#OurChicagoStories Fall 2018

#OurChicagoStories Fall 2018

We completed part 9 of Our Chicago Stories back in November, the last OCS afternoon of 2018. As I’m sitting here writing and reflecting on that afternoon, it seems like years ago. It’s pretty crazy how the end of the year speeds up to double time, then you blink it’s over and you’ve jumped into the next year. Somehow I still didn’t get around to sitting down to write and reflection on this until the end of January, because somehow life stayed in double time for the first month of the year.

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I say it every time, but the afternoon of OCS was a special one. It never fails to amaze me what happens in that space. This time around we had a bigger group than we have the last couple of ones, and it felt good to see how the afternoon flowed even with a larger group of individuals.

Something Rach & I began doing about a year into doing OCS was taking time before people arrived to reflect on what specifically we would talk to them about as we photographed them. It’s truly made the time even more cherished and valued because there’s intentionality in every question we ask each individual. We hope to continue to find ways to honor the individuals stepping into the space and sharing part of their story.

It’s amazing the ways we’ve seen God move in the OCS afternoons. He is molding this passion project into something he actively is working in and shining through. And boy is He teaching Rach & I a whole lot of lessons, mainly what it looks like to let Him invade every inch of this & what it feels like to be open palms from the start to the end.

I’m excited to share more about the OCS Fall 2018 crew! Keep scrolling to read about each of the individuals.


 

ELISSA CLARK

What do you find challenging about living here?

One thing that is challenging about this city is finding my place in which I can do the greatest good. Everyday I see brokenness, poverty, discrimination, and hurt. There are so many needs in this city and it can feel overwhelming to choose to invest in one need over the next. I’m still figuring this one out.

How has community affected your time here?

Community is a big part of why Chicago feels most like home. The city offers delicious food, beautiful architecture, and a million things to see and do, but community has been the puzzle piece that completes the picture of belonging. I’ve seen the love of Jesus more clearly within the community He’s given us here in Chicago more than any other point in my life. He’s used this community for healing and restoration in my relationship with Him and with others, and I know I will look back on these years as some of the most impactful.

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?

One thing I’ve noticed is that each person I meet seems to have their own creative outlet. It’s almost like there’s more of a need or desire of many city dwellers to have their own creative identity. Maybe because in a city this big it’s easy to get lost in the mix and a creative outlet provides a way of finding (or maybe grounding? Or reestablishing?) yourself amidst the noise.
Also, I think creativity begets creativity. The community here is full of diverse personal expressions of creativity, which has challenged me to find my own creative voice. Something I’ve learned this past year is that, for me, creativity doesn’t have to mean perfection or even talent, it’s a way to be present, learn, and express where I’m at in that moment. I may never be Picasso (you should see my watercolor sketchbook, it is a SIGHT) or ever be able to properly throw a serving bowl in ceramics, but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn and have fun at a local arts class.


JEANETTE JAIN

What do you find challenging about living here?

Okay, one not so serious challenge, but such an annoying thing to me... I have a car and I absolutely abhor the challenge of strategically moving my car around to dodge parking tickets during street sweeping each month! On a more serious note, I find the social & racial division/dichotomy of Chicago to be challenging. Living up north, it can be easy to forget how truly segregated our city is. It has been on my mind recently that living in comfort, especially in this city, can be equated with living in blindness. I have felt challenged to figure out ways to live outside my bubble, ways to figure out how I might do my small part to promote change, rather than complacently doing nothing at all. I also think that it’s hard to say that you love Chicago while only loving the pretty, picture-worthy or put-together parts. Being aware of the brokenness and dysfunction that exists in our city should drive you to action if you truly love Chicago… that’s where I feel I am now.

Why do you love it?

I love it because it’s my home. My family lives all throughout Chicagoland & our roots here in the city go deep. I moved from River West to Edgewater a year ago. Without really intending or planning to, I landed in an area central to my family’s history in Chicago. I live a few blocks away from the old baptist church where my parents got married, the church we attended for the first few years of my life, surrounded by the immigrant Filipino community there, where my grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Also, I am a little over a mile away from the cemetery where my grandparents are buried.

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?

Chicago is such a place of culture. There is so much diversity in every way & I think that aspect of the city, of any city really, draws in creators & encourages an atmosphere of creativity. The diversity found in the city also lends itself to the vast amount of activities & events you can find on a daily basis & I love that. It certainly stirs up the creator in me. I’ve always considered myself an artist in some way, with my main forms of expression growing up being singing, writing & acting. Recently I’ve found myself expressing my creativity through cooking. It’s such a practical and rewarding way to create. I find myself constantly surprising myself with the flavors & dishes I’m able to create with my own two hands & share with others, as a result. I love getting the opportunity to cook a meal for friends. Food has always been a staple of community in my life & it’s been very cathartic to finally feel comfortable in the kitchen & with a recipe book. Additionally, I’ve been so blessed to be surrounded by other creative-minded folks while in Chicago. Their commitment to their creative outlets has certainly been inspiring, as I continue to explore the output of my own creativity.


VADIC PATEL

Why do you stay?

Approaching my fourth year in Chicago and the city is starting to feel smaller. I can walk the streets of Lincoln Park and run into someone I know and I love that feeling. My career has rooted me in this city as well, even though I travel every week. Furthermore, the network of friends I have created are a key reason for why I am staying.

How has Chicago affected your worldview, if at all?

As said earlier, Chicago has influenced my worldview greatly. Growing up in a foreign household, I was always taught to embrace and love different cultures, but in Ohio, it was not as apparent. Chicago has opened gateways to learns about folks with African and Asian descents and get to know their culture better.

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?

Chicago is truly the melting pot of the Midwest. You see people from all walks of life pursuing different dreams all within the city. My community consists of those pursuing graduate degrees, engineers, business folks, artists, and many more. The diverse backgrounds always bring different perspectives to the table no matter the topic and that is truly something I have come to appreciate.


LISA SPAGNOLO

What brought you to Chicago?

It took me moving out of Chicago to really appreciate it and to want to live here.  I studied abroad in college and even moved abroad after I graduated. But life brought me back here and I'm so grateful for that.  Through living abroad, I've realized how important community is. While I'm still passionate about traveling, it can get pretty lonely when you're gone too long and you can start to feel a little adrift.  It's made me appreciate the idea of putting down roots.


When do you feel most empowered and comfortable in your own skin?

When I'm traveling - I always feel so open, content, and inspired.  I love hanging out in a foreign city, hearing the locals speak their native language.  Listening to someone speak French or Italian is like hearing my favorite song over and over, except it never gets old.  I love to hear the inflections, the rhythms, the tones - to pick it apart piece by piece and appreciate every element that goes into the language.

If you're in a season of distance from God, what are your questions / struggles?

Usually when I go through a tough season, it brings me closer to Him.  However, at a time when a lot of things feel broken, it's hard to let anyone in, even God.  The thing that has helped me most through this time is hearing about other people's personal experiences and how they've seen God work in their lives.  It's a great reminder that He is there, working in every single detail, even if He feels absent or distant.


JOSEPH AMBROSE

Why do you love it?

Right now, I like Chicago – not yet love. But I like Chicago a lot because of its malleable, midwestern form. If I want to be near water, the lake is never far. If I want to have a fancy dinner with a stunning view of the skyline, there is no hesitation (reservation optional). If it’s a quiet night spent studying, always within arm’s reach of hot coffee, there’s a growing list of coffee shops offering WiFi and isolation. Again, the options here are fantastic. And the people, kind as all get out, keep it real. The bright lights of the city aren’t dimmed by these folks. Instead, the abrasive streets and steep prices are softened by a diverse demographic of descendants hoping not to be a bother as they enjoy their respective experiences politely, modestly, yet confidently. I like it because there’s room for me. I like it because it’s exciting. I like it because it’s not home. What does love got do with it?

How has community affected your time here?

It depends on the community. My law school’s community has been a huge part of my experience in Chicago. It’s competitive, challenging, stressful, rewarding, enlightening, and fun - all at once. But, I’ve also got a family community in Chicago. My extended family is scattered throughout the suburbs and outskirts of the city. Taking the Metra on a weekend to visit them doesn’t happen often enough, but I cherish the times when I can. And, recently, I’ve been invited into a new community. I met an amazing woman, who fills my life with energy and my heart with joy. She welcomed me into her church, her friends, and her life - all with the desire to show me how great a community it is. It’s been an uplifting impact in my life. And, Chicago has become more like home because of it.

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?

In a typical day, I spend about an hour total walking from the West Loop, through the Loop, to River North, and then back.  As a result, the Chicago community that I see most often includes those folks walking to work. Their creativity is subtle. It lies within the details: AirPods fastened, walking shoes tied tight below dress slacks, briskly aware of both pace and crosswalk signals, calculating estimated time of arrival, incessantly judging each rebel striding opposite the current, and blissfully ignorant of those comrades keeping stride at the heels. In this walk, I am inspired by focus and efficiency. But beyond this, I am the kind of inspired that keeps me appreciative.  I cherish this commute because it means all my years of educational exhaustion and professional persistence have started to pay off.

Additionally, the inventor, industrial designer, and startup founder community continues to surprise me each day. These resilient renegades practice their respective crafts with such bravery. They start from varying levels within the spectrum of industry – whether from a literal whiteboard in an office tower or a napkin on the kitchen counter. The inventors desire absolute novelty. The designers desire control, even if for a moment. The startup founders desire change, somehow and someway. All are inspirational for their bravery to take that courageous step towards expression. And all inspire me to stay on course as I learn the ropes in patent law so I can help protect their expressions.





KAITLIN AMICONE

What brought you to Chicago?

I was very reluctant to move because I had a great job at the Cleveland Clinic as a registered critical care nurse. I had an excellent support system including lifelong friends and my family in my home state. This was difficult to leave behind, but God clearly had bigger and better things in store for me. I came to Chicago because I chose to advance my education. I am getting my Masters in Nursing to become a Family Nurse Practitioner and I received a scholarship at a university here, so I decided to make the move to Chicago for this reason. Vadic (my boyfriend) also had to move to Chicago for work. So we discussed our future plan together and I decided to accept the scholarship and begin my graduate education here.


Why do you love it?

I love Chicago because of the vast diversity and the opportunity that it provides for people. There are many different cultures and religions that I am exposed to on a daily basis. As a nurse, I am expanding my knowledge on how to care for the various cultures that I see on a regular basis in the healthcare setting. This has been an eye-opening experience for me as a health care provider, which I am so grateful for. I care for many immigrants and underprivileged people groups in my career and have a glimpse into their difficult lives. It is an extremely rewarding experience to assist these people in a very complex period of their lives. I am able to give them resources to survive and help them with their chronic disease processes. My greatest desire is to restore a small piece of their hope in humanity with my career during this controversial time in the States.

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?

It is inspiring to see all of the cultures that are present in the Chicago community. Each culture brings a creative piece to the city and it amazing to see how the city flourishes from it. Our church  (Park Community Church) is an excellent example of this. There are various organizations that they have created to help groups that are in need. Many of which include students, fatherless children, single mothers, and immigrants. This has inspired me to get more involved with the community and care for these people through volunteering or donations.  


JOEL BLUNT

What brought you to Chicago?

I originally came to Chicago in November of 2016. I had moved back to the Chicago suburbs from Grand Rapids after my younger sister died in May 2016 of a heroin overdose. This happened right after my youngest brother was found on the street with a traumatic brain injury. He regained consciousness, but his memory never came back, and he had other issues as well. I came back to help but didn’t allow myself space to grief. I stopped feeling anything beyond weariness and was unnerved at the lack of hope or joy in my life, and realised I wasn’t in a sustainable emotional state. So when one of my best friends suggested I move in with her ex, who lived in Albany Park, I sent him a message and ended up moving here.


Do you have an experience or a specific encounter here that has moved you that you’d be up for sharing?

I was not a Christian when I moved to Chicago. I was raised that way but I blamed God for the shit in my life and really didn’t want anything to do with him. I thought it was pretty clear that he didn’t care about us. My roommate encouraged me to visit Missio, so I went, and there was a sermon on the beatitudes and it talked about grief and how God cared for us. I prayed for the first time in years. I asked God why he let my sister die, why my brother lost his memory, and why I had to deal with so much garbage. I instantly felt this overwhelming sensation of God being with me. I felt his grief. And that he loved my family. It was the most real moment of my life so far. I’m still angry with God, and with people and the world for that matter, but I’ve never doubted since that he cares.

How has community affected your time here?

I honestly don’t know how my life would have turned out if I had stayed in the suburbs. It was not healthy, I felt like I had to support everyone emotionally, and had nowhere to turn too. My community here has saved my life. My roommates over the last three years have been phenomenal examples of how to be a good human. My Gospel Community on the south side has been incredibly life-giving and really held me accountable to living a moral life and just not being an asshole.


IAN CLARK

What do you find challenging about living here?

Being in an urban environment is something very different than any other experience I've had. We sold our cars when we moved here so the biggest challenge day-to-day is just the logistics of getting around in a city. Something that would have been a quick and easy errand to run in a place like Charlotte can become a huge inconvenience and I can feel like I losing valuable.


How has community affected your time here?

Community has made a very big difference in making such a big city feel small. You can be surrounded by hundreds and even thousands of people on a given day working in the city but people have their heads down going about their day and work. Having people that we love and know who actually live in our neighborhood, or so nearby, adds a sense of belonging.

Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach what you purchase / invest in. If so, how?

It's made me appreciate and prioritize quality over quantity. Living in smaller spaces forces you to really think about what matters most to you and prevents over-buying or being careless. I find myself needing to be selective about what hobbies to invest in and where to make sacrifices.


EMILY OPPERMAN

What do you find challenging about living here? Why do you love it?

I find everything about Chicago challenging but also exciting and beautiful. The simplest tasks such as going to work or going grocery shopping can have challenging moments, but I love the city life. For me, I’m drawn to the busyness of everyday, the chaos, all of the beautiful buildings that make up these incredibly diverse neighborhoods, the never-ending restaurants, the lake and lakefront, the museums and history of Chicago, public transportation and the walking, and the vast amount of people who give Chicago some color.


How has community affected your time here?

I’ve had many different communities throughout my time in Chicago because of college. I’ve been a part of small groups, mission groups, different friend groups, leadership groups, religious organizations, social organizations, etc. I’ve found that when I’m within a good community, I tend to thrive. My personal, spiritual, and work sides all seem to become more positive as I spend more time with those communities. For a while I wasn’t in good community; I actually left Chicago on a summer missions trip to escape the community I was in since it was causing so much hurt to many different people. That trip really changed and challenged my perspective of community, and I was determined to find it back in Chicago. I prayed to Jesus that I could find a community that was older, wiser, that I wouldn’t have to lead but could take time to understand and develop, loving, accepting, and ultimately going to push me in my relationship with Him. One year later, Jesus answered my prayers and led me to my Gospel Community! I’ve found that the more I go, the better my relationship with Jesus is and I tend to be a better person! This community has shown me so much love, grace, and kindness; it is unreal.

Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?

Holy wow. That’s what comes to mind when I think of the creativity found in the Chicago community. I think of my sophomore year being blown away by the art found at the Museum of Contemporary Art. I think of the mosaic art mural by the Belmont and Lake Shore entrance and how it glitters with the sun’s reflection. I think of AOKI Arts and all the amazing art and talent that went into their first showcase. I am always blown away at what people come up with, create, make, and imagine. I feel that Chicago especially has a culture that thrives off of all this creativity – there are so many people here that are artists of their own kind and are good at it. I never thought that I was a very creative person; I wasn’t artistic growing up and can’t draw to save my life. But being in Chicago, I am inspired to try new things such as black and white film developing, painting, photography, pottery, etc.



Our Chicago Stories Fall 2018

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JOEL BLUNT

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KAITLINE AMICONE

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ELISSA CLARK

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JOSEPH AMBROSE

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THE CLARKS

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VADIC PATEL

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EMILY OPPERMAN

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KAITLIN & VADIC

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IAN CLARK

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LISA SPAGNOLO

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JOE & DEVIN

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JEANETTE JAIN


Our Chicago Stories is growing far deeper than we originally imagined, and Rach & I are amazed at how much we see God’s hand all over it. We are amidst planning our next shoot in March and we cannot wait!

Remember to follow along for updates about OCS on our personal accounts, @devin_sutter & @rachel_loewen and most importantly @ourchicagostories!

#OurChicagoStories Winter 2019

#OurChicagoStories Winter 2019

See ya 2018!

See ya 2018!