Sunday, July 5, 2009

Wow-it has been too long

Dear friends,
It has been almost a quarter of year since I last wrote. I have no other excuse other than I am too me to have written. In my time here in Hollywood, I have learned to embrace others and lean on them for support. Whether housemates, city director, friends in the neighborhood, or friend in the bible study I attend, I have been turning to them more to process and seek understand of my life here in Hollywood. The last few months went by quickly. We have expereinced tragedy and joy in the last 3.5 months together. In the begining of May we did a service retreat. As part of that retreat, we met Lianana. Linana is living in a church in Simi Valley, claiming Sancturary, as she is in the US illegally. Her husband, and three children are all US citizens. This seems so wrong to me. We say we are a land of equal opportunity, that all men (women) are created equal and have inalienable rights, yet in the next we condemn those who flee to the US seeking sanctuary from either oppression, both economic and political. While I have grown up around the issue and even been educated about the issue, Lianana's story touched something in me. While on this retreat, one of the women in the neighborhood (C) was struck by a drunk driver and killed. We heard about it on Saturday night. Together we all hit shock and denial. It seemed surreal that she could be dead. She was like a second mom to us. She was one of the first women who opened her door to us and welcomed us in. After talking as a house and with the church C attended, we hosted a neighborhood memorial at the community house. We guess about 200 people came to honor C and her family. It was actually healing for me, to be able to greive with others and to hear the stories of how C impacted those around her. She has left behind 4 children and a husband. The situtation is more complicated as both C and her husband were here illegally, yet all four of their children are US citizens. At the moment they are working with the US immigration office seeking the best option for the family.
May and June had us celebrating 3 birthdays. Myself and two of my housemates are born within 2.5 weeks of each other. It was a time of sharing the gift of life and laughter. Kids in our neighborhood made us cards, and gave them to us with huge smiles on their faces. Personally, as we celebrated with my "DOOR family" this year, as our national director and DOOR guru were here for a board meeting made it all the more meaningful.
The garden is done!!! We have had our first round of strawberries and the second round will be done within the week. We have enjoyed zuchinni, eggplants, and herbs fresh from our garden. When we began in January, it seemed a daunting task, now it is worth the work. The kids in the neighborhood love to come and water the plants, help weed, and enjoy the fruits of their labor. It has provided amazing opportunities to really invest in the neighborhood, both with children and adults as many conversations have started because one of us is out in the garden working.
As I look forward to the next 5-6 weeks, I find myself asking where did the year go? I am excited for what lies next (still up in the air), but also sad as I prepare to say good-bye to my roommates, and see you later to the neighborhood. I know it is going in to more than capable hands, with Alex, Curtis, Kenna, and Will coming to Hollywood next year. As I prepare to say good-bye, I wrestle with how I do I honor what this year has meant for me. I have grown in ways I am still discovering, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Thank you seems inadquate for those who have opened up their lives to me this year. Who have allowed me to hear of their own pain, in hopes of finding healing of my own, who have supported me through great days and crappy days, who gave me space to grieve when a client and C passed within a week of one another. Who have been prayer warriors for me this year, giving me space to vent, and be honest not only with them, but with myself as well. Thank you to each of you as in someway you fit the above.

Monday, March 23, 2009

March Newsletter

Dear Friends,
I could explain the delay between letters as a result of the busyness of life, which would be true. I could say March came to quickly as a result of Feburary being a short month, made moreso as I travelled during Feburary, and again it would be true. But not the whole truth. While a small part of the above, really, I have been feeling alot of emotions deeply. The last week of Feburary, I had the privelege of travelling to Hanford and share a bit of Hollywood through conversations. It was really good to be home and have some time away from the city. I love the life and craziness of the city, but I love being able to be still. It was good to reconnect with some of you. Earlier in feburary a good friend was able to visit Hollywood and have a small glimpse of my life this year. It was good to be able to share my life with people.
The last two months have found me doing some level of counseling with clients at the agency I serve. From talking about relationships to crisis counseling, i have been challenged in how to best help clients. Topics have been both common and personal. The last few weeks, some of the topics have been personally challenging. I have had the privelege of walking with clients into sacred space. From clients who are rejected for who they are, to sitting with clients who find out family members are diagnosed with terminal illness. In these vulenerable moments, I am able to be the light of Christ in a space labeled "Non-religious" After one particularily hard situtation, I had a huge compliment from a client. He said, "I don't know what to think about Christianity. You actually care rather than judge me." He is realizing his own stereotypes of others, openning his world.
While I was home, I recieved hard news related to my agency. Due to the economy, My Friend's Place (MFP/my agency) would be closing on weekends, as well as letting 4 colleauges go. This is huge. MFP was of the few services open on weekends for youth to find a meal. I was able to say a proper good-bye to my four colleauges. Unlike most jobs, our job is all about relationship. In saying good-bye to colleauges, I feel like I am saying good-bye to family, uncertain of when I will see them again. I had not realized previously how connected I felt to MFP. I am grieving the loss. It has been challenging as I grieve yet serve in the midst of that grief.
On a different note, I am reminded of the blessing of a support system. My roommates heard the news from friends. Upon returning back to Hollywood, I was able to share and wrestle with the emotions I was experincing. I have amazing roommates who are willing to enter into the grief with me, but also be distractions. I have the space and emotional safety to be vulenerable. I have formed solid friendships that can support me in prayer as I struggle with balancing emotions and life.
I invite you to check out the MFP webpage ( If you feel lead please give. If you would like to know more please e-mail me. I am happy to share more of my experiences. Given my schedule, if you would like to talk on the phone, again please e-mail me to arrange a time.
Thank you for your support.
How can you be in prayer?
Finances for my own fundraising. I still need a signifcant amount. Please contact me if interested in how you can support me.
Finances for My Friends Place. Please also be in prayer for the staff and clients as we adjust to new schedules and finding new resources for clients
Community Garden: We need volunteers to continue progress. If local to LA and interested please contact me. Finances for plants, seeds, compost, other needs
House: discernment for future. Doors are open for all three of my housemates, but some of them need to begin to close for guidance. Please join me in prayer for each of them (Alison, Sara, Stephanie)
Thank you again

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Hello dear friends,
I apologize for the lack of blog of late. It has been a busy time. Alot of ministry both as part of my program and outside of it. As indicated in the letter home and previous post, I am staying in LA for longer than one year. I love the cultural diversity and the variety of languages I am surrounded by any given day. In recognizing that I will be here longer than a year, I am developing relationships outside of my immediate community. I am attending a young adult bible study/fellowship group that provides some of this, as well as investing in my co-workers at my agency.
There has been alot on my mind. Questions of balancing availability with need for self-care. I am asking alot about the way we do church. The church I attend in Hollywood has security. I am acclimated to it. Yet I wonder what message does it send to both the person attending for the first time and those whom live in the community. Orginially the church was open to all, and provided sanctuary for all who needed. Now it seems we are scared to let our church get dirty, that the church is there to serve our needs. I believe firmly that the church does not exist to meet our needs, but rather to point to the one who can meet all our needs. I love that on a daily basis, I am presented with opportunites to be Jesus with skin on. At my agency, I don't share the gospel directly. Instead I am blessed with the opportunity to truly hear where people are on their journey, encourage them to continue seeking the truth, and help them discern how their view of God shapes their life.
I am also able to serve and be served by the young adult group I attend. I have been blessed by one particular person from this group. She has been a vent and unafraid to push back and challenge me. In addition, one of the men from this group volunteers at the house where I both live and serve with my roommates in ministry.
Please be in prayer. We have began to formalize plans in starting a community garden. Pray for words with our local board, ways to more fully give ownership to the local community over this patch of land. Thanks

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jan. letter

Hello friends,
The last month has been one of an sense of self awareness. I have been able to step back and begin to see the possibility for change in the community I live within. One vision we have had is to start a community garden. To this end, we have been able to network with a large variety of people helping to bridge those who have resources to those who don't have resources. In relation to my agency, I am asking some bigger questions and seeking ways to better understand how the agency is ran. I am learning more and also challenging the agency to look at things from a different angle.
We are entering our fourth month and are begining to look to after this year. From this alot of questions are raised. In the midst of this, is an awareness that I am making a difference. From playing/teaching basketball to 6 year old boys, listening to neighbors whom have had a hard day and need to vent, to sitting down with youth and showing them their thoughts and opinions are valued. As I will be staying in the area for school next year, I am considering ways to be involved next year. Our first three months were simply meeting people and establishing new relationships, as no one was present to bridge the gap. We are now feeling comfortable both with one another and in the community. One of my personal goals is to reach out more than simply on our block. We are surrounded by aparment complexes and see numerous kids every day. My goal is to introduce myself to at least 5 new families a month and explain our program. My prayer is that by taking the initative some of the unknowns will be broken and we can begin to do more focused outreach not only to kids but to the whole family.
On a personal level, I am blessed to have multiple people who challenge me to grow and also just have fun with. I am currently working through a devotional related to healing from yucky things in our pasts. The area of focus is the attributes of God. I am gaining a deeper and fuller understanding of who God calls himself. The ideas are not new, but seeing them through the lens of loss and pain has been a new concept. I wrestle with some of the ideas as my intellect desires concrete answers, yet they are not readily available. Instead, I have the ability of wrestling and discerning my own answers, granted it doesn't always feel like a privelge. Please continue to pray for discernment for each of us regarding our plans for after this year. It is never far from our minds. Please continue to pray for peace and grace with one another as well. Thank you for your support.
In Christ

Monday, January 5, 2009


I am not sure what to write to share the experiences of the last couple weeks. It was a busy time with alot of events that all went well. While they were my focus at the moment, they are no longer. I am in a deeper reflective mode currently. Christmas brought a day of relaxation, following a morning of work. New Years Eve was spent with a small group of local friends. New Years Day, I ventured to Santa Monica and enjoyed a beautiful day at the beach. During this time, I had an amazing conversation with a good friend over the phone. Through conversation and follow-up e-mails, I have been challenged to continue to explore who I am made to be. One theme I took away was the need to be present to the moment. Often as a culture, we are focused on what needs to be done next. We fail to be fully present with the person immediately in front of us (whether physcially, phone, or e-mail). My personality is one that seeks order. I am learning to embrace the messy moments of life, when the schedule is thrown out the window. I need to not only be present with others, but with myself as well. I need to understand who I am and what makes me "tick". Whether that is hiking, running, playing video games, movies, building relationships, I need to know what my passions are. I am learning to explore new things and discover other parts of myself. I need to be aware of not only the needs of my community and my house, but of myself. There is great value in sharing our honest needs. Only when the needs are known can they be met, either by the self or by the community. This is a personal challenge of honestly sharing with my house, my needs both physcially and emotionally. After 3.5 months we are fairly comfortable with each other and are identifying LA as home. We have worked through all our little quirks and are able to go deeper. The challenge for each of us is to not settle for the easy answer, but to really step out and challenge one another. I am grateful there are already people in my life who do this for me including the friend who unknowingly inspired this post, but my housemates are alot closer and can push more readily. I can avoid e-mails and phone calls, but I can't avoid my housemates for an extended period. We have become our own little unique family unit with all of the blessing and challenges. This only increases our need to be present for and to each other. While we still have 8 months remaining, it seems like an extended period of time. Yet I know that time will pass more quickly than we can imagine now.
Please be in prayer for each of us: Alison, Stephanine, Sara, and myself. We are entering the hardest part of the year. Homesickness tends to kick in, the pleasantries are over and we are real with each other. We covet your prayers for patience with each other and our various sites, that we discuss issues in a healthy way and deal with problems as they arise, rather than allow them to build up. For the ability to share honestly with one another and to more fully embrace each person as they are.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. If you are planning a trip to LA area and would like to visit, I would love to share with you in person the work I am doing.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

some glimpses of my world

Stephanie and I at Halloween Community House

One of the neighborhood kids (Angel) and I at Thanksgiving Dinner

The team (clockwise): Matthew, Darcie (Matthew's wife), Myself, Alison, Stephanie, Sara

Pic to left: Movie night Cynthia, Immanuel, Sara, and Steph pictured

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Who are we?

Through various conversations over the last few weeks, I have found myself sharing my view of "church". The general population thinks of "church as a religious building. Scripture is clear that the church is more than a place. It is even more than a common worshiping body. The church is present when God's love is being shown. I see the body often selecting who it will serve. We exclude people for a number of reasons. Whether their skin color, economic status, mental health, clothing choices, or worshipping style, we decide they are not fit to be welcomed into our building. In short, we judge one another. This appals me. Christ calls us to welcome all in his name, regardless of our personal feelings about them. At the church I attend, we have campus security. I recognize there are some justifable reasons, but also wonder how does this look to a non-believer. I struggle with the idea that rather than being a haven, the body often seculdes itself and fails to step up to be the church. Often in walking to or from church, I see clients from the agency where I serve. Due to boundaries imposed by the agency, I am unable to invite them to join me. Even if I were able to invite them, would they be truly welcome? Or would they be directed toward the homeless ministry by default. This post is spurred as I shared earlier by conversations, but also my own experiences. Over the last few months, I have taken huge risks with people in my immediate circle and shared not only the joys, but the struggles in my life. Struggles both professionally and personally. With each of these people I have found unconditional acceptance and love. I wish those I work with everyday that have been hurt by the church would be able to experience the acceptance that I have. They would be able to see beyond the hypocracy that has filled their relationships with believers and realize we are all broken, seeking healing in love, from God and each other. That their need for relationship can be filled in healthy, life-giving ways.
I struggle to always exhibit this. Some of our clients personalities don't match mine. Sometimes I am having a bad day and negative attitude. Yet, my prayer is that overall my interactions would leave people knowing I care about them, simply because they are. Not for anything they have done, simply because they are.