Call Vignettes – A Series of Surrenders 2

I was a headstrong child.  When I wanted to do something it was hard to stop me.  I don’t remember why I decided it was time for me to be baptized but I remember telling my dad that it was time.  I figured if baptism was something you had to do to follow Jesus, then I wanted in.  I was nine years old and we were sitting at the kitchen table, Dad at his spot at the head of the table and me across from him.  “I want to get baptized.” I told him.  “Getting baptized is a serious thing, Crissy, are you ready for that?”

I don’t remember my exact answer but I remember him kind of trying to talk me out of it, implying that I wasn’t big enough.  Whatever I said must have convinced him because come Easter Sunday I was in the second row of baptism orientation.  I was the youngest one there, and the most excited.  No one else seemed to share my enthusiasm.  I volunteered to be the practice example for crossing your arms.  I raised my hand to answer the questions.  I was ready.

As we filed to get our white robes, the deaconess ladies struggled to find one that would fit me.  They finally settled on a modified version of a robe. It had big wide pant legs and a zipper up the back.  I felt disappointed that it wasn’t an official robe but trotted off to suit up anyway.  Then the time came for the baptism.  It was a Sunday evening service and all the baptism candidates sat in the front rows.  I sat patiently, swinging my feet as the others took their turns.  I don’t remember looking for my parents.  This was very much something I was doing on my own.

When Pastor Wood called my name I eagerly went up to the baptismal tank.  He asked me if I understood that by choosing to be baptized I was making a public statement that I wanted to live my life for Jesus.  He stuck the microphone in my face and I boldly declared, “Yes!”  I understood.  I crossed my arms like I had been oriented and went under the water.  I stood for a minute, waiting for something to happen, expecting to feel differently.  But I didn’t.  Next thing I knew I was ushered out, being covered with towels by the dutiful deaconess.

While nothing dramatic came over me, I felt happy and satisfied, like I was somehow one step closer to being who God intended me to be.  As I think back on this overly confident little girl standing up to her father, insisting on being baptized, I wonder where the drive came from.  What was this deep desire to take a next step in faith?  What compelled me to this public moment of surrender?  Was it the strong will of a little girl, a desire for attention, or the Father calling me to Himself?

Crissy Brooks MIKA CDC, Costa Mesa, CA

Mika CDC
Kingdom Causes

Developing the Next Generation- Johnny and Geo

 

Geo

Johnny

At first glance Geo and Johnny don’t seem like the volunteering-on-the-weekend-kind-of-kids, but the neighbors of the Center St Community know differently. As the Neighborhood Action Committee Manos a la Obra planned a small garage sale to raise funds for their Hope Community Center, volunteers were scarce. Then Johnny and Geo stepped up to serve their community.

 

While waking up at 6:30 am on a Saturday is a stretch for most high school students, they shared that helping the moms out on Saturday morning was “chill” and would like to do it again. Volunteering at the garage sale opened a new interest in Geo and Johnny, and they are now volunteering as tutors at Step-Up program and helping in the Mika office.

The neighborhood leaders from Center St are involving their children and young adults as part of the neighborhood transformation by exposing the young generation to opportunities to participate and help out their community. Developing youth who are engaged is very important to the Center St. leaders. They have been inviting teens to participate and share the Vision that they have for the future generation of Center St. citizens.

Juval Flores MIKA CDC, Costa Mesa, CA

Mika CDC
Kingdom Causes

Call Vignettes – A Series of Surrenders 1

I am often asked, “How did you get in to this line of work?”  I assume they are referring to me living and working in neighborhoods that many people purposefully avoid.  Sometimes others will answer for me, “Oh, she feels called to this ministry.”  Which I suppose is true, if by called they mean compelled or led by Jesus into these choices.

When I think of being called I think of Moses and the burning bush or Abraham setting out for Canaan.  My journey has been more like a series of surrenders, a progression of saying ‘yes’ to the Father’s reign in my life.  Each surrender has led me deeper into relationship with the poor and with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I suppose the first person who taught me to love the marginalized was my mother.  It wasn’t so much that she reached out to the poor but she gave me eyes to see them.  Before school each morning she would pray that my sisters and I would see the kids who didn’t have friends and befriend them.  That’s how I started bringing home latchkey kids and newly arrived immigrants, kids who stuttered and were generally marginalized.  Even when I didn’t reach out or was held back by wanting to be accepted by my friends, I still noticed the lonely kids.  I believe it was because of my mother’s prayers.  I would hear her in my mind while I played at recess and moved about in our classrooms.

The first time I remember this happening was in kindergarten.  Our teacher, Mrs. Zebock sat perched on her chair up front, her light green eyes scanning the room as we found our places in rows on the carpet.  As I settled in I caught a glimpse of the boy’s underwear in front of me and my kindergarten mind started to snicker.  There before me the Cambodian boy’s pants gaped open in back and I could see that he was wearing pink girl underwear with a ruffle across the top.  As I began to nudge my friend next to me, something stopped me.  In the split second it occurred to me that he was wearing girl underwear for one of two reasons:  either he was too poor to afford anything else or he was so new to our country he didn’t know the difference culturally.  And it is in that moment I remember feeling compassion for the first time.  That is the first time I remember really seeing the poor.

It was 1980 and thousands of refugees from Vietnam and Cambodia were landing in Huntington Beach, CA, our city.  That split second encounter, under the laser green eyes of Mrs. Zebock, set me on a path to understand the plight of immigrants that I have continued on to this day.  Of course, I didn’t understand the significance that day in kindergarten, but I remember the moment clearly and see how the Lord was leading me even then.

By second grade it was established who the “bad kids” were. In our class it was James and Jason.  They had to sit way in the back in their own section of the classroom, away from the rest of us.   My heart did not beat quite so compassionately for these two boys but I remember being confused.  The teacher often told me I talked too much and corrected me, but I was never sent away or isolated.  This seemed unfair to me.  I couldn’t figure out what those boys had done that was worse than me.  So I asked to be moved to the back with them.  I didn’t become friends with James or Jason.  We rarely talked but I sat in the back with them in some sort of eight year old statement of solidarity.  At the time, being friends with them was just too socially risky but I could see them.  I could see that isolation wasn’t solving anything.  I could see that we were treated differently.

Before I felt compassion, before I decided to follow Jesus, before I chose to act justly, my mother prayed that I would see and the Lord continues to answer her prayers.  When was the first time you really saw the lonely or marginalized?

Crissy Brooks MIKA CDC, Costa Mesa, CA

MIKA CDC
Kingdom Causes

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