BAyUP ended on August 1, 2011 at around 2:30pm, and we have or soon will return to friends and family at our respective homes across the country. In Oakland, we experienced more than any of us could have imagined. From teaching the children of OBUGS about plant parts to taking many of them on their first camping trip to building relationships with the men of City Team to receiving all that God had for us, these past 5 weeks were abounding with new experiences.
My experience this summer was starkly different from the comforts that I have at home. Since leaving, I have bought $7.34 of McDonalds food, $11.85 of Maxx Value groceries, $32.17 of Nintendo DS games, $43.38 of Wal-Mart groceries, $52.07 of gas, spent 3 hours on the internet, and 13 hours watching tv and movies. This wasn’t much when I was in each individual store, but upon looking at the summer, I spent no more than $30 in 6 weeks. We never used the internet for ourselves, and I didn’t see a single tv show or watch any movies for personal enjoyment. Credit cards are dangerous, but a remote control or a mouse can be even more dangerous. They prevent us from taking risks and meeting those that god has for us every day. Some call it divine appointment and because of all the time that I have spent fulfilling my own will, how many meetings with God have I missed?
I wonder what does a transformed Christian life look like? At BAyUP, we all committed ourselves to living out the gospel of loving others. Love took on many different forms, and I also learned so many ways that God does love us and how I need to grow in loving others. For me love looked like having patience and teaching children. I took numerous days at work to get to know the children at OBUGS and for them to get to know me, Nathan, Sarah, and Seisha. At first we were just going to work and counting down till it ended. During those weeks we developed relationships and God even convicted us to look at the children with his eyes, and patience flowed. Not every day was great, but each day and week was easier. During the last couple of weeks some children ran into garden, impatient for OBUGS to start. We all sought to help them in any way that we could. Then for my team love was knowing that the guys at City Team never get steak and cooking some delicious carne asada. Mike, Chris, Rob, and Age headed building relationships with the men of City Team. So much good happened as a result of the relationships, but then in the last weeks of July turned out to be really hard. Many guys that we had grown close to ended up leaving the recovery program, all abruptly with few goodbyes. God grew us in the discipline prayer as we prayed for Charles, Steve, Ron, and the others nearly every day. When the day came for us to leave there were so many realizations. Some were struck at how close they felt to the guys, others realized that they actually knew drug dealers, felons, and alcoholics. I saw that God grew our group in compassion for these men and helped us to see them more like God does. As an entire BAyUP group love became growing in having God’s heart for immigrants, homeless, and his children in the midst of struggles. We all lived with many different people in Oakland and subsequently the relationships that we have formed won’t be forgotten. The things that we learned from them will carry on to influence the decisions that we make for our careers, financial choices, where we live, who we and label as unsafe. Ultimately, the experiences of this summer have changed and will shape our faith in God as Creator, as Provider, and as Peace Maker.
As we go on living our lives, God has given us something to remember. God gave us people to remember, policies to remember, clarity on the meaning and implication of social justice aspects of the Word. With every decision I make, I want to think about how will this bring about God’s Shalom for this world? How will this affect young lives behind bars, my fellow black, white, latino, asian, and native brothers and sisters, children lacking equal education opportunities, friends living on $2.00 a day, the US’s cheap labor forces, sexually trafficked women, men, and children, and the environment. Will I choose into how God wants us to live or a materialistic culture that worships convenience and allows wall to wall markets to destroy local economies? Will I care to have less spending money or allow living animals like me to be cooped into cities of tens of thousands over an area of only a few hundred square feet? My eyes have been opened, and my stony heart has been made back into flesh. I have skills to balance a budget and wisdom to discern right from wrong, but will I be able to overcome my earthly desires? If you see me or any of the other BAyUP people choosing into comfort, convenience, or mainstream culture, please challenge us. Because we truly desire to walk the narrow path, and want to remember what God has done for us in the desert so that we can celebrate a new Earth where all wrongs are righted. Where the only ghettos that exist are the ghettos in hell, and we are all celebrated and loved in God’s Kingdom.
From the bottom of my heart and the hearts of all the Stanford BAyUP interns, we love you all and appreciate your support, prayers, and curiosity as we journeyed through the desert and spent time investing in seeking shalom for the city of Oakland.
P.S. Here are a few of my favorite sayings from this summer:
– We are creatures, created by the Creator, and we need to rest
– NAFTA is the worst
– Love the alien in your land
– Our immigration system is broken and breaks families apart
– Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can
– Spend justly, give generously
– Sleeping outside is hard
– We must let the poor glean from our fields and give them what is rightfully theirs
– Think of the origins of your meal. How are the creatures involved treated?