Out of all the places we could have used to start EY2S, what drew us to Norfolk? What is it about this place that led Jeff to found EY2S?
Norfolk is a city with great vibrancy. With over 240,000 people living in the city, the large population allows us to reach a wide number and a wide variety of people in our ministry.
As the home of Naval Station Norfolk, Norfolk has a large transient population that comes in the city and then leaves with shifting military deployments and transfers. Norfolk also has a large community of young adults attending local colleges and universities: Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University, and Tidewater Community College. The youth bring an energy to the city.
Norfolk has a thriving arts culture seen in the Chrysler Museum of Art, the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, and the Neon Arts District. The waterfront views and towering skyline of downtown make it a place of great beauty and of course, an amazing place to take photos. We can’t forget the coffee shops and amazing restaurants either. If you need any kind of food, but especially seafood, you can find it in Norfolk. (An EY2S favorite coffee spot is Cure Coffeehouse on Botetourt Street).
The history of the city has also shaped the make-up of the city. Norfolk in 1958 was the site of “Massive Resistance” where schools were closed in order to prevent the integration of public schools. The following year, this was overturned by the court system and seventeen black students in Norfolk attended previously all-white schools.
The effects of Massive Resistance on the city is painfully clear, even today in Norfolk. As said by Encyclopedia Virginia:
“By delaying effective desegregation until late in the 1960s, during which a decade and a half of extensive, racially segregated suburban development had occurred, it permitted the perpetuation of mostly segregated schools in the state's major metropolitan areas. In several rural counties, it provided time for substantial numbers of white students to withdraw to private, usually all-white, academies. The commitment to integrated public schooling was delayed and, in many cases, undercut.”
Even with the changes that the city has made since them, the legacy of state and local policies has exasperated inequality within the city.
With all of these different factors, we can draw multiple reasons why it is so crucial that EY2S is located in Norfolk. The specific populations that we can reach because of the makeup of the city mean that we can truly have all kids created by the Creator able to go on a mission trip and serve Him. The proximity to multiple colleges and universities gives us access to local young adults who would be interested in serving with us. The number of lost and hurting people in Norfolk gives us tangible ways to meet and share God's love and plan of salvation.
But ultimately, it’s not about Norfolk. It is about the Lord’s plans.
Fifteen years ago, if you asked Jeff about starting a ministry in Norfolk to reach out to those in the city and show them the love of Christ, to bring youth into this vibrant city to see the needs of those next to them, he wouldn’t have believed it. If you would have asked anyone on staff about joining EY2S, we wouldn't have understood or comprehended the possibility. We were just living our lives, making decisions in response to other decisions in front of us.
Some of us were not even living anywhere near Norfolk. Jeff grew up in Nebraska. Samantha spent much of her childhood outside of our nation's capital. Melinda was in Pennsylvania. Miguel’s family is from Puerto Rico.
And yet, the Lord brought us here to Norfolk. The Lord brought us here to start and work in EY2S. God’s wider plan for each of us became apparent as He positioned each of us to come to a place where we could serve Him.
We would never have believed it or understood it, and yet, here we are. That continual wisdom, direction, and purpose from the Lord in our lives, even when things were hard, even when we were faced with great difficulty, is a testimony to His sovereign plan and direction in our lives.
Sometimes we don’t know how or where we are supposed to go. We are faced with two equally good choices but are unsure of what step to take. The first and the best thing you can do is commit your decision to prayer. As always, we need to remain in reliance on the Lord. But then, it’s time to step out and make a decision. You might need to try different things before you find where you are supposed to be. You might have to go through hardship before you see why it all had to happen.
If you are a youth or adult, consider taking your first step with EY2S. Click here to learn more.