Give Till You Need Jesus!

Terri Larson – Kingdom Causes

By Tommy Nixon – Solidarity

“Give till you need Jesus!” I got the honor to MC the annual banquet for Urban Youth Workers Institute (a group of people that I deeply believe in and journey with, check it out At the end of the night the stories were told and the ask was given. As I wrapped up the night I encouraged the crowd to give till they needed Jesus and people laughed. Now granted every so often I get some good jokes in but I really wasn’t kidding. As someone who runs a non-profit that is all about getting people deep with Jesus we also have to raise funds. Yet my biggest concern for our donors and partners is not that they give to Solidarity or how much they give in dollar amounts but rather that they give in such a way that they are forced to go deeper with Jesus.

So we find ourselves in a place that most churches do. We need money to run so we provide a service (literally, many churches provide a church service, some even with Starbucks inside) and in turn give the clients something worth the money they give. That my friends is what is called transactional giving (thank you Matt Bates and Mission Increase instead of transformational giving. If the Church is all about discipleship then shouldn’t giving be about getting closer to Jesus through the art of dying to oneself and clinging to the true vine? John 15. We say that but then build our churches around the idea of a service or Christian oasis that non-believers will flock to and believers will feel comfortable in stadium seating. So what we offer believers is a place to join in with what Jesus is doing in the world and then help them articulate that journey. That’s a tough sell! It would be easier to just tell people we work with gang members and show pictures of how messed up our neighborhoods are to get that money, then we would be selling clear consciences and charity.

As you read you might think, “Here goes another believer being critical of the Church.” Please understand I am not angry at the Church, I am fueled by my experience with Christ to see my brothers and sisters experience the same and more. I wake up everyday believing that when the Church is healthy it is unstoppable and holistic transformation occurs. I deeply love the Church.

I know through the scriptures and experience in the Kingdom that depth with Christ does not come without great sacrifice. It does not come from giving 10%, showing up on Sundays, two week mission trips or cleaning out your garage to give to the poor. It comes from letting go, giving up and intentionally making life choices that will cause you to have to run back to Jesus to survive.

The last year and a half have been the toughest for us at Solidarity. Yet, it has been the most spiritually rewarding. We feel like we have gotten to places in our relationship with Christ that we have never experienced before. It would never have come without the pain and the struggle. It wouldn’t have come if we received pay checks on time or had excess beyond our bills. It wouldn’t have come if we didn’t choose to carry the burden of our friends and neighbors. It wouldn’t have come without deliberately placing ourselves in situations where we do not have control and are forced to run to God.

Yet a majority of the Church doesn’t really believe that. If it did I think the world would look a lot different. I think the majority of the Church believes that giving everything up for Jesus is for missionaries and other professional Christians. The tragedy is not that we don’t have enough help to do what we have been given to do, the tragedy is that many believers do not get to experience depth with Christ, which is truly a magnificent thing, yet found in dying to oneself. We are not all called to the same context, but we are all called and invited into the same way of being, values and teachings that we live by that are not bound by culture, race, context or country.

Give till you need Jesus. Give your time, talent and treasure, give until you lose yourself and find your true identity in the One that made you.

The trick is that pesky faith thing, we have to believe that on the other side of the pain and struggle, the giving away, the dying that we will experience what we were created and intended for, a deep loving relationship with our creator. Its real, its worth it, I can’t go back living any other way. Give till you need Jesus.

Tokers Town

I am sitting at my desk in church that was built in the 1950’s of cinderblock, located in the Maple neighborhood, or what is better known as Fullerton Tokers Town.  Behind me is Fernando Garcia working hard on asset mapping the neighborhood.  Fernando is our newest staff member through the Americorp program.  A block from here my wife is unpacking boxes while our children play in the front yard of our new home.

When I tell people who are familiar with this area that we moved to Tokers Town and we live on the corner of Truslow and Lawrence, we often receive a perplexed facial gesture that communicates the basic question of, “Why?”  Yesterday my wife was playing with our girls at the pocket park caddy corner to our new home.  She bumped into some teen moms that she met earlier and said hello.  Accompanying them were a number of younger gang members followed by another teen mom who was pushing her child in a stroller with one hand, clasping a bottle of liquor in the other.  Welcome to Tokers Town.

In three weeks time God has called us out of the Garnet neighborhood, found us home in a perfect spot in the Maple neighborhood, found renters for our condo and provided the funds needed to move.  Rachael and I are very excited to be in this new neighborhood and we are looking forward to being a part of what God has been doing and will do in the Maple neighborhood.

It’s like starting all over again but this time God has brought some amazing partners our way.  Lifeline Ministries, run by Pastor Joe Olvera, is the connection to the neighborhood.  As a lifelong resident Pastor Joe knows everyone and is our gateway to this community.  Also joining us is Newsong North Orange County, the church body that I teach at every so often on Sundays.  Together we occupy the Lifeline building (the abandoned church I currently sit at in TokersTown).  In addition one of my best friends, Steve Carter, who is now the campus pastor for Rock Harbor Fullerton that meets blocks from our neighborhood.  These partners along with Solidarity’s long time church partners are part of something big that God is doing in Fullerton.

Come and join in this movement and play your part in this transformation.

By Tommy Nixon, Executive Director

The Perfect Organization

This week I will be having a meeting with five lead pastors from some of our church partners.  We will sit down and discuss an amazing opportunity that God has presented to us.

If you have followed California news recently, you know that the education system took a large budget cut, forcing many school districts (including Fullerton) to cut their summer school programs.  In the neighborhoods that we work and reside in, what happens to students when they do not have anything positive to do?  What happens when the economy crashes and people cannot work?  Most likely, crime goes up, kids join gangs and decisions are made that affect the rest of a person’s life.

Many times as the Executive Director, I sit down and try to come up with solutions to complex social issues that we face with our friends and neighbors.  Recently I began making a list of the “perfect organization” as a way of improving Solidarity.  With no boundaries, I started writing questions.  What if there was an organization that had enough money and volunteers to mentor all the at-risk youth of Fullerton?  What if there was an organization that had volunteers who would give their lives to the cause of that organization, work harder, work longer and for free?  What if there was an organization that had the volunteers and resources to end homelessness?  To adopt every orphan?  Or to replace entire welfare systems?

As I continued with this line of questioning it hit me- there is an organization that could do all that.  It just doesn’t fully do what it says it believes.  That organization is the Church.

Solidarity empowers believers to be dynamic followers of Christ whose lifestyles marked by love will impact communities towards holistic transformation.  If you haven’t picked up on it yet, we are all about the Church and helping it do what it says it believes.  We do that first and foremost by trying to live out Christ’s teachings ourselves and then helping others with the process we ourselves have gone through.  We believe you can’t go deep with Jesus unless you participate in His Kingdom.  We give believers a context to join in the Kingdom and help them articulate what God is doing in and through them.

The reason I am so excited for this meeting is because God has provided five additional bodies of believers that understand this concept well.  So when I am sitting in a meeting with city officials present and I hear that there will be thousands of students in need of something to replace summer school, it hits me that it is the perfect opportunity for the Church to rise up and live out its beliefs that will in turn benefit the city of Fullerton.

God is birthing this idea of the Church of the City, where the unique members of the body of Christ can come together surrounding the same mission.  We will be in three distinct neighborhoods this summer for seven weeks, creating contexts for relationships so that the Church may learn what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.

Join with us this summer as we fill the gap for the students of Fullerton, pray that the Church will answer the call in force and support the work God is doing through Solidarity by sending us the resources God has blessed you with. This is just the beginning. I can’t wait to see what God will do next.

By Tommy Nixon, Executive Director, Solidarity

Let’s Partner Traveling Conversation

We can serve without love, but it is impossible to love and not serve”, Tommy Nixon, Executive Director of Solidarity in Fullerton CA stated before a group of about 50 practitioners in Christian community ministry.  Those in attendance represented ministries in 12 different cities throughout So CA who were gathered as part of a continued dialogue that has been traveling from city to city inviting practitioners for an on-going journey of shared learning and best practices of community transformation.

Brad Fieldhouse, Executive Director of Kingdom Causes outlined three areas of community ministry where most people “come from” as: prayer, city-reaching, and community development.  Fullerton was the context for story-telling from each of these movements and participants discussed ways to integrate these streams and collaborate together more effectively.   One exciting outcome was an agreement of local churches in Fullerton to work together on summer programs for local children and youth in response to recent school district budget cuts!

Terri Larson

Dealing with the Darkness

It has been a turbulent 2009 so far. I have probably reached the lowest points in the last six months since I came to Solidarity. I have questioned my purpose, the effect I am having on neighborhood and even God Himself.

Towards the beginning of the year, the drama seemed to be unceasing when it came to L, V and D, three of my teenage friends from Garnet. D, 17, was embarking on her first months of pregnancy when she found out she had an STD. V, 15, was struggling to decide if she should marry her 19 year-old boyfriend and father of her baby in order to reduce his sentencing, since he was in jail for impregnating her, a minor. L, 16, was kicked out of her boyfriend’s house with no family who wanted to take her and her baby in. I have been “mentoring” these girls for 3.5 years. Why aren’t their lives perfect? Why does it seem that the more time I spend with them, the more darkness I see?

As I was contemplating these questions, God spoke words of comfort and blessing to me. He told me,  “Bethany, the darkness has always been there. The closer you get to these girls, the more darkness you will see.” I am not encountering more darkness because I am a bad mentor, but because my relationship with these girls is deepening. The more time I spend with them, the more they let me in, so the more I will see. With this realization came an intense feeling of freedom. I was reminded that I am not the Savior. My responsibility is to love them as best I can and God has to do the rest.

A funny thing happened when I let God carry my burden; He showed up, huge. L, for the first time, acknowledged the chaos of her life and the undeniable need for Jesus to be her Lord. D began texting me every Sunday asking if I would taker her to church. V recommitted her life to Christ and stepped up as leader in Solidarity’s Youth Church. These girls are not perfect and their lives are far from it as well, but there is movement away from the darkness. God is good.

Bethany Rowe, Solidarity Program Director

For more on Solidarity visit their website:

The Most Unlikely Totem Pole

Solidarity – Fullerton CA
Youth Church Winter Retreat 2009

For the past three years, teens that are a part of the Youth Church on Monday nights have had the opportunity to attend The Oaks winter retreat, including the one held a few weeks ago. The Oaks is a campground owned by World Impact and located north of Los Angeles.  Each winter they put on a special retreat for churches and ministries, providing an environment specifically designed for teens from local urban areas.  Activities include basketball, soccer, archery, rock climbing!, paintball, a high ropes course, and much more.  Every morning and evening the students attend a general session where they have the opportunity to learn about Christ and what it means to follow Him.

Last year, three of the teens that went decided that they wanted to be Christ followers!  Since that time they have been involved in a weekly discipleship group, and even had the chance to attend a special leadership training back at The Oaks last fall.  This year we were able to take a new group of teens and grow in deeper relationships with them as we were in awe of watching God move in their individual lives.  Please enjoy the following story highlighting the perspective of a staff member who attended and his relationship with one of our teens.

The Most Unlikely Totem Pole

Every year the teens end up doing something at The Oaks that they never have before. This year my friend Israel, a freshman in high school, got a chance to experience the knee-knocking fear of a high ropes course.

When we first approached Israel about the opportunity to join me in the ropes course he was all for it, but as we approached the platform, his excitement quickly turned to apprehension. Israel and I stared fifty feet up to a tiny wooden platform that the two of us had to climb up to. One look up at the monstrosity caused Israel to look me in the eye and say, “There is no way that I am going to do this.”

After a little prompting, our group of teen boys was able to convince Israel to step into his harness and helmet. Again, as he stood there in all of his climbing gear, Israel looked at me and without blinking mumbled, “Kev, I’m not feeling good.  I feel like I might lose my lunch.” From the expression on his face, he didn’t look like he was kidding.

I have to give credit to Israel- either his quiet determination was masked by his fear, or he simply succumbed to peer pressure and began to climb. The two of us stood fifteen feet in the air after making it to the first platform. Israel did what no one should do when they are afraid of heights… he looked down. Dread swept over Israel once again. He pleaded to go back down, but I convinced him to continue to climb.

With every new platform we reached came another question asking if we could go down, yet Israel climbed on. At one point we had to stop because Israel could not reach the next platform. I had to climb down and allow Israel to use my knee as a stepping ladder to reach the next plank. Thirty feet in the air, my knee wavered under Israel’s weight. He could reach the next plank, but needed to get higher in order to get his body on top of the platform. Suddenly, the ropes course manager yells, “Use him as a ladder, step on Kevin’s shoulders!!!!” With my feet planted on a suspended tire and both hands clinging to two pieces of rope that dangled in the wind, my body was coming off the structure in a 45 degree angle. Israel climbed on my shoulders and as he did, his weight dug into my collar bone. I half sat, half squatted, hanging on to those two ropes as if I were sitting on an imaginary toilet thirty feet in the air. We looked like the most unusual ethnic totem pole: a tiny Chinese base and a larger Mexican head.

Eventually Israel and I made it to the top. He was laughing as we stood at the very edge of the platform. Israel’s voice cracked, somewhat do to euphoria and partially to the adrenaline that was pumping through veins, as he asked if we could finally go down. I conceded and we repelled down the climbing structure. Israel was never so happy to be sitting on dirt in a sweat soaked shirt as he snickered about nearly crushing me. We climbed down the path and went to dinner where this story was told and retold; gaining momentum every time he told it. It is in moments such as these that really bond me to the kids in our neighborhood.

Kevin Mo-Wong, Solid Life Director

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Kevin’s Solidarity Update

Ruben and I go way back- about five years. He was the type of kid who would antagonize me on purpose so that I would chase him around the Garnet Community Center. This type of game tires pretty quickly, but even when I stopped chasing him I really enjoyed hanging out with the kid.

Ruben has a great mom, but a dad that is out of the picture. His older brother was in and out of gangs and eventually ran away to Vegas for a while. Ruben’s sister was diagnosed with lupus when she was 13, almost taking her life.

During Solidarity’s first years, Ruben and his sister were among the kids who would regularly attend our After School Program. He was eccentric, trouble-making kid whose diet mostly consisted of hot cheetos and coke (for about a year, this is all I saw him eat). Every time I’d run into him he would say, “Hey man…can you buy me a coke?” He spent some of his elementary years running around and causing trouble here at the Community Center.

After Solidarity decided to give more structure to the After School Program, I started to see less and less of Ruben. At the same time, he began to get in more and more trouble. His mom was doing all she could to keep him straight but sometimes it wasn’t enough. There were just too many negative influences. I was bummed to hear that Ruben was not doing well, and on top of that I missed the ornery kid.

Recently Matt, the Teen Center Director, has revamped the Teen Center. He restructured the hang out time, added a pool table, opened up Friday nights to be fun nights, and adopted a new rewards incentive plan. News spread throughout the community about the changes.

Enough of Ruben’s friends started coming to the Teen Center that he decided to come back. It was great to see this kid again. He’s still getting in a lot of trouble but at least he’s around.

I really feel like the more that he has a chance to be in Solidarity’s programs, and the more that his mom continues to pour into his life, the better chance Ruben has to succeed in life. It’s been about five years and Ruben is about to go to high school, but whenever he sees me he asks me for a coke.

Kevin Mo-Wong, Solidarity Staff Director

For more information on Solidarity visit their website:

Solidarity Director’s Update April 09

Every year after Easter I am disappointed that I didn’t really take the time to reflect and truly thank God for the event that we celebrate every spring. This year was different but not in the way I had hoped. I knew Easter was coming and my wife and I discussed ways that we could really celebrate it and start to make some traditions for our family. As I thought about what the week would look like I envisioned a lot of down time and a lot of time spent reflecting on Christ’s act.

Instead, we dealt with support issues, sexual abuse issues in our neighborhood, gang violence, and the anxiety of watching our precious friends and neighbors make life shattering choices. Even as I write this I am still heavy with grief over some of these situations. Not the Holy Week I had in mind. Then I realized that my week more accurately resembled pieces of Christ’s experience over the week leading to that glorious morning.

The last couple of weeks we have seen God do amazing things in our lives and the lives of our friends and neighbors. It has been amazing to see how God weaves relationships together that better glorify Him and work for His Kingdom. I see this time as the triumphal entry piece of Christ’s week. As Christ got closer to accomplishing His task things became ugly, the darkness started celebrating and the darkest parts of human kinds soul came out and the same Christ that they welcomed into Jerusalem was the same Christ that they had beaten, humiliate and crucify. That week was really a week of turmoil and a battle was raging that was unseen.

We are in that place. We are seeing a surge of darkness starting to push back. We are seeing the enemy becoming bolder. This has been a tough few weeks, and just as the first followers of Jesus were devastated because they watched Christ die, we too are devastated by the brokenness and hurt in our world. At times it is too much to bear. But that was Friday. Unlike the first disciples we know that Sunday came and Christ conquered.

Dearest brothers and sisters, what is needed now is commitment. Commitment to a way of living that acknowledges and confirms the hope we have in Christ. We deeply know what it is like to live in this economy, we don’t get paid a lot, we don’t have insurance and we live in community to survive. There are times when we want to quit because our relationships are too traumatic, but we can’t, we are committed to the hope that Jesus gave us on Sunday. We ask that you continue to join with us in this commitment to the Jesus way, whether you give, volunteer, or pray we ask that you push through these tough times to continue to support what God is doing in a lost and broken world.

Tommy Nixon, Executive Director, Solidarity

For more on Solidarity visit their website:

Solid House for Boys Update

As the boys are growing older (more than half are now in junior high), it has been both rewarding and challenging to watch their interests change along with their ages.  Issues like skateboarding, girls and parties frequent our conversations more than ever before, revealing their growing need for acceptance and to fit in.

Since the start of the school year, the boys have had the opportunity to participate in many activities in, and outside of, the neighborhood.  These have included building skate ramps, fishing at the Newport Beach Pier, and exhibiting culinary creativity by cooking meals with items exclusively from the 99¢ store.

Since the start of the Solid House, it has been the same six boys who have been involved.  There have been certain occasions in which other kids would join us, but never permanently.  Javier, a local junior higher that wasn’t an original Solid House boy, began coming around more often during our weekly meetings this summer.  I could not make myself tell him not to come; over time his presence just fit sort of naturally.  We began to serve up an extra plate of food and make extra room in the van when going on trips.  I guess you could say he has sort of joined the group.  There was no official introduction or talk with the other boys, but I found it impossible to turn away someone so obviously starving for attention and/or a different routine.

Please pray for Javier.  He is constantly forced to deal with issues that no thirteen-year-old kid should ever have to face.  Please pray for the other boys as well, as they approach some of the most awkward stages of their lives.

Matt Anderson, Solid House Boys Director/Teen Center Director

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Thanksgiving Block Party

For the past two years, the weekend before Thanksgiving has traditionally been the Garnet Initiative’s Thanksgiving Block Party, and this year was no exception.  The City of Fullerton blocked off Garnet Lane for a few hours and the entire neighborhood came out to enjoy a turkey dinner.  Nearly 20 turkeys were prepared beforehand by the neighbors themselves.  The stuffing, green beans and mashed potatoes were made the night before.  On the day of the event, everyone came out and shared the food they’d prepared.  The afternoon consisted of face painting, bounce houses, music and lots of food.  This year we celebrated with at least 700 people from the neighborhood and surrounding churches.
Even with all of the food, games and music, the most important aspect of the Thanksgiving Block Party has always been the neighborhood.  The best part of the event is the sense of community that comes from everyone being out and about on the street.  Everywhere you go, you run into a friend or a neighbor who is simply enjoying life because they are so stuffed, they cannot help but be happy.  This year’s Thanksgiving Block Party likewise encouraged a strong sense of community that is felt among the parents, the children and the volunteers.

Kevin Mo-Wong, Church Development Director/Volunteer Coordinator

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Praise for the Good

The last couple weeks at After School Program have been really challenging. The boys have been so frustrating, and it grinds on my nerves that they think it’s ok to ignore what I say. “Stop hitting,” I’ll say, and certain kids will look me in the eye and do it 5 more times.

I felt like that had been taking over my time at the program, just preparing myself to be frustrated and not listened to, and expecting certain kids to not give me any respect, which just leads to a frustrated feeling as the kids start walking in the door. Not a good attitude.

But at the same time, as I think about it, there have been blessings during the past few weeks too. I’m getting closer to my 1st/2nd graders, almost all of them can say my name now, and Giovanni looks for me whenever he has a question, asking in his raspy voice what color sharks are, and telling me about the State names he’s been learning in class. “Come,” he says, waving me over with his hand.

Marisol and a couple of the other girls started bringing flowers for Vanessa, Lisa, and me over the past couple of weeks, holding them up to our faces as they walk in the door.

These are all things that I can be thankful for. Yeah, maybe some of the kids don’t like it when I ask them to stop running, but friendships and trust are being built with the girls, and hearing about a Solid House for girls in the works is so exciting. Soon these girls will be able to form some trust with each other.

It’s amazing how easily we complain about the bad instead of praise for the good.

Laurel Robertson

For more information on Solidarity visit their website:


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