Christian Media: Where Truth Meets You

Calling the Chicago Suburbs Home

As the city versus suburb debate continues, more and more families see the benefit of leaving the hustle and bustle of Chicago city life to move to the suburbs. Meet individuals whose parents made that decision years ago and how the move has shaped them. And see how a worship building in Dupage County is renovated and transformed into a place to call home for these individuals and the residents living in suburbs west of Chicago.


[On-screen graphic – Blueprint: CITY OR SUBURBAN LIFE?]

Mandie Conforti: I do live in the suburbs. I have two children, ages six and nine and it’s much easier to raise children in the suburbs than it would be the city. 

Interviewer: And you used to live in the city, correct? 

Mandie: We did live in the city until my son was one and then we decided that we didn’t want him riding his bike down Grand Avenue. 

Craig Beatty: I love being inside the city. Beautiful, with big buildings but too stressful for me to live in the city.

Alex: I like the suburbs because there’s less congestion, it’s easier to get anywhere, and there’s always a lot of parking. You never have to worry about parallel parking or anything like that. 

[Video ends]

Nan Zapata: Choosing to live in the city or the ‘burbs is a defining decision many families make. Yet it’s a decision based on well, stereotypes. 

[Video starts]

[On-screen graphic – Blueprint: STEREOTYPES OF CITY & SUBURBAN LIFE?]

Craig: You know I try not to get into too many stereotypes but I understand that there are, when you get into some of the bigger cities, you will see more low-income types of situations.

Alex Saavedra: I’ve heard the city tends to be more unsafe, that’s the only one I can think of. 

Mandie: That the people that live in the suburbs are not as cultured. They don’t understand how to live in the city, they’re afraid of the city. They think that people in the city are a bunch of snobs. 

[Video ends]

Nan: The belief is usually if you choose one or the other, you gotta give something up. But other things that are simply non-negotiable- We’ll explore this debate on this episode of Blueprint. 

[Show starts]

Nan: I’m Nan Zapanta. As an Industrial Designer, I spent years admiring the great designs of products, vehicles, and architectures from all over the world. But I found Architecture to be the most captivating. I love learning about each building, discovering the characteristics that make it unique, and understanding the purpose behind its design. Most of all I love hearing the stories behind each structure and seeing God’s plan in putting it all together. Join us as we discover the Blueprint of the buildings and structures inside the Iglesia Ni Cristo

[Video ends]

Nan: DuPage County, it’s about as suburban as it gets — track homes, nice schools, and just outside the big city of Chicago. The villages and towns are what I’d picture suburbia to be. 

I met a group of young professionals who grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. 

What brought you out to Bloomingdale?

Sharleen Oca: When we were younger our parents just decided to move out here. Back then with the schools over at Chicago they wanted something better for us. 

Kristy Sagum: I was five when we moved to the suburbs. So yeah they just wanted a better life for us out here in terms of education and everything. Usually they say it’s better out in the suburbs so…

Nan: Every year thousands of people move from Chicago to the suburbs. Many young families, looking for a quieter and safer place to raise their children. In 1991, EJ Wiser’s parents were one of them. 

EJ Wiser: There was a lot of crime and they wanted to take us away from that. Coming out to the suburbs just gave us a better childhood and a safer environment. 

Nan: So I guess there’s just a- I guess there would be a quality of life right? A better quality of life. More opportunities for you guys and now looking back do you feel like it’s kind of true or..?

Leslie Esguerra: It made it easier for us to grow up in this type of environment. We weren’t necessarily exposed to as many things as we could have been growing up in the city and going to city schools. 

Nan: But for their families, moving to the suburbs also had its challenges. Leslie remembers the sacrifices her parents made balancing a desire to have a quiet life in the suburb, while still attending services in the Chicago house of worship — the closest Church Of Christ (local) congregation at the time.

Leslie: I think I was about six [when] we moved out to the suburbs. And then from those years, so it’s 11 years, we were commuting back and forth to attend worship service

Nan: On a bad day, what does that look like?

Leslie: Oh it can be anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half if traffic is bad or weather is bad so— and my dad was an officer so all the more we had to be early. An hour trip to go to worship service wasn’t a burden. It was life, that’s just how we knew it.

Nan: After 11 years of traveling back and forth to Chicago and as more INC (Iglesia Ni Cristo) members move to the suburbs the (local) congregation of Bloomingdale was established in 1997. A congregation that Leslie and now her own family, continue to be a part of.

Leslie: Being able to raise my own family here is definitely a blessing because growing up here and being so active taught us not only to love the local [congregation], but it turned to love the Church, and that’s how we want to raise our children.

Nan: Yelly Romero was only four years old when her family moved to the suburbs. While she now lives in Chicago as she works on her masters degree in architecture, she commutes back to Bloomingdale twice a week to sing in the choir. 

She met us at the Bloomingdale worship building to give us a tour. Hi Sister Yelly!

Yelly Romero: Hi Brother!

Nan: Hi, nice to finally see you. 

Yelly: Nice to finally meet you. 

Nan: So we’re here.

Yelly: Yup this is Bloomingdale.

Nan: This is your local.

Yelly: Yes.

Nan: And you were here for the renovation

Yelly: Yes I was. 

Nan: I’m actually really excited to see the renovation, you mind taking us on a tour?

Yelly: Sure, come check it out.

Nan: Cool, let’s go check it out guys! 

The first thing one notices when they walk into the house of worship is how wide it is, especially when compared to other Church Of Christ houses of worship. 

[On-screen text graphic – Local of Bloomingdale sanctuary layout.]

Nan: The width of the sanctuary at Bloomingdale is equivalent to slightly more than one and a half school busses. Basically that means the interior width of the Park Ridge house of worship would fit snugly inside the Bloomingdale building.

Yelly: Right when you walk inside you can already see all the natural light coming in from both sides and it really lights up the place and it just shows how open this space is. 

[On-screen text graphic – Local of Bloomingdale sanctuary layout.]

Nan: Windows run along both sides of the width of the building allowing for natural light to enter throughout the entire space, giving it a more open feel. 

Yelly: In our sanctuary, what I love are the chandeliers.

Nan: So can you take us through the process. They actually had to put all the-

Yelly: Sure yeah. Those little gems and everything, they had to hang them while they cleaned them, and they were wearing white gloves. We have to hang them on precisely the way-

[On-screen text graphic – File Footage, 2011.]

Nan: Oh! So it’s kind of like a clean room? 

Yelly: Yeah.

[On-screen text graphic – 2 N 100 Bloomingdale Road Carol Stream, Illinois 60139, USA]

Nan: When we were pulling into the building I would have never expected it to look like this inside. Such a wide open sanctuary. 

[On-screen text graphic – BEFORE/AFTER]

Nan: Though it seems that the renovation inside was minimal, the intricate details revealed the great work put into transforming this room into a sanctuary of the Church Of Christ.

I know you mentioned you liked the detail work right? So the pulpit area, the tribuna, was this already here or?

[On-screen text graphic – File Footage, 2011. BEFORE]

Yelly: This was all constructed. The details were sent from the Philippines. Our offering box, the chairs were sent from the Philippines.

Nan: Yeah and you really see the detail work that goes into some of the molding and even the carving—

[On-screen text graphic – File Footage, 2011. BEFORE]

Yelly: It’s really intricate compared to the simplicity but it somehow all still works together.

[On-screen text graphic –  sanctuary and tribuna layout.]

Nan: The majority of the work in the sanctuary focused on the pulpit area. This included adding elevation to the pulpit, which in turn raised the position of the choir, allowing for the sound of the choir to travel more effectively throughout the entire sanctuary. 

You had mentioned that— what was the original height at before?

Yelly: Actually the height was right there.

Nan: And that was it?

Yelly: And that was it. So we raised it maybe, six more steps for the choir loft.


Nan: From this sight line, it looks like it would be like about what, like right here? 

Yelly: Yeah.

Nan: Oh that’s pretty, that’s a lot of work.

[On-screen text graphic – pulpit layout.]

Nan: Those weren’t the only additions though. Molding was added along the entire pulpit. 

And then this right?

Yelly: And then there’s this secret door.

Nan: Secret door!

[On-screen text graphic – Local of Bloomingdale sanctuary layout.]

Yelly: So the molding does cover up the framing really, just to camouflage it with the rest of the wall.

[On-screen text graphic – The door leads to the dressing rooms for the choir members.]

Nan: Can we open it?

Yelly: Sure, yeah. So it just leads into there.

Nan: Woah that’s cool, nice. I really like that. Do you know why they chose that in opposed to just having a regular door? 

Yelly: I guess my assumption would be to keep it not so distracting.

Nan: Right it’s more discrete. 

Yelly: Yeah and just really blend all the walls together.

Nan: Right so then the moldings just continue on all around.

Yelly: And even where the walls kind of hold together, they still follow that same molding. 

Nan: It looks pretty seamless.

Yelly: I remember if I would sit in the congregation and I would just kind of follow with my eye the different patterns and it’s simple but it’s—

Nan: It’s those things that show the care and- that attention during the renovation left a deep impression on Yelly, who was just about to begin college when the renovation began and wasn’t sure what field she wanted to pursue. 

[On-screen text graphic – File Footage, 2011.]

Yelly: Whenever I would come here with my dad I would just see, it wasn’t just him and the construction workers, it was a lot of brethren and they were all pitching in as much as they could. I just remember this sanctuary was just all bare bones. It was just framing and just dust everywhere. I just remember seeing the joy in their faces because they knew this sanctuary was going to be beautiful at the end, so it’s all going to be worth it. 

Nan: Today, now with a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture and working on a Graduate Degree, Yelly is getting her chance to apply her education and love for the details of INC (Iglesia Ni Cristo) houses of worship to her work. 

So also, even though you weren’t able to help with the renovation here, from my understanding you were able to help with another (local) congregation? 

Yelly: Yeah, I was actually asked to draw the plans for the local [congregation] of Detroit’s renovation. 

Nan: It would be the most meaningful assignment in her young career.

Yelly: You know that space like that is sacred and it’s holy. It has to be perfect, not just for Detroit but because it is an INC (Iglesia Ni Cristo) chapel and my dad and I, he helped me and we went over to Detroit and we measured the place and then I started to draw it up, see what we could come up with. 

Nan: The process took Yelly one month to complete.

Yelly: When I had finished drawing up the plans I had it submitted to our District Minister and I believe he also asked for a second opinion or a second party to kind of double check everything. From there, all of a sudden, “Okay they’re going to start renovation.” 

Nan: What are your hopes in the future, as far as like your degree and your involvement with—

Yelly: I want to continue to help the Church in the future, God willing, I would be the one to design the chapels for renovations or even ground up. That’s just something, I’ll admit I didn’t have much interest in at first, but as time went on I think I had a lot more appreciation for the little details and then you know the big picture kind of thing, especially with the Church.

Nan: God willing your prayers will be answered. Well congratulations on all the opportunities and thank you.

Yelly: Thank you. 

[On-screen text graphic – File Footage, 2011.]

Nan: Yelly wasn’t the only one impacted by the renovation of Bloomingdale. From the construction workers who traveled hours to be part of the work to the volunteers from Bloomingdale who wanted to be there just to help with whatever was needed. The six weeks of around the clock work was a labor of love. This was especially true for Fred Reed.

Fred Reed: I felt part of it, you know it’s a family. I felt at home, so I felt like one of them.

[On-screen text graphic – File Footage, 2011.] 

Nan: When construction of the Bloomingdale building began in 2011. Fred had just been a member of the Church Of Christ for a little over a year.

Fred: One thing I got to say about Brother Rading, he has always encouraged me “Come participate. Come participate. Come participate. Come participate.” He always included me. Even though I live 50 miles away from here, he still encourages me to “come out” and you know I came as much as I possibly could. Moving stuff, helping with painting, getting everything prepared, and participating.

Nan: Formerly from Chicago, he had also moved to the suburbs, living in Fox Lake, Illinois. About 50 minutes away from Bloomingdale and working in Great Lakes. Another suburb of Chicago where he met Rading Sagam. (Spell check, 12:33) 

[On-screen text graphic – JOINED THE CHURCH OF CHRIST IN 2010]

Fred: I was trying to avoid him while I was at work. He worked with me. So I worked extra late and he had to be working extra late and I came out the door and he just popped up from nowhere. And I listened to the message at the EVM (Evangelical Mission) and strangely enough the entire lesson looked like it was pointing fingers at me the entire time so… “Wow” it was a jaw dropping experience and I had lots of questions. I researched a lot of lessons that we got and found out, “Wow! They actually teach us what’s in the Bible.” You don’t have to wonder or imagine. 

[On-screen text graphic – The Bloomingdale house of worship was dedicated on April 13, 2011]

Nan: In 2011, Fred joined hundreds of INC (Iglesia Ni Cristo) members to witness the dedication of the house of worship of Bloomingdale. The very first house of worship dedication in the Midwest, led by the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo.

[Brethren cheer and wave their flags]

Fred: They love us all and that’s the most beautiful gift God could give anyone; is to have one of his servants love you so much that they practically laid down their life. Which is basically what he does when he goes to all these countries that I read about everyday.

[On-screen text graphic – 2 N 100 Bloomingdale Road Carol Stream, Illinois 60139, USA] 

Nan: Six years later, Fred feels as much, or even more so connected to the worship building he helped build. 

Fred: Oh this is home, this is home. I guess the scripture- I’d like to live all the days of my life in Your house Lord and this is where I get my prayers answered. Having devotional prayers the nights that I have to guard. Yeah I take special time out and spend a little extra time so I can kneel and I can pray in the house of worship. Yeah this is home. 

[On-screen text graphic – 2 N 100 Bloomingdale Road Carol Stream, Illinois 60139, USA]

Nan: A new worship building in a new neighborhood usually opens up opportunities for a chance to build bonds with a new community.

[On-screen text graphic – INCGiving Park Clean Up/INCGiving For A Cause/INCGiving Singing For A Cause/INCGiving Teacher’s Appreciation Day]

Parks Lead, Chuck Dymbrowski: This is an awesome thing for the group to be doing, for the Church to be doing for us. I really believe that when groups and neighborhoods and residents get together with their government and on projects like this, that’s what makes communities and the stronger that relationship is, the better for the community, I firmly believe that. I think it’s a phenomenal relationship and I can’t say enough about what you guys do every year you’re here and it’s- when you were talking about the weather, it might have been inclimate today, but if you remember the past years, your fingers were so cold  because we were out working in the cold. So again the commitment, it means a lot.

Minister of the Gospel, Brother Ed Lopez: I believe the neighborhoods benefit from the Church. We do our best to be of help to our fellow men. So I believe that every community can benefit as the Church continues to establish its roots there.

Nan: Establishing roots is something Brother Ed Lopez, the son of Cecilio Lopez, a pioneer of the Chicago (local) congregation, and pretty much all of the Northern Midwest is very familiar with. He witnessed firsthand how the lives of early pioneers revolved around the worship building and how the worship service anchored them, as they struggled to settle in a new country. 

[Source: VOA Television]

Brother Ed: When it began many lived far from the place of worship. The brethren always made ways no matter how far, no matter how bad the weather may be. There could be snowstorms, blizzards as they call it. We’ve experienced them where public transportation won’t run because of snow filled roads but the brethren worked together and still made ways to be able to attend the worship service. And learning that, seeing how pioneering brethren like my dad, would pick up other brethren that need rides. I think that’s one of the things that motivated me to become an officer in the Church and eventually become a Minister. 

Nan: Now assigned in Bloomingdale as the Resident Minister, he still sees how the place of worship serves as an anchor for the lives of the members living here. 

I’d imagine it’s amazing to see such deep roots established in their faith. 

Brother Ed: They were the children when I was a CWS(Children’s Worship Service) Teacher. Now they’re like the Head Deacons of the (local) congregations or maybe they’re already Ministers also, some of them. So yes, it’s just so nice to see that developing in our lives in the Church. And again there’s more plans of more extensions being established within this Chicago area. Now with so many other brethren residing there and we just make it better for them to be able to uphold their services to God.

Nan: I have to admit as we drove from Chicago to Bloomingdale, I wasn’t sure about what story we would find in the ‘burbs. The photos of the renovations seemed like a simple renovation. Moldings here, a color change there, but I was completely wrong. 

I think in all the ways that made this worship building and even this area seemingly unassuming are all the ways it made it special very much like this group of pioneers whose lives are woven deeply into the history of the building.

Leslie: Well I will say, okay I’ll admit, I’m the oldest from the group here. So we experience a lot of- we experience a lot of our firsts here. 

EJ: We weren’t necessarily put in Bloomingdale to make Bloomingdale, Bloomingdale, right? I also think that Bloomingdale itself has impacted us. It has made me who I am. You know and it’s reminded me of my faith, it has reminded me of my duties. 

Leslie: For us because we went through those times where we were moving from place to place, we had to help. You know, it wasn’t just our parents because we had to help set up the worship service, we had to put the chairs up, we had to put the hymnals out, we had to put the curtains up. You know so we helped our parents take care of the local, whether we really knew it or not. That was just something we had to do and I think having that foundation in our teenage years allowed us to grow up loving the local [congregation]and therefore loving the Church and that not only is our bond strong with each other but it’s strong in our faith.

Sharleen: We have a daughter. She’ll be two in about a month. Here we hope she’s in the choir. We have so many things looking forward to her as a CWS (Children’s Worship Service) member with our experiences and we hope she does experience the same things too and-

Kristy: Yeah I think God plans it perfectly. So if some of us were to stay in Chicago I think that whatever God’s plan was for this local, it would still be the way it is now, whether we were here or not. But I’m grateful that we were the ones that to be able to see it because it helped us and it also, I think, strengthened our faith as well so—

Nan: Now I don’t know if the debate between suburb and city life will ever end, but I know that wherever you can find this seal, there’s always a place to call home. 

Thanks for joining us on this episode of Blueprint where in the end, everything is part of God’s plan. 

[On-screen text graphic – SPECIAL THANKS: Northern Midwest Bureau]

[Show ends]


Available downloads

Calling the Chicago Suburbs Home