ONCE UPON A TIME..

People ask me how Live Love began. For me Live Love was really all about Paul for a while. It was something that he grabbed onto in order to survive a difficult and dark time while we lived in Guatemala. It was encouraging for me to watch him struggle through it and to come out on the other side with truth from God's Word that actually made sense in living out his daily life.

Live Love became part of my daily living in 2007, following a trip Paul and I led to Malawi, Africa. Instead of focusing on projects and completing things on a mission trip checklist, we spent our time really focused on relationships with people and walking side-by-side with them.

Learning how to listen, practicing how to love, joining them in life. It was a challenge for a lot of us, but it was so good for us.

When we returned from Malawi, I came back with this fresh sense of what I needed to do here at home. I began asking-

 Who are the people in my own community that I never see?

 Who are the people that are tucked away, dealing with difficult times and situations that we don't have to confront unless we choose to?

 Just like in Malawi where the problems were so far away and hidden until our paths collided, I knew there must be people in Chandler whose struggles were hidden simply because I didn't know about them yet. I was figuring out that sometimes learning to Live Love with someone starts with knowing their story.

In order to know someone’s story you have to get involved in their life. This is a totally different way of doing service. It’s not just about the project; it becomes more about the person, and I wanted to know the people that lived in my community- the people that I might not normally meet if I weren’t intentional about wanting to meet them.

So I started looking and asking. Someone made a suggestion that I should talk to a woman named Judy who works for the City of Chandler Neighborhood Programs. So I made a phone call and I asked her my question:

 Who are the hidden people in Chandler?

 If a group of people was going to get involved and walk side-by-side with other people in our community that need to be seen and need to be heard, who would that be? Where do they live?

 I could tell she wasn’t sure whether to take me seriously or not.  But when she realized I really wanted to know, she gave me a tour of some parts of Chandler I really hadn't seen before. This rocked my world. She took me to neighborhoods with stories of families working hard to provide for their family, where both parents are working with little or no support. Neighborhoods where a few residents really had high hopes and dreams for their families and their community, but lived in a place where it was nearly impossible to make a difference. People with aspirations just like I have but with no one to help them reach those.

And that's where it started. I took my then four-year-old daughter and we began to walk the streets, door-to-door, neighbor-to-neighbor, asking questions.

What are your dreams for your family?

What are the projects that you wish you could accomplish but do not have the resources or support to complete?

What are your dreams for your neighborhood?

If someone wanted to help you with a project, what would that be?

 I ate a lot of tamales, drank a lot of coffee and met some extremely wonderful people. I soon became known as “the cute white girl who spoke Spanish”, and I bore that name with pride.

I think most pain comes from living in isolation. When we struggle alone with no one to walk with us, that's harder than the actual difficulty itself. We are created to live in community. That means sharing ourselves with other people. To be known and to know others is where we thrive the most. Sometimes our circumstances don't change, but our perspective is what changes. Investing time and energy into each others' lives, we grow as result of knowing that we are not alone. Our stories can make a difference.

Live Love for me has become about our stories. How do we live out our story in community with other people? It takes more time, more energy, and more compassion, to actually get involved in another person’s story.

It can be messy.

It can be painful.

It can be excruciatingly wonderful.

It can be so many things but it can't be anything without time and intentional action. Live Love is about building strong community. Connecting people. Engaging with the neighbors that I see every day or with people that I might not see unless I actually open my eyes and look. I'm often surprised by how much I have in common with people that seem so different from me. And this is what keeps me moving. This is what Live Love is to me: it means we are living intentionally and loving others unconditionally. It's not easy; but it's always worth it.

Annabelle Chinchen