Monday, June 27, 2011

First Week in Fresno

           Today is the one week mark of my time here in lovely Fresno, CA! We started with 2 days of staff orientation led by our incredibly FUI director Todd Minturn and his wife Carrie. Todd and Carrie definitely know how to care for staff and lead us into a summer of guiding students through difficult issues. We had 3 hours of a retreat of silence, we've practiced centering prayer, and we've read books and discussed the topic of the True Self vs. the False Self (I read the book The Human Condition by Thomas Keating, it is short and amazing if you want to check it out! In short, I felt very prepared for the 27 students to arrive on Wednesday, and we began our week of orientation.
           Orientation was jammed full!  It included an  interactive game on the Fulton Mall where we stepped into the shoes of a newly arrived immigrant family, and a study of Nehemiah 1 and Luke 9:1-6. We did a driving tour of downtown Fresno where we learned the extensiveness of the poverty (such as the cycles of poverty and hopelessness people get stuck in in areas such as motel drive pictured here)
  as well as the redemptive aspects of people who have followed Jesus into the heart of the city. We played cross cultural simulation games to prepare ourselves for the challenges of crossing cultures, and I led a discussion of the "Approaching Differences Diagram" where students learned to assess their posture when entering in to cultural differences. We worked on Saturday to help expand the building of King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church, and we read and discussed the life changing book Theirs is the Kingdom by Robert Lupton. We've had a lot of fun too (including watching "Despicable Me" with the community in a park downtown) and have eaten some amazing food (pupusas and pho!). I have so much loved getting to know the students, who are from colleges around the states, but primarily California.
            And today we started working at our non-profit sites.  Myself and 6 other students are with an organization called Fresno Street Saints, which is an enrichment program for low-income kids. We're split up among 3 sites, but today at the site I worked at most of the kids went on a field trip to Cal State Fresno, so I was left with Tiani, Rain, and Jaheem. We had fun playing Monopoly (sort of) and Tiani and Rain did my hair, and I struggled to understand what 3 year old Tiani was saying to me :) Here in downtown Fresno you have to learn to just go with the flow, and be ok with unexpected turns of events. I am looking forward to more learning and steps outside my comfort zone, and to see what God does with the students here.
          Students at orientation prior to the driving tour.  FUI director Todd is on the right.