeing with that of Richmond, and guess what? We’re starting to love this place!