A life of advocacy for the voiceless

Yu-Shuan told us we’d be in for some mutual conversion during our time
here. Only now as I skim through my journal entries from this last week do I realize
that already, my own transformation is starting to emerge.
Ally, Bhavna, and I had an extensive orientation week with the staff at
MISSSEY. We received free (yeee!) copies of Girls Like Us, a book written by sex
trafficking survivor and activist, Rachel Lloyd. A full week of discussion and learning
about the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) has been heavy on my
mind and heart.

It’s extremely easy for young girls to be caught and trapped in “the life.”
Pimps know that many young girls in the area come from either foster homes or
broken families with parents under the influence. They know that these children
will hold onto whatever figure proves himself a constant form of presence and
provision. These girls’ understanding of love and self becomes twisted into what
the pimp and his violent beatings define them to be. I couldn’t possibly describe the
sad story of injustice that is the commercial sex industry in a brief blog entry. Still, I
wanted to share a glimpse of the injustice I’m being exposed to here.
I’m angry that the industry has become so profitable at the expense of
innocent children’s lives. At the same time, I do believe God is using my experiences
(coupled with affirmation from my parents) to beckon me to a life of advocacy for
the voiceless, in the name of justice in the political sphere. I don’t know what exactly
this entails, but it gives me something specific to pray about (and that’s always the
good deal).

Pondering over the individual situations of children who are vulnerable to
exploitation has caused me to reflect on the family that I grew up with. I grew up
knowing I was loved (even if it wasn’t always outwardly communicated). To say and
know that my mother is a woman of prayer, that my father is a man who fears God
has never resonated as a greater blessing in my heart than now. And then it got me
thinking about my own future marriage and children – what kind of spiritual
mother I’ll be, what values I’ll instill in my kids. Then I thought “I will start praying
over my future babies and husband now!” The worldly forces that pull kids into
trouble and men/women into sin are strong, but the Holy Spirit’s anointing of
protection will always transcend these. Totally random and untimely resolution, I
know. But I receive every God-honoring thought as a gift, and I shall hold it dear to
myself from this day on.

The little kids in our neighborhood are absolutely the friendliest I’ve ever
encountered. If only I spoke Spanish, I would definitely be their best friend. Just
kidding; John Knox already has that one covered. I’m thankful for the New Hope
community who has welcomed us to be more involved with our neighbors – we’re
having a block party! I have volunteered to run the fishing game (so I can play with
the cute little ones). In other news, the 11 of us are eating, sharing a bathroom,
passing time, and praying together quite nicely.

For my epic closer, I would like to extend a heartfelt “I miss and love you” to
the ones I love and pray for every night. Thank you and good night.

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