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

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