Hi everyone! Let me introduce myself; my name is Jordan Kelley, and I am the new intern here at JUSTembrace. I am a recent graduate of DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois, where I studied economics and religious studies. Along with other DePaul students, I was part of the InterVarsity justice small group, a group that partnered with JUSTembrace this past year. I have just moved into the neighborhood, and am eager to further my journey with JUSTembrace.
This past year, the JUSTembrace community gave the DePaul small group and me a taste of what God’s hospitality looks like in the Uptown neighborhood. In fact, here is a video we made after my second visit to JUSTembrace – it’s amazing how much we’ve learned and experienced since then! As I became more involved with JUSTembrace, I saw social action through a new lens. The idea of “service” began to take on a new meaning for me. I no longer was simply doing something nice for the neighborhood, but rather, I was beginning to be welcomed by the neighborhood and community members into a mission much bigger than myself. Sher’s words to me at my first foot care clinic still remain with me now, “Remember, when you are washing and cleaning someone’s feet, this might be one of the most vulnerable postures someone can be in”. I was welcomed not only by Sher and the people living in the JUSTembrace house, but also from the community members themselves.
Towards the end of my senior year in college I decided to officially join the JUSTembrace community as an intern. I am here because I want to learn more about what it means to live a life of restoration. I want to learn more about incarnational living, what it means to be present in the neighborhood and to my neighbors. Western culture has lost the ancient practice of hospitality, and I want to relearn how to live a life of hospitality, especially among those on the margins. During my sophomore year of college I lived at the Vincent and Louise House, a missional community on DePaul’s campus, and I am very excited to be joining another missional community.
Uptown is very different from my life growing up in the suburbs, or even my time at college in Lincoln Park, which is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Chicago. Since I have moved into Uptown, I have realized how homogeneous my past surroundings were. The people that lived around me looked an awful lot like me, and for the most part, had a similar safe and privileged lifestyle. Uptown, however, is very diverse when it comes to race, socioeconomic backgrounds, and religion. This has become very apparent as I have had fun exploring the neighborhood. Unfortunately, Uptown is prone to higher levels of poverty, mental illness, and violence. One of my initial fears upon joining the JUSTembrace community has been stepping out of my comfort zone into a setting that is new for myself. My hope is that through these fears, I can go deeper and better understand what it means to live a life of restoration.
I pray that I have eyes to see and ears to hear, to be receptive to what God is doing in Uptown and JUSTembrace. I pray that I have a posture of teachability towards those I am working with and those I’m living among in the community. I am humbled to be part of God’s story of reconciliation, and to join a movement that seeks to be part of it here in the Uptown community.