Joe Thorn got me thinking about loving my own city. I am not originally from Montgomery. I was born in New Orleans, LA and grew up in South Mississippi. I went to college at Mississippi State University and seminary at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Marin County of the San Francisco Bay Area. I have traveled all over the United States and all over the world. But, I live in Montgomery, Alabama and have done so for almost ten years. Let me tell you what I love about this place:
- God sent me here when I was 25 years old – almost a decade ago. I was a fresh seminary graduate, married with one 7 month old daughter. I know that God sent me here and even though I have often wondered if it was time to go, He has reconfirmed that He has me here for a reason again and again. I know that God loves these people because He created them and has a plan for them. I now have 4 children and can say that this has been a good place to raise them.
- I love the church I serve, Gateway Baptist. It is made up of people from all over the country who have served with the military (Maxwell/Gunter AFB) and it has a lot of young families and singles. When you think of a Southern Baptist church in Montgomery, AL, you might think of a certain stereotype, but Gateway is really more like the churches that I visited in California than it is like a traditional Southern Baptist church. That has helped us in that we have been able to adapt readily to a changing culture, but it has also hurt us in that we have never quite fit the native culture. That is changing as the culture changes, though, and we are pretty well positioned to reach a lot more people, especially cross-culturally.
- Montgomery places a high value on family and children. There are children everywhere. Many parents seem to want to do a good job raising their kids. That is a good thing and it is something that God approves of.
- God desires reconiciliation between people in Christ. There are a lot of people in this city who want that. Historically, Montgomery has been a city of racial and socio-economic division. That still exists here, but what better place to bring the Kingdom of God by addressing those divisions? What better place for God to be glorified in that way? This is a place where a problem can become a praise if we don't run away from it.
- There are a lot of churches and a lot of Christians in Montgomery. There is a lot of religion here. While a traditional churched culture has drawbacks, it also has a lot of positives. When people really get to know Christ and churches really begin to honor God, much fruit can be produced.
- Meat and Three: If there was a dish or cuisine that was featured in this area, it would be the traditional Southern Meat and Three, which consists of a meat and three vegetables, usually with cornbread or a roll. Restaurant's like Martin's, The Farmer's Market, Eastside Grille, and many others feature this type of food and it is pretty tasty. It is an example of how the farm and the rural South is never more than a generation or two removed from this city.
- Montgomery is a big, small town. With a population of over 200,000 people and a metro population of over 300,000, Montgomery still has a small town feel to it. It actually feels like one big sprawling suburb. There are lots of things that I don't like about that, but it has its positives too in that housing is affordable and there are lots of great neighborhoods to raise a family in.
- Montgomery is becoming more and more diverse. It is the state capitol, has a major military base where every member of the Air Force comes for school through Air University – including many international students, has four universities, and has a major Hyundai plant. People come in and out of this city all the time and more and more ethnic minorities are moving here. This is a great city to reach the nations from and it is also a great city to model a multicultural church in the Deep South.
There are other things, I know, but I will stop there. While there are challenges, there are also many opportunities for God to prove Himself strong and to right some generational wrongs.
What do you love about your city?