Changing Perceptions

Now, I would normally start by writing something along the lines of “It’s another day at work and I’m sitting here after a well-fed wholefood’s sandwich listening and blogging during a staff meeting…”  But that would be like saying every day is the same, which would be false.  BAyUP has been sooo amazing, and every day has been its own adventure!  From orientation week until now, so many things have happened and I have been learning so much!  God has truly been blessing us with such love that I cannot find the words to share it with.  But I will try 🙂

[And now, since I haven’t posted before (sorry!) I feel like i need to start from the beginning, haha.  Here we go, marathon post!]

It’s funny because the first day at BAyUP/Orientation Week, after meeting all the other teams (who are such awesome people!) and doing like 50 different ice breakers, I thought I was in for a really chill ride this summer.  But, God surprised me (as He often does!), and I think everyone as well.  From touring old/new Oakland and hiking/touring Angel Island, to sleeping on the streets for a night and picking up recyclables for lunch money, my chill ride turned out to be a narly roller coaster.  Sleeping on the streets for a night was actually really comfortable for me.  Once I got over all the ants roaming around, I fell asleep like a baby.  Although I’d wake up in the middle and think “Why is there a tree above me? And, whoa…I can see the sky!”  Haha.  It took me a while to remember that oh, we’re sleeping on the streets tonight.  I think that happened like three times throughout the night.  I remember people would come by and give an interesting stare to the six of us sleeping side-by-side in a line.  And with the recycling activity, I think that was really hard for me because it was just a really hard and humbling situation going through other people’s trash cans.  When I first heard of the activity, I didn’t think that anyone could raise enough money to buy a significant meal.  But of course, God surprised me.  Our team of four raised $1.95 in bottles and cans, and was able to buy three day-old loaves of bread, two bananas, one carrot, and one orange for lunch.  It wasn’t filling but it put a lot of things into perspective.

From orientation week, we moved in to our housing sites. Our team has a very spacious top floor of a duplex.  We are eleven people living in three bedrooms (three guys in one, six girls in another, and the two staff in the third) with one toilet and two showers.  I must say, it’s been pretty amusing living in a house full of people all the time, but not difficult as I imagined it to be (it’s especially useful when you get locked in the closet, because someone or another should be going in and out of the room sometime soon.  Yes, this is from experience).  We get a lot of traffic in the bathroom in the mornings, but other than that, we’ve seemed to manage a system that doesn’t get too chaotic.  Some things I’ve really been enjoying about our team is our morning prayers before we all trickle off to work, (longer) evening prayers/ listening prayers/ intercessory prayers, our cooking rotations (we have seven “head chef” and four “sous-chef” who rotate around every day.  I cook food – usually Indian food – on Sunday nights.  And boy, we have such good chefs in this house and consequently are blessed with such good food this summer!!!  I’m going to miss this!  Tonight, I believe David is making breakfast-for-dinner.  If you know me, you can just imagine how excited I am right now 😛 ), and saving the best for last, our team members themselves.  I LOVE our team!  And the dynamics of our team!  Everyone is so cool and weird and just plain awesome!  I’m getting teary now that we have only one week left.  :((   Much love to you guys! ❤

We’ve been trying different ways and approaches to Sabbath.  I think something I really need to work on is prioritizing the Sabbath and understanding that we are not just the products of our work.  I think that there were a lot of lies that were instilled on me growing up, and sometimes it’s hard to break away from them.  This past Saturday, we went to a beautiful park whose name I cannot recall right now, but it was so peaceful and relaxing.  I think God speaks to me through nature, or at least, I seem to always find God in nature 🙂  I picked flowers and everything, haha!

[Now I’m just going into random stories I remember, so sorry if it doesn’t flow or seems random.]  One time, earlier in BAyUP, we went star gazing at the Chabot Space Center with the Chico team.  It was really cool, but I couldn’t help but find Saturn to be the most interesting thing there.  David says that it’s too easy to like Saturn since its interesting looking with its ring and all – and I agree – but I guess I’m not enough of a space nerd to be awed by the ring nebulas and star clusters.  Last Friday, we went dancing at the Jack London Square and met the Stanford team there.  They were giving free lessons on how to Waltz.  So I was really excited at first, but then disappointed when they only taught us four moves.  However, I got to dance with one of the instructors there who taught me a little bit of the swing, so that was fun.  Another time, we invited the family downstairs over for dinner and later watched “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” at their house.  It was interesting because they forgot about the invitation, and we waited about forty minutes discussing whether we should go down and get/remind them or not.  Some people on our team valued promptness, whereas for me, I thought it was just a cultural thing to be “fashionably late”.  I know my family does that way too often.  I think John Knox cooked spaghetti that night and it was delicious!  I had to write down the recipe 🙂  I also feel like I get way too happy much too quickly by just food.  Hmm…   Oh! And another time (I think this is the last story, don’t worry!), earlier or kind of to the middle of BAyUP, we went to a Block Party near our neighborhood.  It was soooo much fun!  Shela, Sarah Lee (!!!) and I were helping out at a fishing game, where kids would throw over a small fishing pole and we’d attach candy and toys to it.  It was funny when one of the girls decided to go behind the station and watch us do it.  She went back to the line and told her friends, “Guys, it’s not real!  They’re totally putting the candies on the fishing rod!”  Haha!  As if there was a real candy fishing pond in the middle of the street!   I love kids 😀  Speaking of kids, I’ve decided that I really want to adopt/ be a foster parent later on.  I think it’s something that’s been on my heart for a while now, and God has really been convicting me of it this summer.  But you can ask me about that later.

Anyways, other than living with the lovelies, work has been so good as well!  As you may or may not know, I am interning at MISSSEY (Motivating Inspiring Serving Supporting Sexually Exploited Youth) with Shela and Ally.  Though, I work with Direct Services and in the afternoons.  Direct Services is basically the department that works directly with the clients in providing whatever services are needed.  The first week of work was an orientation/ training week.  It was a really heavy week for me, and I think all of us as well.  There was so much information to absorb, but the hardest part was just dealing with the cruelty and brokenness of it all.  It was crazy to hear about all the stuff that has been going on to our people – neighbors really – and how little we are aware of it, let alone standing up against it.  For a while, I felt like someone just dumped a heavy dose of information/reality on me and I didn’t know what to do other than just carry it around.  To be honest, I still haven’t figured it out and sometimes still feel like that.  During yesterday’s BAyUP prayer and reflection night, however, I learned that I’ve been tying my head and heart together, letting my head do all the thinking for my heart and not being able to hurt for all the pain that can be seen around me – as a almost protective and guarded instinct.  But, I received prayer and have been praying myself for the breaking of that tie, being uncomfortable and vulnerable, letting my guards down, and just being able to hear God with clarity.

Working at Direct Services with MISSSEY has been such a privilege for me!  In our building, we have a place called the SPA (Safe Place Alternative) which is where I work/stay most my day.  The SPA is where the girls come in and chill at.  It’s where we talk, provide a safe space, do workshops, and have staff and services available.  During the beginning of my internship, I worked with one of the staff to plan out the curriculum for the month of July.  And every week (or day), I have the privilege of researching, creating, and putting together all the materials, handouts, brochures, lesson plans for that day’s workshop.  I have also gotten the opportunity to lead and facilitate some of the workshops.  The SPA is a drop-in place, with regular hours every week.  So my day normally looks like this: I come in around noon (or before if there’s a lot of work to be done), work to finish that day’s curriculum materials, hand over and talk about the curriculum with the SPA director (she is soo cool!), do random tasks until the clients come, whenever the first girl comes in, the director and I start cooking some yummy and slightly healthy food, then we eat with the girls and talk/catch up/play games/do art with them, and sometime later do a workshop with them.  Since it’s summer, there have been a lot less girls coming in than in the school year.  We generally have been getting 1-5 girls in here at a time.  They are very cool people, and from what I have gathered, love to paint.  We just had a wine tasting fundraiser where we sold some of the girls’ art pieces, and two of them sold for over $500!!  It’s really cool at the SPA, and I feel likes it’s less of a job and more of just a bunch of things I already like to do put together.  We’ve been playing Monopoly a lot recently, and [wo]man, it some serious stuff here.  Haha!  Everyone is so imaginative, and we all take the game personally.  At one time, the director of the SPA had to mortgage all her properties, had $8 left, then landed on someone’s hotel and was literally tearing up to the point of crying.  Another player always (and I mean ALWAYS) has the misfortune of going to jail multiple times in a game.  And then, the really cheap properties by the GO-> box with cheap rents are known as the hood.  When you land on someone else’s bought land in the hood, you’ll be paying rent to their crack house.  I once had a hotel in the hood.  It was kind of awesome.  As you can see, the games are very intense with a lot of emotional drive and revenge-seeking.

I’ve been learning a lot about perceptions and just how to build relationships with people cross-culturally.  I’ve been picking up things from conversations at the SPA and BAyUP program nights about the brokenness of systems (education, foster care and group homes, medical, immigration, etc..) in this country.  I feel like being at BAyUP, my general perception of things has changed.  I am learning to love, and to love everyone.  Because loving just the ones you already care for is neither true love, nor God’s love.  But loving a stranger or neighbor as your brother and sister is.  And that is hard.  I pray that I would learn to and be able to love like that.  I am so thankful of my placement here, in the beautiful city of Oakland and in MISSSEY, and often wonder what God has been visioning of this place and organization.  There is a lot of healing and love to be received here, so it’d be awesome if you’d pray for these girls and MISSSEY.

 

I want to take this time to thank all you wonderful people for supporting me in this journey.  I really appreciate your support and prayers!  And I just want to give a shout out to the Berkeley staff and students that came to visit us during program night (and Erina and Eubanks yesterday!).  It was really really really encouraging to see you guys here, especially since some of you were tired too and had a full day. We all were so blessed by your presence and support!  I was totally not expecting it 🙂  You guys are awesome! ❤  Also, I had never been to Tea Way before then, and that was sooo good! Ahh!  😀

 

So I am no longer at work or at a staff meeting, rather I am home right now.  Work was good today.  I am thankful to be using AC Transit instead of biking (as it did not go well for me the one day I actually biked!).  David and Ally are cooking pancakes right now, John is munching on nutella, Sara is in an interesting pose exercising, Erin is chatting away, and Allie, Josef, Kimmy, Shela, and Erica are on their way back from an event that got cancelled.  Actually, John is now crying because David did not put nutella in the pancakes.  Sara says that this is probably because he has not processed enough during the trip and that now all his feelings are being stirred up.  He is talking to me now, but I think this is the part where I ignore him.  So, yeah.  This is our typical dinner conversation.

 

But before I leave, I’ll end with a few prayer requests.  If you could pray for the team and I, that’d be so cool 🙂

–          Please intercede for the city of Oakland and all the brokenness it carries.  But do not pity the city, for it is a beautiful and great city.

–          Please pray for MISSSEY and sexual exploitation/ commercial sex trafficking in this world.  It is enslavement and torture.  It really needs to come to an end, and we all need to be aware and be in active opposition of it.  I have a lot more to say about this, but not now.  You can ask me about it later, or expect me to tell you about it later.  Also, the book Girls Like Us by Rachael Lloyd is a good reading about this topic.  It is an account of the author’s own exploitation and founding of the GEMS program (similar to MISSSEY but in the east coast) as well as a good narration of the sex exploitation/ commercial sex trafficking problem in America.

–          Please pray for clarity in hearing God and better processing skills

–          That I would continue to prioritize the Sabbath and grow in my relationship with God

–          That we all would remember the lessons learned and convictions made during our time at BAyUP, and bring it back to campus and incorporate it in our lives.  That we would not just go back to our “normal” ways, but become the change that we want, and God wants, in us.

–          Please pray that I would have the boldness to speak out against injustices and strength to be what God has called me to be

–          And lastly, the director of the SPA is in the hospital right now.  She is seven months pregnant and the baby has been positioned too low.  This morning she had been experiencing contractions, but it is too early for delivery.  I don’t know what is going on there, but if you could pray for her and her baby girl, that would be awesome.

 

Thank you all!  If you read this whole thing….wow. You are cool.  And now… dinner time!  Pancakes yum yum 😀

 

Peace,

Bhavna  [pronounced BH-ow-na  (but not B-ow-na or Ph-ow-na… so don’t do that…)]

 

 

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