Do you love Durham? Do you care about Durham? Do you pray for Durham? Or do you wish you lived somewhere else?
When I was a youth minister here from 1993 to 2000, I was amazed at the number of students I had who could not wait to leave Durham. Their attitude was that they wanted to live anywhere else but here. Many of them did leave and relocate to other places once they graduated.
During this same time that my students wanted to leave Durham, there was a growing influx of people from all over the United States and the world who were very eager to live here. They came by the thousands for jobs, medical reasons, educational opportunities, retirement, and as refugees to name a few.
According to the Census, in 1990 the population of Durham was 136,611. The latest figures from 2016 show that Durham’s population is now 263,016 people. That is a gain of 126,405 people in the 24 years I have served here at Rose of Sharon. The city has almost doubled in size.
Durham is no longer a small southern tobacco town. We are an international city. The top languages spoken by her citizens other than English are Spanish, Chinese, African languages, French and Arabic. Take a stroll down Ninth Street and you will find every time type of restaurant representing cuisine from all over the world.
So, let me ask you again. Do you love, care, and pray for Durham? Or, do you wish you lived somewhere else?
In the above passage from Jeremiah, the people of Israel are no longer living in Jerusalem, but have been placed in captivity in Babylon. They do not love or care for Babylon and definitely wish they were somewhere else, namely Jerusalem. The captivity was going to be a long seventy years.
Notice, the prophet never tells the people to love Babylon. Jeremiah encouraged the people to seek for the peace of Babylon and to pray for it. In verses 5 and 6, he instructs them to build houses and plant gardens and to raise their families there in Babylon.
The NLT translates the verse: “And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you in exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”
Now think about this. The vast majority of people who have come to Durham have come from somewhere else. Many came from other states to work or retire. Many came to study and stayed. Many came for jobs and stayed. Many came as refuges and stayed. The fact remains, regardless of the reason, they are here from somewhere else.
Like the Israelites in captivity, we need to "work for the peace and prosperity” of Durham. We need to “pray to the Lord” for Durham. We need to seek her welfare, because the welfare of the city will determine our welfare as a church. As a church, we are called by God to reach our city.
On Sunday July 30, Rose of Sharon is hosting a multi-ethnic worship service at 5 PM called “Kingdom Celebration.” This celebration will reflect the makeup of the church in Durham. We will have worshippers from about 7 different congregations including African Americans, Burmese, Filipino, Korean, Hispanic, and Anglo congregations. There will be a fellowship meal following the service.
At this service we will worship together, hear faith stories of different people who came to Durham and have become believers, hear stories of churches working together to reach the many different ethnic groups of our city, and pray for our city and the greater Durham area.
You will be hearing more about how you can help us be the host for this great event in the next few bulletins. This is a tremendous opportunity for Rose of Sharon to partner with the greater church of Durham. You do not want to miss this service.
I love Durham and care for Durham even though I’m not from Durham. Will you join me in praying for Durham?
I love you and it’s a privilege to be your pastor.