Charity and I have been involved in cross-cultural ministry for about 13 ½ years now. We have lived in the city, a rural village, and on a tropical island. We have lived in places where it is so cold that your spit freezes as soon as it hits the ground and we have worn tank tops, sandals, and shorts year ‘round. Seeing the world from several angles and worldviews gives you a perspective that can never be taken away. Some neighborhoods where we’ve lived were dominantly Muslim, others dominantly Hindu, while another was Catholic mixed with a lot of spiritism. We are all different and everyone around the world chooses a certain pathway for their family and often they have the best intentions; they are leading out of the worldview and values they hold most important to them.
Most of our adult life has been in the city. Charity was once chased into a car by a guy demanding her to stop (he was calling from about half a block away) wherein she sped away and quickly got the heck out of there. She still really doesn’t know what that guy wanted but she wasn’t going to stay around long enough to find out. I’ve been pick-pocketed a couple times (very nice criminals indeed as I was in a huge crowd in Baguio, Philippines). I’ve had dudes try to start fights with me for accidentally bumping into them as my eyesight faded. One neighborhood we lived in was on Cops one night and I sort of held my head in disgust as one of the notorious high-crime intersections was just a few blocks from our apartment. I could tell you so many more stories of bizarre encounters, bus riding chaos, and danger as life in the city brings so many people together from all walks of life. Public transport and foot travel are much more prevalent and you rub shoulders a lot. 
Contrary to what many may think however that is our family has never really felt scared or threatened or anything of the sort. As we have lived in the city, these places have become our home. We have loved city living far more than most and as we enter into city living yet again in Pittsburgh the feeling is no different. It has been pretty honoring and respectful to have neighbors or cars roll down the window at intersections telling me it is safe to cross. People are looking out for the blind guy most of the time.
This time around though there is a new criticism that has been thrown our way. What about Amos? What about your son? It is usually asked diplomatically but the gist of it is, “Don’t you know you should be thinking about your son? Aren’t you worried about his education? Aren’t you afraid to see him grow up here?” Ironically, our neighborhood is not the inner-city. It is urban but nowhere near as dangerous as some of the other spots where we’ve lived. I also realize that we’re not a target as much as many of my Nepali friends. New immigrants don’t know the laws so well, can’t communicate in English fluently, and are often afraid to go to authorities. So naturally my friend’s perspective around here is altogether different from mine.
But yeah, I get asked these sort of questions at least every 2 or 3 weeks. Most of the time these questions come from Christians who know full well our commitment to serving Jesus in spots that aren’t soccer moms first choice to live. I get asked these questions from friends who don’t share our missionary convictions as well. Interestingly I often feel in the moment that I need to defend myself as a parent as if I’ve made some horrible decision putting my family in the very spot to which God has called us. I don’t feel like the people asking the questions of my decisions often need to defend their choice of neighborhood. Nor should I.
But what about you? Nevermind the people you are trying to help. You have to start thinking about you. You have a family now. Hmmm. 
Charity has been an educator for years. I have a graduate level education and like to think that I’m pretty smart. This boy is being exposed to more culture, global awareness, and difference than we ever were at his age. How many missionary kids have we all met whose education was crap? I am scratching my head to think of too many kids of missionaries who dropped out of high school, got involved in a life of gangs and drugs, or performed in the lower 10 percentile on standardized test. I’m sure there is someone out there but I haven’t met them. So many folks living and working in situations like us have an extremely deep value of education and development but the incubator for that to happen is altogether different from others. Perhaps by living in the city, growing up speaking 2 languages, understanding 2 of everything our kids actually start to get a better education? Perhaps what Amos will learn in growing up in a low-income urban neighborhood far outweighs the best academy up the road? Perhaps his discipleship will blossom as he is surrounded by need and opportunity. My goal here is not to hate on suburban living or anything of the sort but I’m wondering if we can have some respect for one another as parents as we choose to live in neighborhoods that are very different from each other. 
Again, I go back to my assumption that most parents are trying to give their kids what is best for them based upon their worldview and core values. So yeah, our core values happen to be that the city is better than anywhere else. I didn’t say that it is wrong or stupid to live outside the city but we live here because we think it is the best place. I guess we all make decisions that way. I sure hope you don’t live where you live because it was like the third best option. And our family has this crazy value that Christ wants His Kingdom to come to our little neighborhood in south Pittsburgh as it is in heaven. He wants to see Nepalis engaged in our lives and Jesus wants to make himself known in a clear, beautiful way. So we live here. We live with two houses almost touching ours and we walk everywhere. This is the city to which God has called us.
But what about safety? What about education? Aren’t the public schools bad there? I had a Nepali high school senior talk to me about the next neighborhood over (a borough/suburb). He said the public schools here have metal detectors and that the school district there does not. He said they will never, ever need metal detectors because nothing bad will ever happen there. Really? That is quite a claim. That high school is about 10 minutes or less from my house. Somewhere along the way my community has surrounded around this young Nepali Christian and told him that the next borough over is bliss and where he lives is a pile of something something. Our kid is not even 2 years old and we’ll make decisions about education as they come. We’re not going to raise a son who thinks that the schools and teachers in his neighborhood are a bunch of losers who don’t care about anything or anyone. 
There are so many ramifications that produce good and bad education; a lot of them center around money and power. Surprise, surprise. As for safety, I’m just not sure that is a value that we put at the top of our list. Comfort and safety are all things we long for our family to have but I’m just not seeing them bleed out of the pages of Scripture.
So here we are, trying to start this new life in Pittsburgh. Dozens of families already know who we are as we walk around. There is a real sense of community living so close. Maybe before we judge parents decisions we can assume the best in them. What values and worldview do they have? Maybe there are bigger life circumstances or reasons they do what they do. We walk and live out the Gospel and let the chips fall where they may.
If you are living in the city, the suburbs, raising your kid in a village on the mission field, just sent your kid to international boarding school – I choose to see the best in you. I know you want what is best for your kid and have made decisions accordingly. Life is too short to point the finger and expect everyone to be just like us. But just for the record, city living is pretty great. You should move to our block; we’d love to have you over.