Seeking the Welfare of the City
Jeremiah 29 4-7 is a message from God to the Jewish exiles in Babylon – a place where none of them expected to be. It was a place foreign to what most of them had ever known. Despite their circumstances, God told them to,
“Seek the welfare of the city to which I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (v.7)
He also said,
“Build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their produce. (v.5)
Doing this work was probably not so easy for the Israelites in Babylon, and it’s not so easy today if your address is Orange Mound.
A woman below the poverty line who is a homeowner is a rarity in Orange Mound. We have three homeowners among our workforce at the tea company. They have pierced an invisible but all too well-known barrier.
Pride among our three who have bought their homes keeps me smiling and hopeful. One woman planted tulips this winter and is watching them lengthen and bloom. One is developing a workspace for her sewing enterprise. Another has redecorated her living room with window shades and upholstered furniture with the contributions of My Cup of Tea volunteers.
I rejoice that these ladies have loyalty to Orange Mound and want to be a part of its renaissance. They are seeking the shalom of our community. Shalom is a word we commonly translate as “peace,” but in Hebrew it means so much more. The person wishing shalom to another is saying something similar to, “may you be filled with prosperity, good health, and peace of mind.” These are the ideals we desire for Orange Mound and the broader community.
However, it is also apparent to us, but not often in print, that the population of Orange Mound abounds in single-mother families, which are most often lacking in financial support from the fathers of their children. With empathy and respect, we cover them with prayer and try to guide the majority of our ladies who are single moms as they move from rental to rental within and beyond Orange Mound. They are searching for safety, affordability, and if possible functioning utilities.
A mother with five children prays for a three-bedroom home within those parameters, but more likely can only afford a two-bedroom house. Her daughters will sleep with her. Broken windows, holes in the floors, leaks in the roofs and pipes, and infestations of rats and insects are ubiquitous. Landlords are often out of state or purposely impossible to reach.
For this reason and others, the shalom of our city is more elusive for the majority of our employees who are forced to rent their homes. If shalom is peace of mind, prosperity, and the like, the condition of housing in their community inhibits its attainment. Memphis pride abounds among us who don’t have to worry about such obstacles. We ignore the national critics and the sullied reputation of our city as a result of the high crime rate. We brag about food, basketball, music, sunsets, and so much more. But these sources of our 901 affinities are not on the radars of our renters.
Those of us living outside of Orange Mound choose our homes quite differently. Our neighborhoods are selected more for proximity to schools, work, grocery stores, and entertainment. The lack of a three-car garage and a swimming pool might be a deal breaker. Houses are bought within our communities for square footage, curb appeal, demographics, and modernity.
However, the Lord says to all of us who call Him ours, that this is not our home. We are sojourners, exiles, and His. He calls us to beautify and sanctify the footprint of our location. I have said before, there is theology in geography.
We want this mighty band of women to hammer down their tent pegs into the soil of the several blocks of this neighborhood. We value these ladies who will model stability, neighborliness, and pride in a reformation of a neighborhood that for the time being is in need of hope. We are assured by the message in Jeremiah that “[seeking] the welfare of the city” is the work we all must do.
We at My Cup of Tea are invested in an “orphan” community called Orange Mound which is the apple of God’s eye.