May 2, 2016

​To the Urbs or the 'Burbs?

The things we think about when we decide where to live.

Wilona Karimabadi

Where do you find young Adventist families? Loma Linda, Collegedale, or Silver Spring? What about Manhattan, Atlanta, or Washington, D.C.? On these pages, two mothers with young families share their thoughts on living in the city and away from it.

Nelita Davamony Crawford

Walla Walla, Washington, resident Nelita Crawford, immigrated to America from India when she was 5 years old and spent her formative years in Loma Linda, California. She left home for Walla Walla University 16 years ago, and has been there ever since.

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The Crawford Family (left to right): Ellis, Nelita (mom), Oliver, Lawrence, and David (dad). - Emily Star Poole

Crawford loves the convenience of things being close by in a small town. As a self-proclaimed creature of habit, she likes that change is slow to come to Walla Walla and small towns in general. “I love that my kids have a strong sense of ownership of their town. My kids are really young, but they know where things are, and the regulars at the grocery store, gas station, restaurants—I like that feeling of a small community.”

But living in a small town has its drawbacks for Crawford, too, as the homogenous ethnic nature of the area can be a little challenging. “I don’t like being one of a handful of South Asians in town,” says Crawford. “I think I struggle with how to normalize my culture in a place where most of the community is unaware of the nuances of my cultural background. Frankly, I don’t always want to be the representative of an entire nation to my community.” Crawford also misses the variety of perspectives, ethnic foods, cultural events, and the buzz of urban life in general.

Living off the grid and being more self-sufficient in a country setting has its place, though. “There is something of modern conscience that relates to this idea,” says Crawford. “I think there is something of value in understanding how to grow your own food and being conscious of your dependence on the power grid. Knowing how to be self-reliant also helps us to understand the work that other people do to make our lives convenient.”

“There are also times in our lives when we have to disengage, find solitude, find respite, and recharge. Country life does provide an environment where that is available and easily accessible,” she adds.

Adventist families bring something to country living as well. Crawford offers this: “Adventism, in its finest form, is a very relational movement. Relational means, ‘I sit and eat with you; I hold your hand as you face hardship; I walk your journey with you.’ Jesus was phenomenal at this. I’d like to think that in a small town we rub shoulders regularly with a small cohort of people who believe, act, and value things differently than we do. [Most of all] I would hope my home is a home where country living and Adventism work together with my being available, present, and participating in my neighbor’s life.”

Johanna Devera Chung

Johanna Devera Chung was born in Hinsdale, Illinois, raised in Loma Linda, California, attended college in Takoma Park, Maryland, and now lives in Washington, D.C.

Not near Washington, D.C.—in it.

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The Chung Family (left to right):
Ed (dad), Olivia, Gabriella, Johanna (mom), and Lauren. - Chung Family

“After college, I lived in Silver Spring for a few years, then moved to New York City. When my husband got a job in D.C., we moved here,” says Chung.

“Once we started having kids, we knew we wanted to stay in D.C. for the easy access to city resources and short commute time to work,” Chung shares. Though they knew they could afford a larger home with yard space out of the city, Chung felt that it was more important to have time at home as a family than to spend it in two-hour daily commutes.

Aside from easy commuting, city living, especially in D.C., has many advantages. “We like being close to museums, parks, schools, work, restaurants, shopping, government, and hospitals—all within a 15-minute drive, and all accessible by public transportation,” she says. Having neighbors in close physical proximity also offers the family the opportunity to engage them more often.

There are a few things that Chung wishes were different in their city life, however. “One thing I dislike about living in D.C. is that all my Adventist friends live about 30 to 40 minutes away. The church we attend is also 40 to 50 minutes away, but that church best fits our family’s needs,” she says.

“I grew up in both large and small Adventist towns, away from urban environments,” adds Chung. “I enjoyed the closeness of the community, the security of knowing what to expect, and the simplicity of that life. But living in cities has given me the opportunity to interact with people from different cultures, ethnicities, belief systems, lifestyles, and social classes. I think Adventists shouldn’t be afraid of living in the city for fear of being negatively influenced. Adventists should be living as a positive influence to the community in which they live, city or not. There is so much life experience that many Adventists may miss just by distancing themselves from other people.”

Wilona Karimabadi serves as an assistant editor of the Adventist Review.