Stacks of Applicants

Hiring an employee is a fun and difficult process, and at Good Soil Industries we do it frequently. The opportunity to give someone a job is a privilege not to be taken lightly. Each month I collect a small stack of resumes on my desk and prayerfully begin searching for who will be the best fit.

There are many criteria for choosing a candidate, but the most valuable question is: “Are you connected with a local church?”. The reason is that we can’t overcome our past by ourselves. First we need Christ to do a miracle in our hearts, and second we need a community to support us through the tough times.

I’d like to say thank-you to the churches of Bellflower for being the supportive community we are called to be. Our current employees continue to praise their local churches for being a place that accepts them for who they are and encourages them to continue following Christ. They have felt loved, and this love gives them the strength to keep making the right but difficult choices. So keep it up! Keep finding ways to love those who are different from you and being a church that reaches out to anyone, anyone, who is searching.

Joel Holwerda, Kingdom Causes Belllflower

Homeless Families and Empty Sunday School Classrooms

I got a call the other morning from my friend Justin. A family that he has known for several years through his youth ministry told him that they were being evicted. This mom of three kids between the ages of 9-14 had been paying $650 a month to rent a travel trailer. When she lost her house cleaning job that was paying her under the table, she could no longer pay the rent. Her neighbor has offered her the back of her truck to sleep in for the night and that might be where they end up staying.

Justin called me because in his words, “that is unacceptable.” He wants to help the family but doesn’t know what resources are available to the family and he is trying to get his church to do something about it but that bureaucratic process will be a long one which will end up with help being too little, too late.

The frustrating thing is, I don’t really know what to do either. Despite the fact that social workers in our organization deal with families like this everyday I have little help to offer. If they do not fit our relatively narrow qualifications for immediate financial assistance we have no place to send them.

The reality is there is NOTHING in our immediate area that is set up to help families like this. Evicted, broke, out of work… I want someone or something to blame for this dilemma. I jump automatically to the family, they should have called sooner, they must have some sort of addiction stuff going on, they must be lazy.

The reality is stark though. Whatever the cause is of this family’s crisis, our local system in Bellflower has nothing for this specific family. 211, the LA county resource call center, will refer her to a shelter out of the area and or give her access to hotel vouchers for a few nights but there is nothing after that. What is the answer? Shelters are expensive financially and socially. Immediate financial assistance will not really help in the long run because of her eviction. What the family needs is a LOCAL place for at least 3 months were they can land long enough for mom to get a job and the kids don’t have to leave their school.

What will we as God’s people in this city do? We have resources. We have people. We have money. We have buildings (approximately 30 church buildings with countless classrooms that sit empty 90% of the week.) I wonder what Jesus feels about that? With hurting and poor neighbors all around us, is Jesus pleased with our clean and tidy classrooms that sit empty, preserved for telling Bible stories to the kids of the saints a couple of days a week?

Would it be possible to set up a Hospitality Network in Bellflower like this one?

Kingdom Causes

Crying in the Kitchen

This summer I was especially taken with the verses in Philippians where Paul declares, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”  My heart resonated.  My soul cried, “Yes!  Christ is all I need.”  I made plans to simplify my life.  I stopped buying clothes.  I got more creative and made things I needed out of what I already had.  My gaze was set on knowing “Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Then a new roommate moved in.  This move required me to share my room, to consolidate, to get rid of stuff- lots of stuff.  It is one thing to stop acquiring.  It is another to “consider everything a loss,” to actually get rid of things.  Don’t get me wrong, the move was my idea.  This was part of knowing Christ- of going to a deeper place of community and identifying with our neighbors who have their whole families living in one room.  But it turns out I like my stuff.  I have pretty things.  I have useful things.  I have things I may need later.  I have things that may come in handy some day for another life I am scheming.  I have lots of stuff.

So I moved the stuff from the closet to under the bed to another closet to a shelf.  I boxed up the stuff.  I took bits of it to the Goodwill.  I sold pieces at a garage sale.  I shuffled and sorted but I rarely let go.  It feels like loss to let it go, even irresponsible.   And yet this morning as I look around feeling cramped and needing to breathe, I wonder why I want this stuff.  What is it about the stuff that makes me hang on?  What is it about me that won’t consider it rubbish?

And it’s not just about the stuff.  It’s about the space.  My room is huge.  The closet is big.  There’s a lot of floor space and a sitting area and my queen bed.  It is so big in fact that my new roommate moved her queen bed in the same room.  Two queen beds.  Two women.  No more floor space.  No more sitting area.  There is simply no more space for all this stuff.  There is no more space to store up for an imaginary life to come.  There is no more space to throw things I don’t want to deal with.  There is no more space to hide.  Before the move, my roommates and I looked around the house, looked at each other and asked, “Where are we going to go to cry?”  There is no more space to hide.

Together we recognize that the very thing we long for- to be known and loved in a caring community- means vulnerability and not hiding.  It means hearing each other snore and crying in front of each other.  So we are taking steps into this life together.  We are stripping ourselves of stuff we have held onto.  And as I give up my own stuff I realize that I haven’t really lost much at all.  Now instead of one really cool antique chair, we have two.  And I sit in both.  This morning I was lamenting the loss of a pair of shoes and my new roommate broke out an amazing pair of boots for me to wear.  I gave away my bowls and my roommate has the set I’ve looked at in magazines for years.  Now I eat my breakfast out of them.

A couple of Saturdays ago, after our “where do we cry” discussion, one roommate and I sat at the kitchen table catching up on the week.  We chatted and drank coffee and the conversation slowly spiraled into deeper topics until we were both sharing from our heart and crying, even weeping as the pain of life boiled over.  As we listened and comforted one another our earlier conversation came to mind and the answer was clear:  now we cry in the kitchen.  All I thought would be loss, I have gained- beautiful stuff, sweet intimacy, a grace to be me and to love others for who they are.  With no extra stuff and no space to hide, now we cry in the kitchen.

Crissy Brooks MIKA CDC, Costa Mesa, CA

Mika CDC
Kingdom Causes

Neighborhood Gardens Reflection: Goals and Reality

I had a chance to talk to someone this week who was interested in doing something with growing food, like what we are doing in our neighborhood gardens. His enthusiasm was apparent even if he didn’t know what he was going to do, what his goals were, etc.

But as I recounted our brief journey in our own neighborhood, I realized how similar I felt when this idea of growing food as a vocation came about: so much passion, but a scattered focus.

Perhaps because food is so basic to life, it’s the reason there are so many ways of approaching it in the non-profit world:
food banks, food co-ops, childhood obesity, school lunch reform, farmer’s markets, community gardens, school gardens, self-sufficiency/empowerment, job training programs to name a few.

I kept repeating the refrain talking to this enthusiastic gardener that you need to have some goal in mind when you start, and then let reality sharpen your focus. This has very much been the lesson learned for us. Neighborhood Gardens started with the idea of growing food that would benefit residents and also low-income residents by donating a portion to our local food bank. But reality was that our few gardens weren’t big enough for regular donations. There was no way we could provide a significant amount of food for the food banks.

That’s why I hope next week’s Harvest Fest on 10/30 will have as one of its outcomes a local network of neighbors and their gardens and fruit trees becoming regular contributors to our food bank while in the midst of forming community around local food. In many ways, the reality of our limitations provided an opportunity for us to look for creative solutions that are far more sustainable and community-oriented than if we strived to do it on our own.

Thank God our goals don’t always work out the way we thought they would!

Jesse Chang, Catalyst, Kingdom Causes Alhambra/Monterey Park

Kingdom Causes

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