What follows is a guest blog post entry by Diane Richardson Spaite. Thank you Diane, for being a persistent, courageous, compassionate, and bold community leader and advocate here in Rosedale and beyond!
Just as the leaves were beginning to turn, I walked onto the Rosedale Ridge apartment complex for the first time in 2009. Within a month of graduating from seminary, I made a risky decision-to stay in Kansas City and seek employment nearby hoping sometime in the near future to be married.*
When I started walking on property, I soon realized I was in over my head and resorted to my recently re-found belief in prayer. Prayer-not something we do to manipulate God into action like Santa Clause, rather the opening of oneself to having eyes to see and ears to hear where the Healer is already at work. Distinctly, I prayed each morning-sometimes with a soft spirit and other times just begging, “God PLEASE help me to be faithful to be your love today.” And over time, I began to sense this response, “I am already here-I’ve already been here ahead of you,” and so my prayer changed. “God, please help me to see where you are.”
Over the past 6 years, I’ve had a connection to the place and the people who live at Rosedale Ridge. I’ve witnessed neighbors helping neighbors, mothers caring for children, dad’s carefully providing for their families, families grieving from the death of their baby from SIDS, tragic fire, corruption, chaos, people taking advantage of others suffering, social “helps” that destroy people’s lives, dance groups, dedicated community members and so much more.
Working with and among any people is emotionally evocative but working closely with people who have ended up in project-based affordable housing has challenged me and changed me. I hate that our government systems keep (yes keep) people living in poverty. I hate that many people living in affordable housing are those persons in our American society who are systemically oppressed-persons of color, immigrants, elderly and those people who haven’t had access privilege. I don’t use the word “hate” lightly but I better understand the indignation referenced in scripture often times in the Old Testament in reference to God’s disdain for those who take advantage of those people who are beloved image bearers.
More than anything I’ve mentioned however, I have learned to believe God’s promises to be with and among those whom society would rather hide up on hills are real. Love isn’t just present in theological rhetoric or in nature-God is present in the everyday realities of the resident’s lives. For me, mercy and grace have been incredibly evident through the diligence and the work of Rainbow Mennonite Church. I have constantly been overwhelmed with Rachel Hostetler’s presence, listening ear, utility advocacy and welcome to many members of the Rosedale community. I’ve been floored by the tireless efforts of the Outreach Committee to make homemade meals for the community meetings, offer transportation and greet residents with the utmost dignity and respect.
And, I see faithfulness evident in the lives, resilience and faith of the people who make up the Rosedale Ridge community. At some point in the advocacy process, we realized it was time to encourage more resident leadership. In our very first meeting together, we connected with Javon Swopes who was adamant that God would provide a way for her and her family. She was also adamant that in the midst of this we should be seeking help and direction from something other than ourselves. She’s not the first resident I’ve encountered who’s challenged, spurred on and enlivened my faith. I can be the worrying sort and the kind who feels forgotten in times of trial-but here these beautiful people are still believing in, claiming and living out their faith (for most of them Christian faith passed on from generations of family members who have believed). I’m just as quick as the next 30-something-er to second-guess, question or react up against organized faith traditions and yet many of these residents believe.
There’s no other way to explain what I’ve witnessed. It’s palpable, you can smell it, taste it and touch it. It’s louder than the crisis, it prevails through the violence and becomes most powerful as the intensity rises. It’s the sort of faith that can move mountains-and it has. So while I have opinions about process and concerns about logistics as the residents move from their apartments, I firmly believe that the One who makes all things new in the here and now has been, is being and will continue to be faithful. This Spirit, or as Ruth and Rosie called it “Whoosh” will walk with the people in the transition ahead and we are the lucky ones to have been a part of it-even just a little bit. *Thankfully, it all worked out and my decision to stay paid off with a life-long partner/friend and eventually a puppy. ___________________
Here are a few more links for those who want to learn more about Rosedale Ridge and current realities: