Manda Carpenter

Where are you from?

South Bend, IN


What brought you to Chicago?

Free will. No, seriously, E and I just wanted to live in a big city and have a fresh start.


What do you find challenging about living here?

It's expensive and there are so many talented people that, at times, it's easy to feel like you have nothing unique to offer the world.


Why do you love it?

I could go on and on... I love the diversity, the atmosphere (hustle & bustle), the public transpo, our church (Soul City Church), the people we meet, the beauty of the city, and the fact that anything goes. I believe Chicago has truly opened my mind and remolded who I am.


Why do you stay?

For all of the reasons above and because I think so many people quit on this city when they are ready to "settle down" - that's never been us and never will be. We are on a mission.


How has community affected your time here?

Community has made this city feel so much smaller than it is! Community, especially through our small group from Soul City Church, has provided us with new friends, a marriage counselor, restaurants we never would have tried otherwise, and conversations that have led to change.


Can you speak into the creativity found in the Chicago community? How does it inspire you?

There's no shortage of creativity in Chicago and that's what I am so inspired by daily. I see people using their gifts in ways I would have never thought of. I witness people who are unashamed to be themselves (as an artist) and I am constantly challenged to embrace who God made me to be, otherwise I might miss out on the cool things He can do with my unique gifts.


When do you feel most empowered and comfortable in your own skin?

When I am doing something I can get lost in time doing. Whenever I am with people who I feel genuinely want what's best for me. When I am unafraid to be myself - bold, strong-willed, outgoing, loud, etc. - and do not feel the urge to suppress it. (This was not always the case.)


Has living in the city affected your style and the way you approach what you purchase / invest in. If so, how?

Living in the city has meant spending more money on going out with people. We spend more money on food and drinks, but it's all part of the experience. We prefer to enjoy the very thing someone created, while surrounded by people we get to go deeper with, rather than staying in our own bubble all of the time. We treat our time with people as an investment. New clothes, decor...material things, those don't really have much of a place in our lives anymore.


How has Chicago affected your worldview, if at all?

Chicago has greatly affected my worldview. I will always be a white, female, who comes from a middle-class family in small-town Indiana, but I realize now, more than ever, that who I am and my personal life experience is only a tiny fraction of the many colors, languages, cultures, etc. out in the world. I no longer believe all of the things I was raised to believe simply because my parents told me to believe them. I no longer live a sheltered life.


Do you have an experience or a specific encounter here that has moved you/stayed with you that you'd be up for sharing?

Intentionally interacting with people who are oppressed has been such a life-changing and eye-opening experience. Sure, it's been awkward at times, but overall I walk away from every encounter and conversation touched by God.


Is there any scripture that's been on your heart / resonated with you lately?

Galatians 2:19-21The Message (MSG)

19-21 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.



On the contrary, if you're experiencing closeness with God, how might you encourage our brothers and sisters who are wrestling with believing God is real and for us?

I firmly believe that by keeping it REAL in all areas of our lives, we show people that we're REAL about God too.


Is there anything else you'd like to share about your time in Chicago?

It has been extremely easier to make friends than I ever thought possible. If someone is scared to move to Chicago, I would encourage them to give it a shot. What's the worst thing that could happen? ;-)