According to United Nations, 54% or 3.9 billion of the world’s population, lives in urban settings and by 2050 it is estimated that that number will rise to 66%, a further 2.5 billion people. Given that the area of emphasis we have chosen for our Master’s is International Development and Urban Studies, we have taken several courses dealing with poverty, organizing in urban centers and understanding the unique needs for ministry in urban settings. These courses have also included some useful tools for assessing needs, engaging with communities, planning and implementing programs.
Steve is currently taking a course called “Encountering the City” which requires him to complete an ethnographic study of a neighbourhood. So today we set out for a four hour visit to Brickfields, Little India to do an exegesis of the area. This involves close observation and reflection, which is something we had learned how to do in a prvious course in Seattle. The word exegesis means a critical interpretation and is commonly what we do when we read the Bible, we exegete the text with a view to discerning its truth for our lives.If we are committed to serving in an area that God has called us to, then we need to be able to see what is going on in our areas, what the people view as most important, what they hope for, fear and believe. We also need to understand the narrative of their lives and their communities in order to see what God is doing so that we can seek and to partner with Him in the work.
In order to learn about the community we looked at the types of housing, the streetscapes, the transportation corridors, government services, community centers, charities, places of worship, stores, cafes, local hangouts, health care facilities, schools, graffiti and industries. Steve had prepared some survey questions which gave us opportunity to chat with the residents. Occasionally we invited respondents to join us for lunch. As we walked, sampled the street food and chatted we were able to get a sense of the places that represented life and hope and beauty for the community but also those that showed evidence of poverty, neglect and despair.
The Indians love their bright colours, music, flowers, food and family and we thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this community a bit better, practicing new skills and doing research for a current project. Our lives may seem a little strange to those of you who have much better things to do on a Saturday, but for us it was a fun and fascinating day filled with discovery and blessing.