Create an US with the people of Oakland

Hi friends,

I miss you all so so much.  I miss talking to you guys, hanging out, and knowing what’s going on, but I know that it is important for me to focus and devote my time here in the city of Oakland.  In one week, God has already begun shaping and growing my heart.  Through everything that God is teaching me, there has been a recurring theme: it’s not about me serving them, but about us sharing our lives together.

Before I came to BayUP, I thought my life was better and separate from the people we will be serving in Oakland. During one of our sessions, I learned that many of the sexually exploited youth are really similar to me.  A lot of the young girls are born in America, lured into sex trafficking because they seek love that the media and dominant culture portrays, and become trapped and exploited after initial attention from the traffickers.  I always thought of these sexually exploited youth as people who either live in far away lands or came from far away lands.  I didn’t realize that many of them are just like me — born and raised in America.  This realization, among many others, has helped me understand that my life is not so different from the people here.  I have also learned that I am not any better than them, but everything that I have in my life is just a product of the privileges and opportunities that I was born into. It is hard for me to understand why I was born with so much blessing and what to do with that blessing, but acknowledging that everything in my life is out of God’s grace and not by my own works is the first step to a very long journey of surrendering my life to Him and His plans for my life.

Honestly, I don’t think I am actually sharing my life with the people of this city yet, but it is my prayer that there will be chances and divine moments where our team and I can really create an us with the people of Oakland.

-Kimmy, 6/27/11 3:10PM



A Recyclable Story

On one day of orientation, we collected recyclables to earn lunch money.  After walking through a BART parking lot only finding 5 cans (25 cents), we started getting more desperate.  So when we passed by a Subway and saw that they sold bottled sodas, (YES!!) I couldn’t pass it by.  I quickly surveyed the line, swallowed my pride, and dug my right arm into the trashcan.  Here’s what happened:

Just as I do, this little boy (~3-4 years old) walks up to me and yells, “AHHHHHHH!!” while pointing at me.  His mom hurries over, hushing him as the whole Subway line stares at me (as I am smiling at him and telling him “shhh”).  I then gather my bearings, make sure the staff aren’t paying too much attention, and then walk over to the other trashcan and reach in.  Again, the little boy runs over with a troubled smile and points at me as he yells, “AHHHHH!”  I quickly grab the one bottle I find, hold my pointer finger over my lips as I quietly beg the little boy to be subtler, and walk out to Josef who is waiting outside for me.

I think it was worth the 3 bottles I found in there.

-Sara Fong

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

I’ve learned that I have so much I have to learn

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hello! Things have been so great.
things I have learned:

One of the biggest things I’ve learned this past week was how much I have to learn. I guess that is fitting since it’s still the beginning of the summer. This summer we’re going to be learning a lot about how to be in the city and live among the poor—to love them not necessarily by what we do but how we live. Sometimes I look back on the places I’ve volunteered or my experience being a daycamp counselor and I think that I know how to love the poor, but I’m realizing more now that it’s more just that I know how to do things or take on responsibilities that I think serve the poor. I hope that this summer I grow my heart for the people I get to know, and that I can love with not just service projects or leadership opportunities but by living in community with the poor.

Sex-trafficking is really complicated. Whether or not it’s okay is a no-brainer for most Americans, but now learning not just girls’ stories but also about the current laws and the ballot initiative process, and how well intentioned volunteers often exploit more than serve is frustrating.

Another thing I’m seeing is how obviously all this stuff we’re learning about is framed by what Jesus’s purpose on earth was. When Pastor Mike McBride spoke, he was saying how Jesus became the very lowest so that he could raise up even the poorest and most overlooked, and nobody would be beyond his reach. I’m excited to learn that seeking justice is a part of this biggest picture, and I think I’ll come back to this truth over and over again when I start to feel hopeless or disappointed or something like that.

Also I’m learning how much I love this technology fast. People are so much more real and wonderful when in real life and not on gchat (or on facebook, dad!). Also, when we’re not taking out our phones to text all the time, we trust that we’re real present with each other. And because everybody on this team is so….. free to be themselves, we find very creative ways to have fun. We spent a couple hours trying to help each other to do flips and headstands and somersaults one night. Another day we played Jenga, where each person had to remove the entire bottom row of Jenga pieces (it’s possible, you just have to be swift and anybody can do it if you believe in yourself) and losers fed each other dinner. I miss home and you all but I’m glad I have this team, and I feel really at home with them.

other things:

For dinner tonight I’m in charge! It cost $11.40 for the eleven of us!!!!!!!!! YAH! We will be eating wraps and it will be full of colorful vegetables and no mushrooms.

I crave sun-dried tomato and basil wheat thins.

Biking actually works! I can’t believe it either. Thank you for praying!

– Allyson Jue Lam. 9:26AM 6/27/11

A Happy Report

Hello beloved friends and family! I’m happy to report to you that I am clearly in the right place in the right time in my life. In just one week of technology fasting (no computer, phones, television) and experiencing the city, the Holy Spirit has, in his grace, allowed me clear raw vision and a new spiritual sensitivity to the reality of our world, especially the city.

I find myself constantly wrestling with and trying to reconcile the two truths I’m being exposed to here – the blatant brokenness of man’s body, mind, and spirit as a result of a system that further dichotomizes the rich from poor, against the truth of the Lord’s sovereign heart for love and justice. I’m at the brink of being overwhelmed by it all – the undocumented day laborer goes home after a full day of half-hopefully, half-hopelessly waiting to be hired, after which girls trapped in sexual exploitation walk the track to be picked up by johns, not knowing that two blocks over, a man has just been gang beaten to a limp unconsciousness (or death – we couldn’t see too clearly as we passed by). [I know that sentence was really long, but I had it approved by Kimmy and Josef.]

No one has the capacity to notice or care about each other’s brokenness because his own brokenness swallows him whole. I’m confused at the disparity of human society. I’m frustrated because I might further exploit sexually trafficked girls in trying to help them.

But I’m not where I am today because of my brilliant intelligence or dashing good looks. I’m simply here because by grace, I was born into a life of opportunity, while I’m just as broken and poor in spirit as the next person. I find it ironic that my parents brought me to the United States to give me optimal opportunity for worldly success and comfort, but it was by that opportunity that I’ve come here to hear glimpses of what might be God’s call for me to dwell among the poor.

I fear that when moving back into my parents’ suburban home in Fremont, I’ll become desensitized to the raw truth of life outside the bubble of privilege. I fear that an $8 lunch will become a trivial luxury again, that internet connection will plague my mind again. I fear that when I return to Berkeley to continue my student lifestyle, my heart will become hardened or exhausted by the sight of homelessness because serving a poor man won’t help my busy schedule. I fear that the spirit in me desiring to pursue and build genuine relationships with these men and women will be lost because having compassion on the poor is not trendy. So I ask that if you pray for me this summer, please pray that the Holy Spirit will permanently stir up and transform my heart to be like his, that relocating to a life of privilege would make me torn, and I’d readjust my privileges to love on the poor where I am.

I’m still sitting here trying to make sense of everything. But something important I’m realizing is that the point is not to understand and make sense of this world; the point is to trust in our Father’s mysterious purpose and heart for us as a human race, his creation. Despite my confusion, the Spirit has given me this prayer to pray, “God, give me your eyes and heart because I’ll never understand on my own.” His heart and intention are perfect, and that’s why I can stand in the middle of this tension and still say that my soul is completely well and at peace in him. PTL, nawmsayin? \ o /

The first week of orientation has blessed me in so many ways! Truly truly, I found myself randomly exclaiming, “I love everybody!” during conversations. The 29 of us from Cal, Stanford, Chico State, and UC Davis have become a wonderfully bonded group in a short time, united by Micah 6:8. Yu-Shuan (our director) is a boss, and our BAyUP baby (her son), Joaquin is so cute I could die. I only got to hold him once, but twas such a sweet 4 minutes. We moved into our amazing house in East Oakland on Saturday and practiced biking around Lake Merritt in a Christian bike gang fashion. We are budgeting ourselves quite nicely, and we’ve started having daily morning prayer times to ask for God’s blessing over our work days. Also, everyone in our Cal team is weird (except for Bhavna maybe) – makes each drab moment totally fab! Ally, Bhavna and I start our work at MISSSEY tomorrow.

I will forever appreciate my wonderful financial supporters. (Your “Thanks a bajillion” cards are in the making.) I’d like to also say, that I’m growing in my conviction of how important prayer is. I truly appreciate and cherish your intercession on my behalf. Please keep it up; it will change circumstances, relationships, and outcomes. I love you, Umma, Appa & Sharon.

-Shela Jeong

This is My Wilderness Post

Coming away from my first week of project orientation, I have experienced the tension and suspension indicative of being in an unfamiliar environment where it is painfully clear that my own strength and alacrity cannot bring the healing, joy, or security that the community desperately needs. I am continuing to seek God’s heart and mind for the city of Oakland, as I witness violent crime, the huge need in the immigrant community, and the “track” of sexually exploited youth and streetwalkers. Every day, things are uncovered that remind me how people are deeply harmed by the structural violence of discrimination and prejudice, and how much the physical sickness and pain I see around me not only has root in man’s inhumanity to man, but the spiritual fortresses of darkness that pervade the community.

Thank God that He has blessed me and my friends with food, housing, and the opportunity to live without fearing for our lives when we sleep at night. Already I have been blessed by the generosity of the Vanderpole family who has taken me and two of my friends in to sleep in their spare room, and impacted by the insight and faith of community organizers and public advocates. We have a budget worked out to be 23$ a week for our 11-member team. Yesterday I attended New Hope Church in the heart of the community in which I work, and went out to lunch afterwards at a Mexican place called Taqueria San Jose. Unfortunately since visiting Angels Island last week I have nursed a sunburned face, and so continue to use aloe vera in hopes of averting further skin damage.

I finally know my address: 2739 E 17th Street, Oakland, 94601. I have one hour per week to be able to use electronic/phone communications. Since Saturday is our Sabbath day, we have decided as a team that we will us our one hours slots on Saturday.  I will not be able to use the internet often, seeing as we don’t have internet access in the girls’ apartment where Allie Hu keeps our team’s computer. So snail mail would be much appreciated to spur me on. J My prayer is that this post finds you well in spirit and in health. Let me know if you guys have any prayer requests. If you’d like to pray for me then remember me in these ways:

1. Ask God that I would maintain and strengthen the ability to communicate well in Spanish with the other volunteers in my Street Level Health Program, and with those we are serving themselves.

2. Ask God that I would find the time to continue to pursue quiet times to let Him wash my mind and rejuvenate my soul, so that I might worship Him and remember His authority and power in the situations I face.

3. Seek Him for my protection and words to speak to share the gospel through relational evangelism and godly service.

Soundtrack to my day–Listen to:  Josh Garrels—Jacanda tree (album) and Lost Animals (album).

-John Knox