Missing the city . . . in the country

December 31, 2013 | Young Voices
Rachel Bergen | Young Voices Co-Editor

When my family moved to a rural community in southwestern British Columbia, I didn’t realize how much life and my faith would be challenged.

I was born and raised in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, but moved to Winnipeg to attend Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) for my undergraduate degree. Before moving back to B.C. to help out on the family farm during a tumultuous time, I had been on CMU’s urban campus for six years, where I lived in dorms and on-campus apartments. There, I had a faith community, mentors, friends who inspired me, and easy access to all of the perks of living in a city.

Although my family moved to a farming community outside of Chilliwack five years ago, I only moved back in the spring of 2012. We lived in a small farm house on the property and farmed chickens, pigs and a few cows and sheep. There were a lot of great things about being home, most of all being near my family and helping out wherever I could. I also loved working with the animals, learning about food production and knowing exactly where my food came from.

But I missed a lot of the things Winnipeg, CMU and even my previous hometown of Abbotsford had to offer. And it’s not because I’m a city girl.

When we lived in Abbotsford, getting to church, a friend’s house or a meeting with a pastor or mentor wasn’t a big deal. It was more walkable and easier to meet in the middle. I felt less badly asking for rides. In Chilliwack, it was a different story.

Every day I’d work hard on the farm, and after a day of work, when I would have liked to have spent time with friends, I wasn’t able to. Most of the people I grew up with going to church and youth group lived more than an hour away in Vancouver, and I didn’t have a car. I could borrow my parents’ or my sister’s vehicles, but being relatively far away it never seemed to work out. Taking public transportation was so time-consuming it wasn’t even an option.

Meeting with the associate pastor from my home church, Emmanuel Mennonite in Abbotsford, for instance, required quite a bit of planning. One time we had arranged to meet halfway between the church and my house, which was still about a 40-minute drive.

My internal dilemma went something like this:

“Is Lara going to work on Wednesday? Can I take her car? Will she maybe drop me off at the Starbucks?”

“Is dad doing farm deliveries that day? If so, do I need to feed the animals and do chores? How long will chores take so I can estimate when I can leave? If dad isn’t going, can I take the van?”

All this to meet up with someone I respect for coffee for an hour!

If I was still living in Winnipeg, I could have walked for five minutes to meet up with a mentor on campus. I had built a faith community there and it was difficult to forget what I had and leave it behind.

This is not to say that living in small rural communities can’t offer a great deal. I’m sure people who have grown up in one build their support networks over the years and can benefit from them, but having moved around so much, I wasn’t able to do that. Although I learned so much about farming, in my experience rural living couldn’t offer the same access to support that urban living could.

Currently I’m living in Vancouver attending the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of British Columbia. I’ve been living at the Menno Simons Centre—a dormitory-style building focused on Christian commu-nity—for the past year-and-a-half. Here I can walk down the hall and talk to the residence coordinators, or walk up the stairs and find the love and support I need from friends. The efficient public transportation system here also makes “church shopping” and meeting up with mentors easier.

But I still wonder, are there other rural dwellers out there who need love, support and access to community like I did? What can we do to better support our brothers and sisters who don’t have access like we urbanites do?

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