Monday, July 30, 2012

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Being OK with Going with the Flow

Something you learn quickly when engaging in the inner city: time runs differently here than in corporate and suburban America. Things like quick changes of plan, lack of plan, lateness, and waiting and uncertainty are commonplace- and that is not the world that most of the students here at FUI and myself interact with in our normal lives.
My personality (I'm borderline P & J on the Myers Briggs, so I don't usually freak out about no plans- although I do from time to time) as well as being accustomed to things like CP Time (people of color time- dad always loved to talk about that :) makes me a little less likely to freak out at the way things are here, but it has made me a little nervous from time to time. But you just gotta learn to go with it.

One of my favorite things about this summer has been going to the every other Saturday gatherings of On Ramps Covenant Church in Dickie Park. Pastors Phil and Rici Skei started this church in the Lowell Neighborhood where they live in October, and they have been having church in the park on every other Saturday night since then. Rici said "We don't have a building, and we aren't planning on getting one anytime soon." There is worship at the beginning with fun music and flags for the kids, and people just stop by because its fun and loud and intriguing. Every time I walk in I can just feel the Holy Spirit there in the park, and it makes me tear up. People of all ages and all walks of life are there, and you kind of never know what people will do, but Phil and Rici know how to go with the flow.
Worship in the park (led by Rici)
Pastor Phil administering baptisms in a blow up pool
Last Saturday 7 people from the church were baptized, and they are always open to adding more to the list of people they meet in the park or anywhere else in the neighborhood. There is always a short teaching by someone from the leadership team while the kids play on a blow up waterslide, and I was blown away by how powerful and relevant the teaching was for the people listening- and for me too! Pray is available for anyone anytime throughout the evening, and they always give food to anyone who wants it. It has been so good for me and the FUI students to see, we are so blessed each time we go. You never know what will happen- but God always moves.

The past 2 days I have been helping with Vacation Bible School that is a partnership between First Presbyterian (whose facilities and curriculum we use- well, a modified curriculum), On Ramps, and Bethany Inner City Churches. We basically canvased the neighborhood and invited any one and everyone to come, because at this VBS there is a class for moms, which is so incredible I can barely stand it. I got to go out and knock on doors and invite people to come last week with Angie, a member of On Ramps, and also is the teacher for the 7th and 8th grade girls, the group myself and FUI staff Lauren are helping with. 
Angie, Lauren and me

Angie is a perfect example of what it looks like to go with the flow here. She has quite the testimony and background which she is always free to share about her gang affiliated and drug use past, and how God has saved her from all that. Lauren and I went to a couple of the planning meetings the past couple weeks (which definitely were examples of culture clash- very interesting) and last week we talked about meeting up with Angie to plan for what we would teach. Angie didn't seem too worried, and she didn't show up the day we planned to meet. She said "I'm not really the planning type person, we'll just see what comes up". I thought this was kind of funny actually, and Lauren was freaking out a little bit, but we just were gonna try to go with the flow.
And go with the flow it has been! We're supposed to be following a schedule about when to go to games and skits and snacks. Angie's not too worried about following it. There are supposed to be memory verses that the lessons are based on, but Angie has mostly been sharing her testimony and having an opportunity for the girls to share. She'll decide to change something in the moment, and say whatever comes up for her, but it is totally just who she is. Me and Lauren were a little nervous because we felt like there was some missed opportunity with not focusing on the lesson more, but we're learning to give up control. And anyways, the girls can totally relate to her story, as most of them have heartbreaking stories of their own. God is doing work I believe, and none of it has come from a planned curriculum. And I love working with Angie too- being around her and her speaking her mind and her quirks and genuine-ness, she's hard not to love.
I have also loved getting to know the girls better as we make duct tape wallets (why, I'm not sure, Angie wanted to- and the girls love it) and talk about whatever.
Angie sharing as we make duct tape wallets

Lauren and I with most of the 7th and 8th grade girls
FUI interns Danielle and David are working with 5th and 6th graders and with crafts at VBS this week, and they are definitely learning about going with the flow as well, and it has been fun to process it all with them. There are over 100 kids from the neighborhood and about 25 moms (today the moms class did hair and facials and makeovers, and then they talked about caring for your body as a temple on the inside and on the outside- so fantastic), being loved on and hearing God's word together- and it is definitely an inner city, go with the flow VBS. Its a beautiful thing.
kids at VBS (YFC staff Gabe is in the foreground,
Danielle and I have loved working with him this summer)

Monday, July 16, 2012


Being in the inner city brings up all kinds of things in my soul- and in the souls of the students. The most prominent experience that I've had at FUI is DISSONANCE. Especially this summer- or maybe I'm just more self aware of when I'm feeling it now than I have in the past.

DISSONANCE: any feeling of discomfort, or basically any kind of negative internal reaction

The realities of the inner city as well as the reality of living in a house with 21 other broken-but-made-in-God's-image people brings up many, many opportunities for dissonance. And add in that we are all taking Urban Ministry classes twice a week that are designed to press into the realities and needs of the inner city. And another big one for me is that we read this crazy little book called Theirs is the Kingdom that stirs up all kinds of internal struggles, because the author is speaking truth not only about the connection between the Gospel and the needs of inner cities, but really about what it means to truly follow Jesus, and not just believe in Him. All of these things combined together means that God stirs up things that are hidden deep in my soul that tend to stay buried when I live in the comforts of non-urban life in the privacy of my own world. And God is definitely doing the same among the students. I am always blown away by how much God stirs up in students when they come to FUI.

But it's good. We need it.

Here's some of my dissonance:

I'm working with junior high and high school age youth (mostly boys) at Youth for Christ, and I feel frustrated and unsure of how to respond when they don't listen or are rude to each other or to me. I know there is chaos for them at home, and responding this way to others is the only way they know how, but I often feel like I'm powerless to both be their friend and be authoritative. DISSONANCE.

My process group went out to lunch after church one week at Lola's, the greatest place for us to eat on our $35 a week budget (2 tacos for $1.50!). A homeless man who clearly had a mental handicap forcefully asked us for money, and after we got our food and sat down, asked Nathan if he could have a bite of his torta. Then he asked me for my food. I responded in a way that basically was an attempt to meet his need and get him to stop bothering us. DISSONANCE. But we had just read in Theirs is the Kingdom so many vignettes about how Jesus calls us to connect with "the least of these" and to even give reckless without thinking about whether or not those we are giving to are "truly worthy poor".

A woman who looked like she may have had some drug issues came in with about 5 kids to YFC one very hot day when we were watching a movie to escape the heat. Gabe, the YFC staff, had to tell them the woman and her kids couldn't come back, because the YFC higher-ups said kids under 10 were a liability. But I knew they were going home to a home with partying and drugs, and it didn't sit right with me that an organization had to make calls like that, even though I knew there were valid reasons why. DISSONANCE.

I've got my own insecurities, but I'm called to love the students first and I know I can't put my own social needs or preferences first. I'm staff and not a student, but this summer I have felt the separation and distance between myself and the students more than before. Hanging out takes more effort and initiative on my part. DISSONANCE.

Issues of race and ethnicity always come up a lot for me- especially being biracial. An African-American man who I met at a church service came to hang out at the Pink House, and after a short interaction, he had to ask me what my ethnicity was. Then up came my biracial insecurities and frustration with feeling I have to prove my blackness. DISSONANCE.

There are more, but I know that Jesus is right there in every feeling of dissonance, and has things that He wants to show me through them. I continue to see God use me even in the midst of my dissonance to help pastor students through their own dissonance. I'm always learning.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Over the Past Month...

O what a month it has been! My brother Jared donated a kidney to my dad on June 13, which needless to say was a ridiculously huge deal. It required the support of our whole family, many praying and present friends, and some amazing surgeons, nurses, and social workers at Stanford (don't believe what they tell you about surgeons being rude and unsociable, at least the Stanford ones aren't, they were incredible to us). The surgeries were long but we are grateful that the kidney started working on the operating table, and the fact that my brother's kidney is working in my dad is something I will never understand.

Jared (left), Jordan and dad post surgery. Don't be fooled, Jared is not as
disgusted as he looks

I have never spent so much time in a hospital, and even though Stanford is probably one of the best, it is a difficult place to spend a long period of time in. Jared commented (and I agree) that it would have been much too hard to do without our whole family there, and we definitely saw people in the hospital alone. It was hard to see.
My mom was caretaker for my dad and they had to stay in the Bay Area, and I was caretaker for Jared (Jordan was helpful too, he just had to go to the Bay Area Urban Project, so he was busy going to change the world) and we went home to Pacific Grove to recover, which seriously felt like we went to a retreat center. It was so nice and relaxing, and even the weather was beautiful for us. Jared recovered quickly, even though he was tired most of the time and he didn't feel great, he got better every day. We watched a lot of soccer and Sherlock Holmes, and were fed by some amazing friends from Mayflower Church. Jared's community from Servant Partners in Oakland were so supportive, and a bunch of them came to visit and bought lots of love and food. Jared felt so good by then that we went to Big Sur (Deetjen's breakfast= crazy delicious, Carmolite Hermitage = crazy beautiful and an awesome bookstore) although he avoided hiking.
Jared, Katye, and Alex at the Carmolite Hermitage
On June 25 I left Jared to deal with our dog Max and drove to Fresno for the Fresno Urban Internship. 16 college students from 3 states arrived on Wednesday, and we started with 5 days of whirlwind orientation, part of which I got to teach on how we can better interact with those who are different from us by realizing that we all have our own Frame's of Reference. It included Serge Ibaka and CP Time... you can ask me more later :) We helped tear town a house with FUND Inc, studied Nehemiah 1 and Luke 9, took a driving tour of Fresno, and ate pho, pupusas, and soul food (AKA deliciousness).
I've slowly been getting to know the 16 interns, and I've really gotten to know Danielle from Fresno State, who I work with at Youth For Christ.
Danielle (center) with junior high students (including Brian, who is crazy)
selling cookies and flower barrettes to raise money to go to camp
Danielle and I spend our weekdays hanging out with kids at YFC- playing ping pong, baking cookies, talking about Justin Bieber, and getting into their lives. Highlight for me was getting to hold a 2 month old baby :)
We've started our Urban Ministry classes this past week (learning about shalom and racial inequalities so far), and spent a whole lot of time getting to know each other in the Pink House. 4th of July was incredibly fun- we had a 2 hour long water fight, a barbeque, a dance party, and fireworks at the Fulton Mall.
FUI-ers during our epic 4th of July water battle
That is a very brief overview, and there is much more that has happened and is happening, but there will be more updates to come!
Thank you all for your prayers and support through everything, I very much appreciate it.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Welcome Prayer

I feel like all I've been doing lately has been posting prayers, but my brother showed me this one and it has been just what I've needed, although it is not easy!

The Welcoming Prayer (by Father Thomas Keating)
                                                  Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it's for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and God's action within. Amen.