What Portland Teaches Us

By: Emily Armstrong

I recently had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time in Portland, Oregon in the USA. There is something about Portland that I love, and honestly, I can’t quite put my finger on it.  During the weeks before my time in the city, when I would tell someone that we were traveling there next, it frequently was met with a statement like, “Oh…Portland.  Be careful.” It was weird. 

Portland is known for their “weird” culture.  We laughed a few years ago when we saw that shops proudly sold t-shirts with the phrase “Keep Portland Weird” plastered across the front. 

Oregon is also among the first US states to legalize marijuana, which is easily seen by the hundreds of many brightly colored stores and billboards that advertise the substance for sale on what feels like every street corner in Portland.

Speaking of every corner, homelessness in Portland is palpable.  Entire communities of homeless are living in every available underpass and intersection, many dealing with mental health problems, all of which is generating community issues regarding property and garbage.

The spirituality in Portland is overt.  On average streets you can find tarot card readers or psychics to tell you your future.  Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism are explored through the pop culture of bumper stickers, accessories dangling from rear-view mirrors and figurines plastered to dashboards.

“Oh…Portland.  Be careful.”

As a co-coordinator for the Genesis initiative in the Mesoamerica Region for almost a decade, I have been immersed in finding God’s heart and mission through an urban lens. As I have found HIS heart for the city, He has graciously given ME that same love for the city. 

I can’t imagine a riper “harvest field” than the people of the city. I can imagine the impact that a thriving urban Church of the Nazarene which preaches the love of Jesus and the power of transformation through holy living can have in the lives of people that are addicted to drugs, those seeking spiritual guidance from beyond the grave and ones that are struggling with mental and social issues. 

As we soon enter our 10th year of Genesis in the Mesoamerica Region, my hope, my desire, and my prayer are that our Church would love our cities so much, that our minds and our messaging move from “Be careful” to “Be Jesus”.

Thanks, Portland, for teaching us that.

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