Remember when I wrote a morose piece about moving to Ohio? I waxed long about how miserable finding a church would be, how hard it would be so far from my family, blah blah blah. I expected to be living in Columbus by now, plastered with Ohio State Buckeye paraphernalia to protect myself from the Pittsburgh-hating natives.
God is funny.
That niggling feeling about Ohio? It wasn’t wrong. I mean, it wasn’t right, but it wasn’t wrong.
Instead of hunkering down in Columbus, surrounded by Buckeyes and Browns and Bengals and whatever else Ohio stands for, we’ll be hunkering down in Youngstown, surrounded by Buckeyes and Browns and YSU Penguins (and whatever else northeastern Ohio stands for).
That’s right, folks. The so-called “armpit” of Ohio. Our new home, our new community.
And not just for a year-long lease, my friends. Not like pokey, quaint Hermitage. No sirree.
We bought a house. An actual house. Where we can get an actual dog and start an actual family and live for actual years.
I like telling non-Youngstown people that we’re moving to Youngstown. They kind of get this frozen look on their face, like they’re trying to keep the positive, “you got a house” vibe while wondering if our next Christmas present should be a panic room. They seem to cough out an, “Oh, how exciting,” while their brows furrow ever so slightly. Did we mean to move to Youngstown? Was it forced? Did Mister get a job there? Did I get a job there? No, really, why Youngstown.
I don’t blame them. Youngstown hasn’t had a glistening report card since the steel mills crashed in the ’60s. It’s listed as one of the most miserable, depressed, dangerous, dead-beat cities in the United States, and for good reason.
But what those Buzzfeed and Movoto and HuffPost articles don’t talk about is Youngstown’s resilience. Sure, the steel mills have been torn down and flattened. Most downtown buildings stand empty. Most houses stand empty. Corner stores still run drug deals in broad daylight, waving as the police drive on by. Youngstown is tired. It’s dirty. It’s mugged and left by the alley dumpster. It’s struggling to breathe under the weight of nearly 70-some years of mob and gang crime. It’s got nicknames like “Bomb City” and “Armpit”.
Youngstown is down, but it’s not dead.
Small businesses like local restaurants and cafes are moving into the main drag of the city. The Youngstown Business Incubator fosters and hatches small software companies, most of which are growing rapidly. Youngstown State University is investing time and energy in providing young professionals for said small companies. The hospitals and medical offices boast renovations and high-class care. The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation devotes itself to rebuilding communities, initiating neighborhood watches, and planting public vegetable gardens. Our own dear church body is praying and fasting and seeking God’s will in nestling deep within downtown Youngstown, to provide Biblical teaching to YSU students, Youngstown professionals, the homeless through the local rescue mission, and the broken homes throughout.
And where has God placed Mister and me?
In said armpit.
He gave us a lovely home only four miles from downtown. He burdened us with a compassion for foster children. He has given us a spiritual family, our wonderful, passionate, loving church, to keep us accountable and encourage us. He did all this to set us up for His mission: Youngstown.
So yes, we’re moving to the most miserable city in Ohio. And we’re so excited.