When this interview appeared, Barb and Jim Tamialis and their two sons, Michael (7) and Nathan (6), had been part of Sojourners Fellowship since 1975, when the community moved to inner-city Washington, D.C. Both Barb and Jim were involved in work with the people of our neighborhood, Barb as director of a day care center for low-income families and Jim as a tenant organizer. They talked with us about their experiences as a family.
For more than six years now you have chosen to live with your family in a poor, inner-city neighborhood. How did you come to that decision?
Barb Tamialis: The same time we decided to have children we decided where and how we should live. At Michigan State University we had started a food distribution program primarily for migrant families. But we wanted more involvement with the poor, and so when the community of people that became Sojourners Fellowship decided to move to Washington, D.C, we decided to move with them and raise our family in the inner city.
Jim Tamialis: I've realized that moving into the inner city was a step of faith rather than a strategy. It involved taking a risk, following Christ in his experience of the discrepancy between poor and well-to-do people. It's faithful struggling, the risks we take as parents--having faith in God's protection and God's granting of wisdom we need to deal with things.
How has your decision affected your children?
Barb: This neighborhood is home for Michael and Nathan. It's the only place they know. They haven't come from somewhere else and had to adjust. I think this has been to their advantage, because they have always been the only white children in the neighborhood (except for the other children in Sojourners Fellowship), and the only white children in their schools.