Tales from Oakland

Hello to everyone, my friends, family, and people who don’t know me otherwise.  I love you and I miss you.

Firstly, to my supporters:

I hate you. Why would you support sending me on something so hard?

My gut stings and churns with hunger.  My upper back is tight from a night on the street. My heart is sore from breaking.

It is always one thing to hear the stories of living among the urban poor from someone else, and experiencing life as part of the poor. There is a huge difference between reading an article or a statistic that our neighbors are making and living on less than a dollar or two a day, and scavenging bottles and cans from garbage cans in downtown for lunch money.

You can talk about living on a budget. Then you can experience hour long meetings with percentages and numbers, or spending five minutes picking out rice and oil at the grocery store, looking at every single price per oz. of detergent, or forcing yourself to walk past $1 ice cream signs.

You can hear about the gross imbalance of our economic system. Then you can stand on the streets with them on the hottest day of the year, and hear straight from them in rapid Spanish how they are sometimes picked up for gay sex instead of a day’s work, but $150 is so hard to say no to when you haven’t worked in weeks.

You can learn about the intricacies of sex trafficking and how girls are pressured into the system. Then you can walk down International Blvd at night and look into the empty, hollowed, desperate eyes of these daughters of God who deserve so much more.

To my supporters,

Thank you.

I can hear about the faithfulness of God and his provision. And then we can experience ridiculous blessings.

I can hear testimonies of how living without technology brings people closer in community. Then we can experience long yet full days of conversations and laughter and tons of silly things like hiding in the hundred-degree attic while our staff (“mama bear” and auntie”) walk through a seemingly empty house looking for us.

I can talk about how usually I only see the Holy Spirit work only in retrospect. Last night we had our first long prayer meeting since moving in. Although we had a hard day, by the end, we had spent over 45 minutes counting the ways God has blessed us.  It has been so, so good.

I can hear about how God is faithful. On Monday afternoon, our team went to the Mission in San Francisco on a mural tour. When we returned to the car two hours later, we realized we had parked in a 1-hour residential street, but we didn’t get a ticket. We voiced thanks and wondered what we would do if we had gotten a parking ticket. We decided that we would try to make it work from our team budget, and not pay with our own money. Then we drove several streets and parked to look at one last mural, and moments after we exited and crossed the street, we got a ticket for parking in a tow-away zone. When living in the same conditions as our neighbors and community, on two dollars a day, on $151 total for eleven people in a week, where can we possibly find money for a seventy-five dollar ticket? Why would God do that to us? We experience that God keeping us faithful.

I can hear about God’s protection. On our way home from a program night, we were waiting behind a truck at a light that had turned green, but didn’t go. We considered honking after several seconds when a minivan blew through their red light – and seconds later, another car followed at a high speed. In our biking and walking and driving, we are saved.

In the past days at dinner, I’ve often heard “Take more, we have enough!” – especially when guests are over. We sit down with our grocery receipts and crunch numbers and say, “Hey, we saved money.”

We don’t know how we keep our stomachs quiet, but God is good. We aren’t sure how to share a bathroom among eleven people, but God is good. We are broken by how broken the world is and by the injustices that we see, but God is good. We don’t know how to save the world and break the chains of global, institutional oppression, but God is good.

God has been good to us. God is good.

Soli Gloria Dei,

Yi David Yang


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