Living Faith in Local Politics: How One Mayor Leads

Odds are that even when youve heard of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, youve by no means been there.

In the event you did go to, some issues wouldnt shock you. The small metropolis of round 200,000 is surrounded by miles of fields and farms, susceptible to tornadoes and flooding, and is strugglingas you might have heardwith methamphetamines.

However its additionally one of many countrys fastest-growingcities, thanks principally to business-friendly tax charges and low unemployment. Its surprisingly diversenearly 40 % of public faculty college students are non-white. (Town council voted unanimously final month to proceed permitting refugee resettlements.) And James and Deborah Fallows reported of their 2018 e book Our Cities that individuals in Sioux Falls really feel life there’s protected, modest, and straightforward to like.

Courtesy of Paul TenHaken

In Might 2018, these folks voted in Paul TenHaken as mayor. Ever since, hes been busy reorganizing bus routes, persevering withdowntown growth, and sharing his religion.

Thanks for an incredible few days, Mission-Haiti. God is at work! he tweeted in January.

I had the dignity of addressing an incredible group of girls on the Girls Ignited by Religion occasion this morning, he wrote final September.

Except the Lord watches over town, the guards stand watch in useless. – Psalm 127:1, he tweeted twice within the fall, on both facet of an evening when three tornadoes ripped up town.

Hes so open about his religion that individuals in his internal circle have cautioned him to carry again a bit. (He stated no.) Hes heard some folks joking about getting a youth pastor for a mayor.

Im a person of religion, he stated. Thats the place my coronary heart is. I like that individuals know that about me.

TGC talked to TenHaken about learn how to love our neighbor by politics, how his mission journeys to Haiti have an effect on his skill to manipulate, and the way he sees God working in Sioux Falls.

Did you at all times wish to be in politics?

No. I hate being referred to as a politician. God made it clear that that is what he needed me to do, and I used to be like, Lord, something however this, please. However I used to be praying rather a lot, asking God the place he might use me, and it stored coming again to this mayoral race.

So I made a decision to promote my enterprise and run. I used to be sort of anticipating to lose as a result of there have been some excellent candidates operating. So I assumed, Oh, In poor health simply run with integrity and use it as a platform to speak about my religion. After which after I lose, In poor health do no matter God desires me to do subsequent.

Then I gained. Itll be two years in Might.

How can we love our neighbors by politics?

First, cease speaking about politics on-line. Delete your Fb account, as a result of it makes you assume in a different way about folks primarily based on the smallest factor they submit. It creates relational divides. Ive seen so many relationships and friendships damaged, and so many tense conditions explode, as a result of folks reside in an echo chamber on-line and dont wish to hearken to different opinions.

Residing Religion in Native Politics: How One Mayor Leads
Courtesy of Paul TenHaken

Second, become involved. God put us right here to serve, to talk the reality in love, to succeed in folks weren’t reaching proper now. Folks will make their avatar pink for breast-cancer consciousness, for instance, however thats not doing a lot to truly assist that trigger. Get on the market and become involved.

Ive seen so many relationships and friendships damaged, and so many tense conditions explode, as a result of folks reside in an echo chamber on-line and dont wish to hearken to different opinions.

One instance: I maintain coming again to the necessity for stronger relationships. We now have plenty of single-parent houses and immigrants and a rising meth problemso weve received folks popping out of jail. Nobody is strolling alongside these folks, serving to them. All these completely different demographics want mentors. And thats a message I can take to the group, as a result of individuals are at all times asking how they may also help. Just a few weeks in the past we launched a mentorship program, by which had been hoping to attach 5,000 mentors with these demographics by 2026.

One other instance: Right now the wind chill is unfavourable 30. Its brutal. So yesterday we noticed the forecast coming, and I made a decision all our public transit could be free. One thing that easy exhibits compassion and {that a} metropolis notices, cares, and has empathy for these in powerful conditions. Nobody ought to need to stroll right now as a result of they cant afford a journey.

Youve been making annual mission journeys to Haiti for years. How does that have an effect on the way in which you lead Sioux Falls?

It makes me a greater people-noticer. The folks youd usually drive previous, notably these in additional susceptible populationsI discover them now. I’m wondering about their story, why theyre right here, why theyre not sporting lengthy sleeves within the winter. It makes me wish to assist extra.

On the similar time, it could make me a bit calloused, as a result of the issues we’ve listed here are small in comparison with somebody waking up in Haiti, as an example, questioning what theyre going to eat that day. Even the poorest folks right here can keep in free shelters and get free scorching meals day-after-day.

How do you see God working?

I see him within the Scripture passage, To whom a lot is given, a lot shall be anticipated (Luke 12:48). That basically resonates with me. God has given me an enormous scope of duty. I dont ever wish to look again on this and be like, Hey, God, I used to be sort of a lukewarm Christian within the chair, however I needed to be as a result of I didnt wish to offend anyone.

Thats not acceptable. You could be daring in your religion, to point out love as he does. Hes engaged on me to go to him on my knees with each choice, as a result of he’s in control of this metropolis; I’m merely the present steward.

While you consider it like that like that, its a heavy responsibilityand a lighter one on the similar time. As a result of if I do know I prayed about one thing, and considered it, I can fall asleep figuring out it was the proper choice. It would make some folks offended, however on the finish of the day, it was what God needed me to do.

As our nation loses its cultural Christianity, how will that change issues for Christians working in politics?

EverybodyChristian or notwants a pacesetter with a core set of beliefs, a pacesetter of character. I consider I’ve gotten to the purpose with folks the place they notice, Pauls an outspoken Christian, however that doesnt imply hes going to convey hate to our metropolis. He’s a compassionate chief.

The one manner they get previous that’s by seeing your actions. The proof is within the pudding, as they are saying. So now individuals are seeing, Okay, possibly this man isnt so dangerous in spite of everything. Hes a Christian giving out free bus rides to the poor in our metropolis.


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