Nutrients for my soul

The disciples had just come back from a whirlwind of work, casting out demons, healing, and teaching. They were exhausted. And when they told of Jesus all that they have done, He invited them to come and rest in a desolate place via boat. 

Over the last year, I’ve moved five times, worked two different jobs, lived and worked in the Philippines, met tons of new people (Filipino, expatriates, new JHSPHers, and now the CCF students), written reports, finished graduate school with honors, moved back to California and, to say the least, I’m tired….but Jesus has invited me to come and rest in a desolate place called Oakland. How is living with 9 students, and co-leading the Bay Area Urban Project for Cal Christian Fellowship students, rest?

And when Jesus and the disciples landed on the other side, 5000 men (and their family) were waiting to hear Jesus preach. The disciples barely got enough rest or food and now they are faced with the needs of the crowds. ‘Send them away to get food’ they told Jesus. But, Jesus said, “You feed them.”  Grumbling, they looked for food among the crowd and found some fish and bread. Jesus blessed and multiplied it so that it fed everyone. And the disciples even gathered baskets of left overs. 

In a place of ministry where I feel exhausted and have little to offer, I am leaning on the promise that I am and will be given much through the crowd (the very people who I can perceive as draining– especially as an introvert): the CCF students, the young adults at Covenant House, the San Antonio neighborhood. It may not equate to more hours of sleep or time to reflect and pray… but  I hope that it is nutrients and rest  that seeps deep into my soul.

  • Witnessing students’ paradigms shift regarding justice, living simply, and urban poverty
  • Seeing homeless young adults regain confidence in their self worth and capabilities at Covenant House
  • Times of prayer and worship with the team
  • Teaching on generous justice and the book of Amos
  • Participating in New Hope’s Block party for the San Antonio neighborhood
  • Hearing about the ways that my boy friend, Matt and his household of Servant Partners generously cares for an old single lady and other neighbors in their complex up the street from our household
  • Hiking up the trails of Joaquin Miller and eating Chinese pastries for Sabbath 🙂
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“ I thank God that we all woke up today”

Site

All of us are assigned to different sites during the day where we kinda work as interns. Allie, Kimmy and I are at the Covenant House, which is a shelter for homeless / orphaned youth from 18-24. We have been there about 3 weeks now and are starting to get to know some of the “clients” as they are called. Its hard trying to serve them / be friendly to them without getting attached to them. They are about my age, and so far all of them that ive met are really cool. I am beginning to like just about every single one of them. But there are so many obstacles in their way. Some of them have felony records, some have no job experience, some haven’t finished their high school certification. Actually I was honestly surprised to find out most of them had finished high school. When I think orphans / homeless, I think dropped out of school early, maybe got involved in crime, and now cant get a job. But I was surprised at how many of them completed high school and was even more surprised at how much job experience some of them have. It seems like a huge problem is that they cannot keep a job for a long period of time because they get laid off or move (especially when you don’t really have a home).

Covenant House offers a bed to anyone in that age range. But, to live there one has to follow a case plan, which involves building a resume and job searching. Our job is primarily helping them with their resumes and any questions they have when filling out job applications. But we also have been blessed with certain experiences. The staff has allowed us to sit in on the job readiness classes they have.

The first class they had went something like this. Everyone has values, personal values. Once you know your values, it is easier to live your life because you know what is important to you. So, everyone write down 5 of your personal values……….. I had to think a good minute before I wrote anything down.

Why don’t you write down your 3 top values now? Yes, now. Take a few minutes to think of them; what do you value more than anything else? Write 3 things down.

Now, what are you doing to follow them? Do you live by them? If not, why and what is stopping you from doing that.

That was the first day, and I was like wooow, I cant even think of my values which should be something a person lives by, while they are scribbling theirs down, and society would imply that I am somehow better than them?

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Then the next training, the staff that was leading it tolda story.

It went like this, X saw that R was really rich. So, X went up to R and said “ Hey R, I want to be rich like you, please can you show me how to be rich like you?”

R: “Meet me at the beach tomorrow at 8pm.”

X: “I don’t wanna go swimming, I wanna be rich like you, I wanna have a nice car and stuff.”

R: “Then meet me at the beach tomorrow.”

X didn’t wanna go to the beach, but he wanted to be rich like R, so he deci ded to go, so the next day he went to the beach and met R at 8pm. When they met, R said“Follow me” and started walking out into the ocean. Then X noticed R had dressed in his swimming trunks while he was dressed in his best suit. He didn’t want to follow R but he wanted to be rich. So finally he followed R in. When they got to their knees, he stopped but R kept going. Finally they were waist deep, then shoulder deep. Here, R stopped and without saying anything dunked X into the water. X struggled but to no avail, when he was almost out of air, R brought him up for a second before dunking him under again. This process was repeated for way too long for X’s liking. Finally R brought him up and said “When you were under what did you want more than anything else?”

X: “Air!”

R: “Until you want to be rich as badly as you wanted air, you wont be rich.”

That’s the end of the story, but the staff then went on to talk about how we have to set goals and go after them without getting distracted, because if we look around we will get distracted. J She said it much more eloquently and when I started this post, I thought I would be able to write it like she said it but nope :p

Anyway, I think if you read this far, you understand the point of the story so no explanation necessary. Anyway, it sounded cooler when the staff was explaining it to the group of clients especially as she tailored it to them finding jobs that pay enough so they can start renting their own place and slowly move “up” in the world.

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We had a friends and family night the other day where we each shared a little about our experiences so far were like. I wrote this based on a client named Paul.

Let me tell you about Paul.

A man who turned 20 last week without anyone knowing.

A young man that has seen the inside of a jail & mental institution.

A man that has battled with drugs for control of his life.

Now, a man that wears his only suit to church 3 times a week.

Now, a man that hands out church fliers to people he meets.

Now, a man that dreams to have a 6 bedroom house for his family.

Now, a man that wants to start his own ministry.

Now, a man that starts each and every day by telling those around him:

“I thank God that we all woke up today and that I get to see your lovely faces.”

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the thing I like most bout Paul is that he says that “ I thank God that we all woke up today”.

That touched me the first day I heard him say it. Cuz then it hit me that just the small things like waking up in the morning I take for granted and that not everyone is as blessed as I am. Now as I begin to understand the meaning behind the words, I appreciate it whenever he says it.

We are in the City of Oakland, and already this year the death toll from shootings is at 61. One of the Clients said she buried 7 of her friends last year, while another buried 3. Paul, growing up in this city, appreciates the simple act of waking up and finding out everyone is still alive and I appreciate that he has reminded me that some things I take for granted are a blessing.

A growing heart for Oakland

Hello again,

I just finished week 2 of BayUP.  During this past week, we moved into the Fruitvale/New Hope neighborhood, began working at our assigned sites, and had two program nights. Moving in and living with the ten other members of the Cal team has been great.  We eat and cook together every night.  We play all sorts of games, tell juicy stories, and learn about each others’ quirkiness.  We are even getting to know some of our neighbors!  Ally, Josef, and I have been playing with the young boys from the family who live below us.  On Saturday, we had a water gun fight with the youngest brother in our backyard.   It was really fun, except when the seven-year-old boy put hot water in his super soaker while the rest of us had dinky little water guns to defend ourselves! What a sneaky kid!!

I mentioned in my support letter that I would be working with women who have been sex trafficked, but my site placement has been switched.   I was disappointed at first, but I have become very blessed by the switch to Covenant House.  Covenant House is a shelter for 18-24 year-olds who are homeless, disadvantaged, but are actively looking for jobs.  Allie Hu, Josef, and I help clients look for jobs, create resumes, and develop cover letters.  At first, I was really nervous that I wouldn’t know how to interact with them.  I was scared that they would think I was pretentious.  I wasn’t sure if we would be able to develop actual relationships with them.  After a week of volunteering, I am happy to report that I am already feeling pretty comfortable, and I can see relationships forming with the clients as well as the Covenant House staff.

Every week, we have two program nights where Yu-Shuan, the director of BayUP, invites community leaders to speak to us about various issues affecting Oakland.  This week, we learned about the juvenile justice system and about the inescapable realities of hood life.  During every talk, I am always overwhelmed and shocked by how crazily messed up and broken each system is. Even though I am overwhelmed, I do not respond with action or with huge compassion.  On our second program night this week, as we learned about gang life in Oakland, I couldn’t keep my wall up anymore. The speaker told us that many of those in “The Life” view prison almost as a badge of honor, and not of shame.  In the particularly dangerous neighborhoods, people walk down the middle of the road because they don’t know who will be coming around each street corner.  They can’t even go to the local store without fear that they may get shot.  It’s really hard to comprehend that these people are only several miles away, but living a completely different life than me.  Learning about this particularly broken aspect of Oakland was a huge wake-up call that showed me how truly blessed and privileged I am. God is softening my heart for this city, and urban issues in general.  Instead of being frustrated and feeling helpless about all the brokenness, we are learning to pray and trust God to work in the city.  Regardless of how overwhelming the problems may seem, I am starting to believe that God is much bigger and more powerful than any of those problems.  Our team is starting to intercede for the city, but we know there is still so much more to learn about the city and the power of intercession.  I hope that as the summer progresses, our heart for Oakland and our heart for intercession will grow significantly.

 Love, Kimmy