Neighborhood Change: A Better Way

View this great video from one CFA member, and see what happens when neighbors,
“…call out each other’s gifts, and fill in for each other’s weaknesses.”

 

 

A Better Way from CFA Videos on Vimeo.

Kimi Zimmerman, Community enCompass

Kingdom Causes Updates

Terri Larson – Kingdom Causes

Check out some blog posts from our partners at Kingdom Causes:

Caring for the Bruised and the Broken…

Neighborhood Story

Crissy Brook’s Blog has new posts:

Catching Up – an update

Book Review – This is My Body: Ekklesia as God Intended

What Not to Wear..to Prison

Solidarity Newsletter:

Informational Newsletter – Issue 4, April 2011

 

Kingdom Causes CFA Updates

Terri Larson – Kingdom Causes

Check out some blog posts from our partners at Kingdom Causes from the past couple of months:

A Warehouse of Hope
Anchor Baby Revolution
Alhambra City Prayerwalk Reflection

Crissy Brooks:

Call Vignettes: A Series of Surrenders 5
Call Vignettes: A Series of Surrenders 6
Call Vignettes: A Series of Surrenders 7
A View from the Mesa
Catching Up – An Update

MIKA CDC:

Unidos en Baker
Virtue and Vice
Celebrating Hope
Play
Trash

ABCD Training Reflection

It can be widely agreed upon that each individual or community has needs. Each community lacks something. Whether it’s a local park for children to play in, better roads, or safety, it is not difficult for us to identify what is not right about a community. I was privileged to be introduced to Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) a couple of weeks ago in a training led by Terri Larson and Susan Sngiem. It was a great time of learning, fellowship, and listening to stories of the journeys God had brought each individual that was there. The message was simple, yet a complete shift of thinking. Instead of starting from a needs perspective, the goal was to start from what the community already had or was good at. This shift thus allows each person in the community to directly participate in their community in a way that promotes empowerment and a sense of ownership. As I carefully tilted my ears towards Terri and Susan as they spoke, there was only one thing I could think of. “But what about the needs!”

This phrase stuck with me the next couple of hours after the training. I knew there was nothing really wrong about focusing on the needs, but something led me to believe it wasn’t the best way. How do we really know what we need anyway? Perhaps an analogy to prayer can help us unpack this further. When I usually pray about a petition or request to God, I start with my needs. I ask God for things to help me with ministry, school, and finding parking (which God has answered many times by the way!). The ABCD training really challenged my way of thinking. Perhaps ABCD is so compelling because it teaches us to acknowledge what God has already blessed us or the community with. It tells us that God has already given so much and that there is “hidden treasure” waiting to be discovered by those who are willing to search. Having such a perspective may also allow us to realize that our preconceived needs were never really needs in the first place.

The potential for ABCD is tremendous. It provides an avenue for grant money to be used more effectively and directs us to see the good in our communities, to see God in our communities. I was truly blessed by the ABCD trainings. It has changed the way I think about what it means to be lacking and to search for God’s Kingdom wherever I go. If you ever feel like you can’t see the Kingdom of God in your community, you may only have to search next door to find it. Blessings.

 

Call Vignettes- A Series of Surrenders 4- A Call to Embrace

A friend of mine called the other day to ask what my theme for 2011 is.  For the last seven years or so I’ve operated with themes that keep me on course throughout a year.  It started a few years back in the Fall when the Lord was speaking to me about hope.  I embraced hope as a theme for that next year and each Fall since then the Lord seems to show me an area of my life to focus in on.  One year it was “Rejoice” and I was excited because I was looking forward to celebrating many things.  Instead, that year everything fell apart.

As I cried and watched things unravel the theme would come to mind- Rejoice.  Rejoicing despite disappointment and pain got me through that year.  Another year the Lord spoke to me about gratitude and not taking things for granted so I chose “Thanksgiving” as the theme.   Every day I would write something I was thankful for on a strip of paper and make it into a loop. I lived each day looking for reasons to give thanks.   By the end of the year I had a chain of gratitude looped all around my room and a grateful heart.  In the process of intentionally practicing hope, joy, gratitude and such, I have experienced my life more fully.

So when my friend called to ask about this year, it was as if he was waiting to hear what he should be looking for in 2011.  Luckily I was ready with an answer.  My theme for 2011 is “Embrace.”  I know it’s vague but it’s supposed to be big enough for the whole year.  Besides, I don’t make it up, it comes to me as I sit with the Lord and he gently exposes parts of me that He is refining.  It is fun, like a game almost or a challenge to see if I can listen and focus in enough to see the opportunities and ways he is teaching me to embrace others and their ideas and his timing and his ways.  I think of that Sunday School song- “His Banner Over Me is Love”.  It’s like this year his banner over me is “Embrace.”  And instead of beating me over the head with my stubbornness, he marches out with me under the banner of embrace, out on another adventure.

Really he could beat me over the head with my stubbornness.  I am not the most embracing of people.  I tend to have an idea of how I want things and if I’m honest, I like to have things my way.  But lately the Lord has been whispering, “embrace” to me as I listen to others’ ideas and when I meet people that seem just a little off.  “Embrace” knocks around in my head when there is an opportunity for a new experience or new way of doing the same old thing.  In 2011 I am looking forward to embracing all that the Lord has for me.  I anticipate letting go of my own way and embracing the ways of others.  I look forward to a whole new cast of characters that enrich my life because I choose to embrace them this year.  And already I can see some realities of my life that I need to stop fighting against and embrace.  This year I plan to embrace my limited budget.  I will embrace my loved ones for who they truly are.  I can learn better to embrace my shape and my own feelings.   And perhaps in practicing embracing I will learn something of what it is to walk humbly with my God, freed up to embrace His leading.

What theme would you choose for 2011?  What will you choose to embrace this year?

Crissy Brooks MIKA CDC, Costa Mesa, CA

Mika CDC
Kingdom Causes

Shalom for Everyone

Greetings for the New Year 2011!

I’ve been reading Robert Linthicum’s book Building a People of Power. He does a great job at talking about the biblical concept of shalom as what a God vision for the whole world is to look like.

We talk a lot about shalom when we talk about Kingdom Causes to churches and people of faith. After all we use Jeremiah 29:7 a lot in our conversations: “Seek the welfare (shalom) of the city.” But what I didn’t think about is that shalom is for the “haves and have nots,” and Linthicum does a good job at showing these two are intertwined for shalom to be whole (and biblically speaking, the two themes are brought together in the book of Deuteronomy).

Shalom for the “have nots” is a message of liberation, salvation, of setting free. Shalom for the “haves” is of celebration for security and of wise management of all God has given. As Linthicum says,

The biblical message on shalom is that it is for both the haves and have nots. It is both for those who lack power and are in need of liberation and for those who hold power and seek to appropriately manage the resources God has placed at their disposal…One of the essential tasks of the church is to bring together through Christ those searching for liberation or salvation and those who are the managers of society and seek security, so that they might work together to build shalom that is truly just and equitable for all, that brings people in to an ever-deepening relationship with God and each other, and consequently contributes to the formation of society as God intended it to be lived.

Couldn’t have said it better myself! Here’s to seeking shalom and bridges between the haves and have nots in Alhambra & Monterey Park for the New Year!

Jesse Chang

Kingdom Causes Alhambra/Monterey Park, CA

Kingdom Causes – 2010 Reflections

Below is the text from the end of the year newsletter I sent to many others. Thanks for all the support this year!

It’s hard to believe the end of 2010 is coming soon. During this Advent season, I look back at the last year and have seen God’s provision and generosity through your support, prayers, and participation in our events and programs, even as I transitioned into full-time as the catalyst in June.

One word I can use to describe this past year is “favor.” We received a generous capacity grant this year that provided computer equipment, marketing material for our Believe mentoring program, and an urban gardening handbook for our Neighborhood Gardens program. This grant also included wonderful leadership coaching in handling finances, strategic planning, online marketing, and fund development, perfect for someone starting out full time! We also renewed our contract with the County of Public Health to continue giving workshops on having safe and healthy home environments for families.

This favor also extended into some of our initiatives. Our Monterey Park Ministerial Association has completed another year of finding ways we can reach out to our community together. On Good Friday, over 100 people prayerwalked to pray for peace in our city and community. In the summer, a number of churches coordinated their VBS program schedule so they could provide families with 6 weeks of VBS for the community. And our annual Community Thanksgiving Service also provided a candle prayerwalk to City Hall as we put into practice our role as “salt and light” in our communities.

We also facilitated several neighborhood BBQs this year, as a way for us to practically reach out to our literal neighbors. Without fail each time, neighbors say, “we should do this more often!” Even in Los Angeles, people realize they want to know and trust their neighbors even though the default is to live in isolation.

Next year, we are going to capitalize on this year’s favor to use the urban gardening handbook to help our low-income neighbors using local food banks to grow their own food. We hope to expand our mentoring program with Alhambra School district to be more robust and hire someone part-time to lead that development. We are also growing a new Alhambra Ministerial Association of pastors and ministers who will work together on ways to bless the city (we are planning a join prayerwalk at the beginning of Lent next year).

Thanks for all your support this year, and may you have a blessed 2011!

Jesse Chang, Catalyst

Kingdom Causes

Kids Art Exhibit

For the past 7 weeks, 20 neighborhood kids have been coming through our community center doors working on fabulous art projects! They have been learning all about different art mediums including painting, drawing, photography, oil pastels, 3D building, collaging, and more! The cool thing about this Art class session is that all the art work is about Community! We have been learning all about Community and the different aspects of our city while creating Art!

Here our some pictures we snapped at the Kids Art Exhibit! It was so great to see how exited all the kids were to show off their art work to their families and everyone who stopped by!

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Christy Padilla, Associate Catalyst, Kingdom Causes Bellflower

Kingdom Causes

The Nativity Story and Vampires?

Over the last 13 weeks our students at Step Up (Mika’s afterschool program) have been learning to “listen with their hearts” during our devotion time.  We have spent time teaching them some ancient Christian practices such as Lectio Divina, contemplative prayer and the Examen.  The younger ones are not so great at being quiet or still – major components in these traditions, but they’re practicing…

During the last four weeks we have been preparing our hearts for Christmas and doing a series for Advent.  We have been on an imaginary journey to Bethlehem to see the Messiah.  At first we did not know the way and encountered different people to help us reach our destination.  The first week we met the Prophets and the second week Mary and Joseph reminded us to “not be afraid”.  Week three we met the Shepherds who shared their great joy of the Good News of the birth of Jesus and week four the Wise Men told of the precious gifts they brought to the newborn King.

As part of our Lectio Divina practice, the students listen to the scripture and then sit in silence to see what they hear with their hearts.  What word stands out?  What phrase?  What image do they get?  When they slowly open their eyes, they are encouraged to share with the others.  It is unbelievable to hear what they come up with at each session.  The Holy Spirit impresses amazing truths to these tiny, innocent hearts.  They are unedited and open and excited to share what they hear from God.

I gave the lesson at both of our sites on Thursday and during my time with the kindergarten, first and second graders at the Hope Center I had asked the question I always ask when they open their eyes.  “What did you hear with your heart?”  Carlos raised his hand to share.  “Frankenstein.”  I tilted my head a little and repeated it – just to be sure.  “Frankenstein?”  He nodded.  “Yes.  Frankenstein.”  Hmmmm???  I had heard some odd things over these last thirteen weeks but not close to this.  I looked down at the scripture I had read, hoping for a clue.  Ahhhh – there it was.  “…gold, frankincense and myrrh…” – got it!  I explained what it was (without laughing)…after all, he had heard it with his heart!

An hour later I did the same lesson at the Maple Learning Center.  This time when I asked the question, “What did you hear with your heart?” I received another surprise.  Eduardo raised his hand and said, “Vampire.”  What?  Vampire?  First Frankenstein and now vampire?  Once again, I scanned the scripture and their it was – “…a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire…”  I smiled and told the students a very basic version of the political, economic, military and cultural influence on a region (history, right?) and closed in prayer.

Later that night, I smiled when I thought about how Carlos and Eduardo had actively chosen to open up and hear from God while they listened to His word.  It was precious to see these young boys confident in what they heard with their hearts.  Ok, so they needed a little explanation.  Don’t we all?  I am grateful they are in a place where they feel safe enough to share and explore what they are practicing.  For all they knew, there were monsters and vampires in the story of Christmas!  I was happy to set it straight and clear up any blurry areas but it did get me thinking.  Where do I need clarification in my study of God’s word?  Who can I go to get the right explanation?  Can I be open like Carlos and Eduardo and just be honest with where I’m at right now or do I pretend I know more than I do?  Over this Christmas break, I’m going to spend some time being quiet and listening to my own heart and hearing what it says.  Who knows?  Maybe it will be even better than “Frankenstein” or “vampire” in the Nativity Story.

by Caryn Kallal

Mika CDC
Kingdom Causes

Thanksgiving on Baker St.

Thanksgiving is a time to share, celebrate and to give thanks for what we have. This has been my favorite holiday since I came to the States ten years ago. This time of the year people gather together and express their gratitude for whatever they have received during the last 365 days they have been in this earth, but especially for being here in this great country of ours.

As I said, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday but the love for this day has increased even more since I started working at Baker St. with MIKA. The reason why is because we at Baker, have started a new tradition of getting together two nights before the holiday, although last year was kind of informal, this year it was better organized.

People stepped up this year by bringing ALL the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner components, we even had three turkeys and there were so much food and best of all, so many people that it just turned out to be a great celebration.

I am so glad that we had the opportunity to celebrate this holiday with our regular neighbors, but this time we had two representatives from the CM Police Department, also Mike from the Halecrest/Hall of Fame community, MIKA staff members and other members of the Baker community that usually don’t attend our meetings. All in all, we had over 50 people in attendance.  I think that the celebration served its purpose of bringing people together and have a good time but most of all, have a time to give thanks.

by Walter Garcia

MIKA CDC, Costa Mesa
Kingdom Causes

Call Vignettes- A Series of Surrenders 3- “The Crash”

My mom talks of the crash in terms of a year, not a week. She talks about our household being off for a year, my dad distant, stressed and hurting after losing his friend; my mom trying to navigate their upturned relationship and maintain a household. There was much happening around me that I was insulated from by my own self-centeredness and ego.

The morning of the crash I crawled into bed next to mom. Dad was already up and out of the house. Mom rolled over and said, “It’s going to be a hard day for the Ketchum’s.”  It seemed like a strange thing to say first thing in the morning. The Ketchum family definitely wasn’t what was on my mind. Then she told me- the police helicopter had crashed in the middle of the night and my dad’s flying partner and friend, Dave Ketchum, had been killed along with two other men.

I was twelve years old and Penny Ketchum, Dave’s daughter, was my friend. I didn’t know what to do so like any preteen, I called my friends. After school a bunch of us went over to Penny’s house. She was sitting on the bumper of a car in front of her house. As we walked up she said, “Did you hear my dad is dead?” It seemed like such an obvious thing to say. Of course we heard, that’s why we’re here. But what else do you say when you’re twelve and your world just fell apart?

For the next week I vacillated between the two awkward preteen extremes of completely smothering my friend to staying away out of a total lack of knowing what to do or say. In my self centered mind the whole week played out like a big party. Mom and Dad were completely disconnected and unavailable for us kids.  They didn’t check our homework or make us dinner. We were at the Ketchum’s every night after school. All the kids rode bikes in the cul de sac as people came and went from the house. The adults sat around and ate and drank. They drank a lot. And they cleaned. The women buzzed around the house always cleaning, keeping themselves busy while Mrs. Ketchum sat on the couch.

I remember a couple sobering moments when I would be snapped out of my party mentality and be forced to remember why we were gathered. The second night we were over at the Ketchum’s, a few of us kids were in the front yard with Penny. She had broken down and was crying, and began asking all kinds of ‘why’ questions. “Why did that man have to steal a car?” “Why did it have to be my dad working?” Then she looked straight at me, “My dad tried to trade shifts with your dad. It should’ve been your dad! Why wouldn’t your dad trade shifts?” I was stunned. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know if it was true or not. But I figured it was a legitimate question for anyone feeling that much pain.

The evening of the funeral we were all gathered back at the house. TVs were on in the bedrooms with a constant parade of news coverage of the police funeral. We kids were sprawled on the bed and playing on the floor. One kid was playing a hand rhythm game against the wall, slapping the floor with her hands every few seconds in a constant rhythm. It seemed as if everyone was talking at once but no one was speaking to each other. All of a sudden Hilary, Penny’s sister, screamed at us, “You are all playing and acting like nothing happened. My dad is dead.”

The room was silent.  No one said a word. I felt ashamed and yet so estranged from her pain. I went to find my own dad in the swarm of adults. I found him sitting with Penny’s grandmother quietly listening to her despite his own grief. In the middle of the noise and chaos and pain, he sat peacefully, his presence comforting a grieving mother. It was then that I saw the difference between saying I believed in Jesus and choosing to live like Him.

In the midst of all the pain around me I saw something of the Kingdom of God. I recognized the difference between my parents and the other adults around them. This was the first time I saw my parents interact with non Christians over an extended period and there was a marked difference. Everyone was dumbfounded. No one knew what to do. The cops drank. Their wives huddled in corners whispering, so glad it wasn’t them, pitying the Ketchum’s. The news media buzzed around the periphery. But my parents and the other believers among us knew how to rally. They kept their heads. They sat on the couch with Mrs. Ketchum and sent her to nap when things were overwhelming. They had words of encouragement.  They were beacons of hope in a sad, sad place.

In the brief moments when I stopped thinking of myself, I recognized that we were different because we were Christians. We had a hope for the future and we had a trust in God that others could not muster up on their own. And in the year of the crash, I decided how I wanted to live my life.  I would live as a Christian, not because my parents did, not because that’s how I was raised, but because I wanted to stand out as a light in dismal situations. I wanted my heart to carry the hope I saw my parents leading with. In the year of the crash, I saw the difference I had heard about my whole life.

Crissy Brooks MIKA CDC, Costa Mesa, CA

Mika CDC
Kingdom Causes

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

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

My Neighbor Is My Youth Group

I started teaching ESL and being the “youth worker” at Upward Bound Study Center in Monterey Park this week (a program reaching out to low immigrant Chinese high school youth), had a discussion with a local church about their desire to restart their youth group with an emphasis on reaching community kids, and had my recently graduated mentee from our Believe mentoring program randomly stop by Friday night with his friends to chill out while they were running (to exercise).

All my previous times with youth was in a church culture with church kids (I was reminded of this Saturday when I saw my old church’s youth go off to their annual camp retreat). But now I’m in a completely different situation where most of these kids aren’t believers. And I’m loving this opportunity because I feel like this is the missional edge we are called to as the Church.

I’ve often said that youth pastors in our cities should view these neighborhood kids as their youth group, instead of just those who go to their church programs. It’s a practical way of working out that old idea that the neighborhood your church is in is your parish. A parish mentality begins with the belief that all those located around your church meeting place is of concern, whether or not they attend your church, whether or not they are believers. But typically, a youth worker is hired to take care of the kids who come to church first and then maybe try and attract more kids to go to their group (like the picture implies).

This attractional model of youth ministry (“build something great and they will come”) won’t die out anytime soon. And I know firsthand that most churches won’t sign on to a completely “missional” model if it doesn’t benefit the church kids and the youth group program. I also know that many church kids are nominal at best, and that we can’t assume they are all followers of Jesus. We all know the tensions and perils of youth ministry.

But if Jesus came to “seek and save the lost,” couldn’t we write in the job description of each youth pastor or worker something that reflects that same heart Jesus had for the lost? Volunteer at the Boys and Girls club? Mentor an at-risk student? Teach ESL to the low-income immigrant students at Mark Keppel? Let’s not leave outreach and mission to some summer trip or camp or think that it’s up to the kids in the youth group. Leadership has to…..well, lead the way!

by Jesse Chang, Kingdom Causes

http://kingdomcauses.org/204461.ihtml

Meet Good Soil’s New Employee

A job interview for Good Soil Industries is unique compared to most any other job. We cover the basics, but equally important is to hear their life story and the transformation that God has done in their lives. I repeatedly hear testimony of how a man experienced rock bottom and in their desperation called on God and He answered.

I asked a current employee to share his story of transformation with you. I hope his story inspires you to call on God to do something great in your life.

“My name is Jay Steele. I’m writing this to let you know the miraculous changes God has allowed me to make in my life!!
I once was a hardcore drug addict who went to prison because of my drug addiction. I cared about my drugs more than my life or anyone elses. I in a sense wasted the first 30 years of my life. My family wanted nothing to do with me, and society wanted to put me away.

I got blessed to meet Pastor Fred of I.C.M. He cared, never gave up on me and let me go to a summer camp for kids as a counselor. The experience changed my life for good. I knew of God and Jesus, but didn’t KNOW them. To know that people and God care about a homeless, convict, drug addict. To allow ME to do this, to be trusted, to show faith in me.

Now I’m happily married, go to church regularly, teach the Bible to at-risk youth and even have keys to the church. I’ve been sober for 2 years, live in an apartment, have a job with Good Soil and have been off parole for almost a year. God is the only reason my life has changed so much. And now I am very blessed to have a phone book full of friends and now my family that I can call.
God turned Saul to Paul, so what can he do with a homeless, convict, drug addict like me? Only God knows & time will tell.

God bless,
Jay Steele”

http://kingdomcauses.org/212234.ihtml

http://goodsoilindustries.wordpress.com/

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