New to a City

By Shauna Pilgreen

a drastic move. surroundings of green rolling hills were replaced with the san francisco bay and pacific ocean touching. a fairly christianized culture in most of our ministry was given up for a culture of many religions, diversity, and tolerance of just about anything.

we would spend less time in our minivan and more time on the sidewalks. we would be starting relationships from the very beginning rather than walking into an established church where a community of believers were ready to receive you. and we would do this all with three little boys.

i had two choices. kiss my husband on his way to start this church, close the blinds, lock the doors, and then nestle down into our apartment and take refuge FOREVER. or unpack a few boxes, get myself and the boys dressed for the day, and then get out of the apartment and learn to love our city. most days this required a determination the night before that i would not recluse but would respond to this God-calling with adventure. let this not sound simple. it was certainly accompanied with tears and frustrations. yet, with any relationship, emotions run rampant. including a relationship to the place to which you are called. so how did i choose the latter?

i wrote up a plan. that’s how i’m wired. 31 days in the city is what i called it. each day the boys and I would do something to learn to love our city.

day 1. free day at the zoo

day 2. get a library card

day 3. make cards for the elderly at the assisted living home across the street

day 4. discover chinatown

day 5. stick our feet in the pacific ocean (it’s just that cold!)

day 6. family time at the ballpark

day 7. find a park with a great playground

day 8. tell our friends back home to write us so we can write them back about our adventures

day 9. explore the farmer’s market

day 10. make cookies for our neighbors, concierge, postman, maintenance men, and apartment managers

and so on. these adventures didn’t always happen as planned. on one adventure, i fed the meter and rushed the boys through chinatown to get back to the car in plenty of time. but for some mysterious reason the van was not where i parked it. in a tear- stricken panic i called ben and freaked out. i read about 4 of the parking signs posted near the van, but didn’t notice the commercial loading zone sign. via public transit, me and the boys made it back home and $400 later we got our van back.

any new place is worth exploring. and worth exploring again and again. from experience, the more you know your city, the more capacity you have to love your city.

we certainly missed our friends and family and had days of longing for the familiar to which we were accustomed. yet, the getting our feet out on the streets the moment we moved, taught us about our city and our people. it allowed us to learn the city as a family, rather than letting daddy do this church plant thing.

the adventures made me vulnerable. it was risky, especially with the boys by my side. but it has made all the difference for us.

to you, the new ones to your town or city…may God grant you the courage to explore. to embrace a new culture, a new process on how things operate, a new community.

to you, the ones who are comfortable where you live. may God give you a fresh new look at your surroundings. what’s that part of town that still needs your footprints?

Published January 1, 2012

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Shauna Pilgreen

Shauna is married to Ben Pilgreen, pastor of Epic Church in San Francisco, CA. They have busy 3 boys and are in process of adopting a precious girl from India. Shauna loves exploring her city, engaging in her community, and encouraging women. Join her on her blog at where she shares how their family lives out the Gospel in the place they call home.