CCHF | Solutions

H & D

We're neighbors

Shortly after I moved into the upper 9th ward of New Orleans, I was awakened one night by the sound of angry voices from the street outside.  The predominant voice was male, with occasional enraged rebuttals from a female voice.  I was only able to catch an occasional word and many of those were profane. Irrationally, I feared that this man might somehow be directing his hostility toward me.  I spent more than an hour on my knees praying-- for my own safety and for God to bring peace to the man.  I was partially praying and partially taking cover from what I feared might end in gunfire. The thought of stepping outside and offering to pray for him, or just sitting on my porch, briefly crossed my mind, but I didn’t rise from my hidden position. Eventually, the voices quieted and I climbed back into bed.  

Since that night, I haven’t experienced similar episodes, although I know they’re common in impoverished communities.  In the months since my arrival in New Orleans, a recurring theme has surfaced in my daily reading of scripture, listening to sermons, reading about people of faith, and in my times of prayer.  The theme is to walk in faith and not in fear.  

I live in one of the most crime ridden communities of New Orleans, so I’m tempted to remain in the confines of my house, taking intermittent dashes to places of perceived safety. I moved here so I could meet my neighbors and live out the Gospel. I want more of my neighbors to know the love, mercy, grace, faithfulness, forgiveness and justice of Christ. If I stay inside, that won’t happen, at least not through me.  

In my first days in the 9th ward, I would put my dog in my truck and drive to Lake Pontchartrain, several miles away, to walk him. I rationalized that cleaning up his messes would be easier and less offensive to my neighbors. God quickly redirected me;  I began walking him daily around the block. Eventually I developed a route that’s about 1 ½ miles.  Through our walking, my dog and I have met nearly 100 of our neighbors.  In fact, when I walk alone, many have asked where my dog is, including neighbors I’ve not previously met.  

I walk to meet people but also to pray for myself and my community. I serve the God whose word says “all authority and power in heaven on earth” has been given to Jesus. I want to walk in that power, as I know I’m powerless on my own.  Daily, I sense the oppression of the evil one who undoubtedly would take joy in watching me stumble and fall. Yet, I know that if I immerse myself in Him through prayer and meditating on His word, He will uphold me. Though I stumble, I will not fall, for the Lord will uphold me with His righteous right hand.  

For me, living in an impoverished community didn’t start in New Orleans. In 2003, following my second year of medical school, I moved into a similar neighborhood in Memphis. Later, I completed an internal medicine residency in Dayton, OH, where I  purchased a house in another struggling community. I lived there for about 5 years. In each of these places, people have asked me why I chose to live where I did and if I felt safe.  Those questions have given me the opportunity to share about the great God I serve, how He transformed my life, and how He will do the same for anyone who’s been held in bondage by the oppressor. There’s no person and no community outside the saving power of Jesus’ Cross.

As for safety, I know God is able to watch over me, even in ways I would not have foreseen.  Five months after my arrival to New Orleans, He showed me again that He’s able to calm my fears as I walk in faith. 

One of my neighbors appeared to be selling drugs. I didn’t see hard evidence, but people of all ages briefly stopped by his home for apparent exchanges. I decided that whenever I left town, I’d have to “sneak away” so no one would know I was gone. I assumed that this young neighbor would take advantage of my absence and break into my house.  

In time, I started praying for and interacting with him. After two failed attempts, he accepted an invitation to dinner and went with me for a burger.  During our meal, he agreed to read God’s word with me.  Our first Bible encounter didn’t occur until after 3 missed appointments. The Sunday he finally came over, he offered to read first, starting with Genesis 1. He didn’t stop until he completed chapter 3, at which time I summarized the passage for him. I then read Genesis 4-6 and he read 7-8. I again summarized those chapters. At that point he needed to retrieve his kids, but wanted to know how often I did the reading.  I told him I’d be happy to read with him as often as he liked. He asked me if I would meet with him two days later.

I hesitated to answer because I planned to be out of town that Sunday through Wednesday. Telling him I would be away created an opening for him to make a move on my place. A quiet reminder to walk in faith nudged me and I disclosed my travel plans to him. He responded with a request for me to call him when I returned Wednesday.  

As I departed New Orleans that night, I was partially excited and partially nervous. I  wondered when I would get the call from my alarm company notifying me of the break in. Half way through my time away, I received a phone call from the same neighbor who inquired about my trip and how long I had left.  Again, the selfish side of me assumed he was scheming. 

Needless to say, I returned to New Orleans on Wednesday with my place perfectly intact.  God even went a step further as I walked around the neighborhood that day. Nearing my house on the way back, I ran into one of the young guys that I frequently saw with my neighbor. He asked me how my trip to Tennessee went.  I imagine he could see the question forming on my face, “how did you know I was in Tennessee?”  He answered that my neighbor had told him to keep an eye on my place while I was gone.  Again, he must have seen my baffled look as he added, “yeah Doc, we’re neighbors!” 



Shortly after I moved into the upper 9th ward of New Orleans, I was awakened one night by the sound of angry voices from the street outside.  The predominant voice was male, with occasional enraged rebuttals from a female voice.  I was only able to catch an occasional word and many of those were profane. Irrationally, I feared that this man might somehow be directing his hostility toward me.  I spent more than an hour on my knees praying-- for my own safety and for God to bring peace to the man.  I was partially praying and partially taking cover from what I feared might end in gunfire. The thought of stepping outside and offering to pray for him, or just sitting on my porch, briefly crossed my mind, but I didn’t rise from my hidden position. Eventually, the voices quieted and I climbed back into bed.