“As cities go, so goes the world.” From the moment Norfolk was named over my dinner table, I was not able to get it out of my mind. Being from southeast Virginia, I was vaguely familiar with this port city and its impact. A city known for its civilian and naval ports, people, ideas and supplies flow in and out like the subtle rise and fall of the tides. The city is in constant movement, with many here to stay and even more here only for a temporary period of time. It is a city where many come to work and play but not all stay to do everyday life. It is a city that displays human ingenuity through colossal ships and complex bridges and tunnels. It is a city used to navigating around the many trains that traverse the city shipping in supplies. It is a city of diverse people that will be moving to diverse places in the future. So, why Norfolk? My heart was initially captured by the strategic impact this city could have if the gospel shipped out through a people that loved Jesus.
But as we have been here for five months, I have faces that answer the question of “Why Norfolk?” I have become less compelled by the strategic and more about the personal. I am friends with neighbors and frequent spaces that were designed by a God for God. There is a search for meaning and value that can only be found in the identity God wants to give us. There is a search for resolution, healing and peace that can only be fully brought about in the gospel. There is a search for the spiritual in some very dark places that need to be exposed to the light of the Holy Spirit. These searches are no longer obscure ideas but are tangible concerns of my new coworkers, friends and acquaintances in this city. And, while thinking about how much I want those in this city to reach the world is a consideration, my heart has become more captured by the idea of the people here that will stay. And I want to be one of them.
“Why Norfolk?” We are here for the long haul, as long as the Lord will let us. In a city that is always changing, we seek to display an immutable God, a God who does not change. We will do this through our flawed stumblings for consistent conversations at work, support of our community centers and schools, weekly meetups with running friends and intentional conversations to know neighbors. We are hoping and praying that these fragments of conversations and life will be used for God to draw hearts to himself. Caring for Norfolk because God cares about Norfolk compels us.
Before moving, I was asked, “Why would you want to move to that God-forsaken place?” I was shocked at the abrasive nature of the question, feeling offended for my soon to be new home and even more offended for the great God that we serve. We serve a God that loves this city and has great plans for its thriving. He is a God worthy of reframing the question: “Why NOT Norfolk?”