Words from Jessica

Often times I am hesitant to cry because of the stereotype of women who cry. I have learned that being emotional is something to be ashamed of, something that deems me immature and makes my voice invalid. I don’t know a woman who wants to be known as the “emotional one.” Yet many of the great women and men of the Bible were openly emotional. Even David, the man “close to God’s own heart,” lived on an emotional roller coaster and wrote about it. But while playing sports for most of my life I have been told to grow some tougher skin, because champions don’t get emotional. That no one will ever take me serious in a workspace. That emotions limit my full potential.

Lately God has been revealing to me that my emotions are an open representation of my humanity and in my weakness He can work in mysterious ways. That God gave me the ability to weep and mourn for a reason. That my emotions are the way I empathize with others. It allows me to express pain, to lament and grieve with those in distress and even begin to understand compassion. I’ve noticed that we as human beings often connect deeper through our suffering than through our joy. It’s those moments when we are overcome with emotional turmoil that we can truly be vulnerable. To be able to grieve with a friend in mourning is truly an honor.

Over the last few years there has been a lot of grief in my family over the pain and loss of those we love. Many of our friends have been stricken with cancer, leukemia, disability, death and tragedy. It has been difficult trying to understand the purpose of all this pain and loss. Why the God that loves us would allow so much grief? Why my prayers for miracles were unanswered? I feel as if I didn’t pray hard enough and now I am to blame for the suffering around me. There is just something so disheartening and confusing about death. Suddenly the things of this world I’ve never understood need to be answered; suddenly I need a justifiable reason for the loss and pain of my loved ones.

It is often in that deep sorrow and confusion that something strangely beautiful can happen. One of our young friends accepted Jesus in a moment with his father, just hours before he left us. It was a day filled with grief, despair, and yet inner peace. Often times in the Christian community I’ve heard people invalidate others loss with good intentions saying things like, “They’re in a better place, you shouldn’t be upset!” But I’ve come to realize that even when I know those who’ve passed away are with Jesus, I need to grieve the loss of their presence.

Here at Bay UP vulnerability in moments of pain have led to deep healing. I often forget that God feels our pain more deeply than we feel our own. That throughout Jesus’ life he wept with those overcome with grief, cried out against injustice, and consoled those in pain. It was the moments when people were vulnerable with Jesus that they knew him intimately and found healing only He could bring. In his powerful message Jesus is teaching me that emotions have the ability to help me validate those in pain, to stop trying to fix their pain and let Jesus bring healing in the moment.

From Jason Wang

Hey everyone,

I hope everyone’s summer has been going well so far whether it’s been lazing around, taking summer school, getting excited to be newly weds, or preparing to go on missions trips.

**Important Note- Visitor’s Day is this Saturday, July 19th for the whole day (see previous blog entry for more info). Please send me a text (or your respective BayUP student) if you plan on visiting!

Back to the recap–We are over half way through BayUP and we have less than 2 weeks here at City Team. If you read the last post from my buddy Tim, you’ll get a general idea of what we have been doing.

I’ll just share what has been a barrier for me so far and how it has gotten better.

Something that I have been trying to figure out is where my place is here at BayUP. I would go to our program days (where we recently learned about Food Justice and Immigration) and feel bogged down as to why I was just “not getting” it. I would compare myself to other students, seeing them emotionally affected by the topics we were learning about. Why didn’t I feel the same way? I felt like I was missing something. I wanted to “feel” and understand, but there was a disconnect. There was an inability to emotionally engage with the topics of injustice.

One reason why was that I was focusing too much on my lack of understanding instead of actually understanding. Kaitlyn, another BayUP student, helped me realize this. My mind was more preoccupied with ‘how do these topics apply to me’ rather than ‘how do these topics apply to these people who are sharing their struggles with injustices.’ Instead of focusing on their perspective, I was frustrated on why I didn’t have their perspective. Since the reality is that their story is not my own, it would be unreasonable to think I could experience the same feelings as them.

Second reason why has been not knowing about my own culture. I was told that with knowing more about my culture, the justice part will follow. Recently I have been visiting the local Asian branch of the Oakland Public Library reading different books to learn about the Chinese American journey. I’ve been trying to learn more about my parent’s background through calling them and starting a letter penpal with my dad. Also, the Asian American students recently had an Asian American discussion with a professor from SF state. So it’s been revealing learning how Chinese were severely discriminated when they came to America. How assimilation to America has resulted in a loss and possible shame towards our own culture. And how the distinction between American and Asian cultural behavior and attitudes result in confusion especially between second+ generation children and their parents.

So it’s been a process learning to be more comfortable with where I am at in this cultural and justice exploration. To be honest with myself and with God and ask Him to show me how to care.  So far, things have been getting better and I’m finding myself being able to better emotionally engage. Its slow going, but going. Being here so far has been good. While it may be hard to see, I know God is slowly working on my heart to care more about these issues.

I’ll just keep it to that for now. There have been other things going on, but that was just a main thing I wanted to share. Here are some social justice topics we have been learning about:

Food Justice
Hunger and Obesity
Urban gardens
Immigration
Detention Centers
ICE (Immigration customs and enforcement)
Undocumented Citizens

Prayer

Please pray that God would break our hearts for social injustices. That we can humanize the stories we hear about.  Pray against barriers preventing us from truly being “present.” Pray that I can discover more about my culture and my people and that that will help me have a more personal understanding of justice. Pray for the men at City Team and their daily recovery. For the other students and their experience here at BayUP.

 

Thoughts on Community Development – from Jordan Spencer

My time at City Team has been eye opening. As I understand it, the men in the drug and alcohol program are given tasks throughout the day so that they don’t think about their addictions (ideally). This is in-line with what I’ve heard at one of the AA meetings I went to with the guys. The experience of these men with their past mistakes and successes, as well as present circumstances have given them a wealth of knowledge – particularly on the poor.

One man in the program helps with the overnight shelter that includes dinner, breakfast, and a shower. He pointed out the inequality even between what the shelter men eat and the men in his program. He asked aloud what he could do to address the root problems of why the men are even homeless in the first place, and questioned the tough-love policies of many shelters where if you break a rule you are sometimes permanently or (more commonly) temporarily banned. His reflections have given me much to think about, especially as I near graduation.

My major is in Community Development (CD) which deals primarily in the root causes of experiences which contribute to a lower quality of life for communities. Once a week, us BAyUPers have what’s called Program Day where we look at a different social justice issue – and the politics surrounding it. I’m realizing more and more that not just with issues surrounding homelessness, but also with a smorgasbord of other issues that my broad definition of CD needs to be broad in its application as well – more than just MFIs and other business-related strategies.

Considering the common narrow applications of CD, Alexia Salvatierra, co-author of Faith-Rooted Organizing and an upcoming speaker for one of our program days, wrote in her book, “Community development strategies reach beyond mere charity to engage people in solving the problems in their neighborhoods. What does not typically get addressed by such strategies are the barriers created by unjust policies, laws and social structures… Sooner or later, those engaged in community development hit a wall.”

I am understanding more that as a white male going to a private university I don’t see the walls because I often don’t experience them or perhaps lack the categories to clearly identify them. The poor often can more readily identify these blockades to justice and indeed it was those not in the majority that led the Civil Rights movement. The perspectives (and partnership) of the poor are not only needed for working towards justice, but essential to understanding what Jesus really means when he speaks blessings on them, and woes to the rich.

Visitor’s Day is this Saturday, July 19th!!!

Visitor’s Day is this Saturday, July 19th!!!

During the Day:

Come and visit us !!! During the day we will have open schedules to hang out with you, our friends and family. We will have our phone’s on us the entire day so just text/call us when you arrive. Come learn about our neighborhood. The only thing we ask is that you don’t take us out to eat. This is a discipline we are practicing in the spirit of simplicity and solidarity with the poor. You are welcome to bring food to us (homemade or bought)…we love food!

City Team 722 Washington St.,Oakland , CA 94607

In the Evening:

From 7-9pm there will be a time for us to share with you our experiences and what we have learned so far. There will also be a renowned leader in the Native American community who will speak of the history between the Church and Native American communities and what she sees as a vision of unity between the two communities. This will be held at:

Y.E.P. 2300 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

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from Tim Levernier.

My dear friends,

I have been in Oakland as a member of BayUP for about two and a half weeks, but already I have had the opportunity to build community with the other members of BayUP, explore the city of Oakland, and begin work at City Team. The Lord has blessed this project and I hope to share what He is doing here with you all.

Since Jason has already given you an overview of our arrival in Oakland and our orientation with the other members of our BayUP team, I will tell you about our experience with City Team thus far.

Here at City Team, we have joined the community of men living together as they fight to overcome their addictions. We both live and work alongside them in order to fully integrate into their community. When working, we could be doing anything from handing out produce to the people of Oakland, to working in the kitchen, to attending Bible study with the men. Even today, we started working in the learning center, helping the men who wish to further their education in their time here. These tasks may seem ordinary, but every ordinary day here is one to be celebrated, as it is one more day that these men have fought and won a victory over their addictions.

I feel very blessed to be a part of BayUP and part of the group that has joined the City Team community. I am sure as the rest of the summer unfolds, we will tell you more stories about how our team has impacted the lives of these men and how these men have impacted our lives. For now though, I will stop here and convey my hope that for those of you reading this that you are well and in good spirits.

God Bless,
Tim Levernier

from Jason Wang.

Hello friends and family and friends and family of other BayUP students!

I hope you all have been doing well. Today is Day #11 at BayUP. We visited a local church today called “the Way” and attended an awesome block party in one of the Oakland neighborhoods. Picture a mixture of age groups – kids, high school students, college students, young adults, parents, oldees and a mix of ethnic groups – Chinese, Cambodian, Thai, Black, Latino, Guatemalan, White, etc. sharing laughter, life and fun together. The run down homes that lined the blocked off street was a sharp contrast to the joy-filled unity of a diverse people that filled the street. It was really a beautiful picture of God’s shalom–how things God intended them to be, right relationships with right people, restoration, peace, harmony—just some ways to define shalom.  I even imagined myself wanting to raise kids in this community. This definitely was my favorite experience of BayUP so far.

BayUP has definitely been an eye opening and challenging journey. I will do my best to provide a comprehensive snapshot of the past 11 days.  Please excuse my abrupt flow of thoughts, I was never that great at writing.

About 3 days ago, we finished our weeklong group orientation. Orientation was pretty intense. Each day focused on different topics such as working poverty, multiethnicity, racism, gentrification, etc. as various speakers were invited to share their personal stories. In the midst of these very emotionally heavy sessions, there was alot of time needed to process and reflect as each person was impacted by a spectrum of emotions rooted from their own individual lives. Along with going to sessions, all the students and staff have been able to share life together for the first week, spending all hours of the day with each other living under the same roof called Harbour House. It has been good without the distractions of technology (this was really obvious once we got our phones on Sabbath day as everyone’s head focused down on their phones). Once orientation was over (this past Wed), our teams blessed each other in prayer as we were sent out to move into our respective sites – mine being at City Team. I’ll share more about how City Team is in the next blog so I’ll focus on orientation right  now.

Some of my wrestling thoughts–What am I doing here at BayUP? Why did God even choose me to be here?

During orientation we heard firsthand accounts from victims of injustices and activists fighting against these injustices. In response, I felt overwhelmed yet apathetic to the struggles of the urban poor and the systemic injustices that are going on. I felt uneducated and ignorant. I asked myself why I was even so excited to come to BayUP. I never really had an interest in learning about social justice anyways, how would coming to a program make that any different? However, I realized that maybe that’s why I am here. I don’t want to be ignorant anymore, but it’s still not just that easy to have a change of heart.

I am one of the few students at BayUP where listening to these topics is a very new experience. It makes sense that most students who come on this urban program know a little bit or alot whether from personal experiences or classes like sociology they have taken. For me, I came in with a “blank slate” towards these topics–no biases, no personal experiences, just open ears to listen, receive, and learn. It was hard though as I experienced my lack of understanding. I felt inadequate and I realized I was very unaware of the world around me.

Growing up, if I was not forced to learn in class about topics like history, politics, current news, and culture, then I wouldn’t. I never had an interest, it didn’t really directly affect me anyways. However, I am realizing that it is this disinterest that leads to a vicious cycle of ignorance which contributes to the social injustices around me. If I never develop a personal interest to learn, I would never be self-motivated to learn, to be aware, and to be a part of the change. That’s what I hope to gain here. I hope in some manner that these topics become personal to me so I can empathize and care more about the injustices going on.

It’s important to understand why we students are here. We aren’t here to evangelize or convert people. Instead, we are here to experience “mutual conversion” where both us and the people we come in contact with receive a paradigm shift or a change in attitude that points toward God. Something we are learning about and I am trying to work on is to humanize the stories we hear. To put a face to the struggles we are learning about. This is also an opportunity to witness God’s shalom which is how things should be – right relationships with God, people, earth, animals, etc—something beautiful that I had a brief chance to experience at the block party. A group of ethnically diverse people coming together in community despite the struggles they have faced or currently do face.

God has also challenged me with my own personal cultural unawareness. I am a Chinese American. Both my parents are originally from Hong Kong but my dad grew up in Vietnam. To be honest, I never really knew why my dad had a different story. Why he even grew up in Vietnam. God recently showed me that I know very little about my Chinese background, about my people, and the struggles they had to face. He wants me to reconnect and learn more about my own background. In doing so, I will be able to better empathize and love on other cultures and people groups.

It hasn’t been the easiest adjusting to BayUP with all the new people, the new environment, but mainly really all the students. It just takes me time to become fully comfortable with new groups of people. However, in prayer God has still been faithful.

Currently I have been living at City Team for the past 3 days. It has been good talking a lot with the men in the program. They really are normal people and even though they have a single story of addiction, that is not their only story that defines them. They are really friendly and really great guys. I look forward to sharing life with them for the next 4 more weeks and am excited to see what God wants us to learn and how mutual conversions can take place. More involvement with these men like going to their bible studies or sessions start tomorrow. So, more will be shared in the next blog. Not sure if it will be in a week’s time though.. It took a while to write this blog..

Here are some social justice terms/topics we have been learning about that you can look into:

Gentrification – profit driven racial and class displacement of urban and low income communities of color where higher income people are able to pay higher rent. It happens in areas where land is cheap and a profit can be made.

Interpersonal racism – racism between people (i.e. racist remarks)

Institutional racism – policies in a system that are not meant to be racist but they are

Systemic racism – systems of racism that cause a generational impact, probably the worse form of racism

Multiethnicity – What are injustices your people have faced whether you are Korean, Black, Chinese, Native American, etc? How has your culture shaped your own personal “narrative?”

Race, Ethnicity, Culture, Nationality – How do you identify with these?

Education – What are the holes in our public education system?

Working poverty – people who work day in day out to survive

**Keep in mind these are not fully flushed out topics/definitions. We only get a brief session on these topics since there are many topics to discuss. This leaves room to explore them more and educate ourselves more on our own time.

Prayer Requests: Pray that our team can unite spiritually together as one body. Pray that we can grow closer as friends. For deepening relationships between us and these men in the program. Pray for vulnerability and openness. For mutual conversion. Pray that we can all be fully present during these weeks to soak in all the goodness God wants us to experience. Pray for rest and energy (Us peeps at City Team need to wake up at 6:10am everyday to catch the 6:30am breakfast).

Thanks for reading and I hope this update blessed you in some way.