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An Oasis in the City

I have the privilege of being a pastor in Seattle, Washington. Like most places, Seattle comes with good and bad. There is the beautiful skyline with the iconic Space Needle and the majestic Mount Rainier towering as an omnipresent backdrop.

There are three pristine National Parks within a day’s reach. Ferries connect to wonderful coastal escapes, and in the summertime it’s possible to go months without rain. And yet Seattle doesn’t have the nickname “Rain City” for nothing.

When my family got the opportunity to come to Seattle, it wasn’t just the rain that people warned us about. It was the city itself.

The ubiquitous traffic, the growing challenges of homelessness, the pace of life and the fear about safety. For some, it was hard to understand why we would choose to live in a city. After all, isn’t it written somewhere that in the time of the end we should move to the country?  

Before the move, we heard some comments about Seattle like, “Why would anyone want to live there?” “Good luck!” and, “Stay safe!”

Yet, I have found the city to be full of wonderful people.  

One of my favorite activities here is walking around the lake by Green Lake Church in North Seattle. In a short three-mile loop, I get a window into an eclectic range of human experience — people from all cultures and backgrounds, the wealthy and the poor, the young and the old, the joyful and the depressed. 

As I walk around the lake, I observe birthday celebrations, couples holding hands and people flying by on Rollerblades and bikes. Each person has a story and I breathe it all in. In my passing contemplation, I often pray for these strangers as we briefly cross paths.

The loop is a blur of activity, but it is also full of soul-satisfying pockets of solitude. Hammocks hang between trees. Boats dot the lake. This is an oasis in the city and it’s not the only one.

Miles of trails link to parks across the Emerald City. Bookstores and coffee shops offer opportunities for connection and escape. My favorite oasis in Seattle is the place my family gets to call home. 

Before receiving the call to Green Lake Church, our greatest concern was where we would live. We wondered how we could afford to live in Seattle and if our kids would be safe. God supplied all our needs.

It turned out that Green Lake Church was thinking about these challenges and invested in a housing ministry. Our home was provided by long-time members of Green Lake Church — the Jensens — and became our parsonage and a medical ministry suite.

The home has a large backyard, fruit trees and a garden all fenced in. It is a perfect oasis in the city, not only for our family but for the numerous families that have stayed here amid personal health challenges.

Green Lake Church has been expanding this medical ministry to include additional suites. From 2017 until the present time, we've had more than 2,000 nights of occupancy in the church's various homes. Hotels in Seattle can average more than $160–200 a night, so each year this ministry represents savings of hundreds of thousands.

Places of refuge are worth investing in. All of us experience the joys and hardships of life and need places to rest and recharge.

I believe this is why a theme for Jesus throughout his ministry was rejuvenation. Sabbath rest isn’t just about getting more sleep; it’s about recharging the soul. Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weak and heavy laden, and you will find rest for your souls.” 

I am thankful for the opportunity to be part of the ministry in Seattle. Not everyone is called to, “flee the city.” There are good people here.

Sometimes medical emergencies offer no other choice. This ministry provides an oasis in the midst of medical storms, and it is a testimony of meeting a practical need in a time of vulnerability. I have had atheist and agnostic friends reach out and offer thanks that our church offers something like this.

If you would like to read more about the impact of the Green Lake housing ministry, read the longer article here. May you be inspired to be a place of refuge for your community, to be an oasis of hope and wholeness.

Featured in: November/December 2023