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 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