Two months ago we moved to a new apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan from the Upper East Side. Since then I had hoped to share why and how, as these are the predominant questions we receive and it’s taken me this long to get to it.
When we first moved to New York, we discovered the challenges of the school system and that led us to both pursue understanding but also to pray. We prayed the entire year that God would show us by Eli’s school where He wanted us to live and who He wanted us to share our lives with more. We did this because of our convictions, one being that our children’s education is extremely important to their future and the other conviction toward supporting and investing in public school teachers, classmates of our kids, and their families as the best way to see a neighborhood flourish long-term.
As we applied for schools, ranking them, and awaiting our placement, we thought we would be headed toward the East 90s for schooling and neighborhood, so when Eli was placed in Chelsea Prep it was quite a surprise, but led us to pray about moving to Chelsea. It wouldn’t be an easy move as Chelsea is typically more expensive than the Upper East Side, it isn’t known for being family friendly like the UES, and we didn’t know any other families there, though we knew a number of great people from our church.
We felt similar to Paul in Acts 16, where he wanted to see the gospel expanded in Asia, but the Spirit kept preventing him from going there. We wanted to see the love of Jesus extended to Chelsea, but felt like the challenge of getting there was too great as we looked at 15 apartments with no luck.
For Community? For Mission? Or Both?
This was a very hard decision for us logistically, but also personally, which led to more prayer and even fasting as considered the decision. One reason is because the scriptures challenge Christians to let the gospel of Jesus Christ inform all of their decisions, even moving. So when it came to moving, we had the question of do we move to stay in community with the people on the Upper East Side that we have established relationships with and endure the schlepping commute to Chelsea? Or do we move for the “mission” of serving and loving Eli’s school and those families to bring the love of Christ to an area of the city where it isn’t?
My tendency is to pit those two against each other, to say if we move to Chelsea it is against the pursuit of our current community or to choose community is against the pursuit of mission. But wise council from our friends and former pastors caused us to expand our understanding.
For us, moving to Chelsea did not lessen our commitment to the friends and families we had met on the Upper East Side. Would it make it more challenging? Sure, but it wouldn’t prevent us from traveling up there to be around our friends. Staying in the UES would have made it harder to engage in Eli’s school, but our commitment to that did not change, though it would be more challenging. It was not either or, but both/and.
How God provided a place and how we moved into it
We were coming down to the wire on the decision, having been rejected by a few apartments, being shocked by their (lack of) size in Chelsea, and having to make a quick decision on an availability in the UES. It was then that a broker who had initially told us we would never find a place in Chelsea for our budget, called us to say he found the perfect place.
We checked it out, a 2 bedroom, big enough for all our kids to share a room, a great kitchen and the same price we would be paying on the Upper East Side. The only downside was that it was the 5th floor of a walk-up, but our boys made the trek up the stairs just fine so we applied and were accepted. We felt and continue to feel like it’s a blessing from God to our family.
Finding an apartment is hard enough in Manhattan, but moving into one can be just as challenging. This is where our community came in and blew us away with their generosity of their time and moving skills.
On a Saturday morning in late September, about 20-25 people from our church came and moved us from the 2nd floor of a building on the UES to the 5th floor of a walk-up (that’s no elevator and 60 steps). The remarkable thing is they still want to be our friends.
Even more amazing was that they helped make our apartment a home. They hung curtains, made beds, and unpacked the kitchen. It was humbling and we couldn’t be more thankful.
We’ve been there for 2 months, it’s been great to walk Eli to school in the morning, to serve and encourage his teacher, to connect with the families of his classmates and to have more space for the kids to run around and in the kitchen. We love living near the High Line, Chelsea Market, Madison Square Park, and I even walk to work. It’s been amazing.
God has blessed us tremendously. Oh, and one more perk…the view…