Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Closing Thoughts, New Questions, Extra Pics

Posted: August 10, 2011 by stanford bayup team in Awesomeness, Uncategorized

With a week of separation, Bayup already feels like a world away. Oakland, Cityteam, OBUGS, living in the inner-city, befriending ex-cons and recovering addicts, it all feels like a distant memory too intense to feel completely real. To be completely honest, coming back from Bayup has been an amazingly difficult transition. How do we continue process this experience?

Although our spiritual lives, our values, our paradigms, and our entire worlds were completely rocked, we’ve come back and realized that the rest of the world just continued on without us. Not much has changed…except us. God was clearly at work. In our hearts and in the lives of the people we worked with this summer. What do we do with that? We are now faced with the questions regarding how we respond to all that God showed us this summer. How do we live as completely different people in an area that worships wealth? At a school that is driven by the need to succeed? How do we share what we saw and experienced? How do you communicate to others how significant this experience was? As is true for most quality learning experiences we were provided with more questions than answers.

At the very least, we want to make sure to hold onto this experience for ourselves. We want to continue to pursue God’s heart for justice; continue to learn about the issues and advocate for the exploited and oppressed. We want to grow in our love and compassion; see the unseen and love the “unlovable.” We want our prayer lives to be radically different. We have seen the power of prayer and we want to remain committed to intercessory prayer on behalf of others. We want to be disciples in every aspect of our lives, including our money (His money). We want to live more simply. We want to give generously. We want to think about our careers and vocation in a different light. What might be God calling us to? How might our career path fit into God’s heart for justice? We want to hold onto these things and much, much more.

Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and you silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. – Deut. 8:11-14  

We are convicted to hold onto the things that God taught us this summer. The temptation is to come back, to a place of wealth and an abundance of resources (home, Palo Alto, Stanford campus, etc.) and forget all that God has done. We do not want to become proud and forget what the Lord has done in us and around us. We do not want to forget the things he taught us and the commands he gave us. We do not want to forget.

To all of you: Thank you for your prayers and support. I hope you enjoyed reading our blog and could tell how significant this experience was for all of us. You guys were all such a great blessing to us.

To all of you who supported us financially: We couldn’t have done it without you. In whatever amount you gave, it was a worthy and eternal investment in our lives. We thank God for your generosity and were praying that God was also blessing you through this partnership. If any of you would like information on how you can continue to support the ministry of Intervarsity at Stanford, please contact Adrian at God is at work throughout the year and we would love for you to continue to partner with us.

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Back Home: Some BAYUP Reflections

Posted: August 4, 2011 by stanford bayup team in Uncategorized

By A’Lester

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.

For many of the OBUGS kids, this was their first time seeing the ocean.

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?

We are the only ones posing.

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.

With some of the CityTeam guys.

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?

Bayup Randomness

Posted: July 31, 2011 by stanford bayup team in Uncategorized

Not everything at BAYUP has been super intense. We’ve had a lot of fun going to the lake, reading Hunger Games, playing Monopoly Deal, and doing Yoga. Enjoy some pictures.

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Saying Goodbye to OBUGS

Posted: July 28, 2011 by stanford bayup team in Uncategorized

By Nathan

Since the second week of BAyUP, I’ve been spending most of my work days helping with a program called Oakland Based Urban Gardens (OBUGS).  OBUGS is a children’s afterschool/summer program for kids in a poorer part of Oakland.  For the summer program, we began each day helping the kids prepare for themselves a healthy lunch using mostly ingredients from the garden on their school grounds.  After lunch we would teach the kids basic science about the environment, play educational games, and help the kids with various art and gardening activities.

The first week at OBUGS was no less than a struggle.  For my first experience ever with kids, they were disobedient, rude, and didn’t seem to care at all about the activities we had planned for them.  However, it was during this week that my mom’s cancer was healed, and God gave me a renewed energy to pursue his presence amongst these unruly kids.  As the weeks went on, the kids began to trust and respect us more, and I started to really enjoy spending time with them at camp!  As I got to know the kids better, I began to realize some of the struggles these kids face in their day to day lives.

One of the youngest girls, Halimah, was frequently getting upset during camp.  We began to realize that she was always coming to camp tired because she would stay up late at night watching TV while her mom, a single mother, worked.  Another girl, Shailyn, opened up to Sarah about her brother who was shot about a year ago.  It broke my heart to learn about these struggles in the kid’s lives in the context of our BAyUP programming, which looked at the huge disadvantages these kids have in education, and the ways that they’re being set up for either gang life or sexual exploitation in the future.  One day while taking the kids on a field trip, the same girl from above, Halimah, who is only six years old, asked me how we could be friends when I’m white and she’s black.  Even at her young age, she is already being corrupted into our broken world mindset that chooses to look at race first and ask questions later.

These problems in the OBUGS kid’s lives began to weigh down on me, until God reminded me that their struggles are not my burden to carry.  He reminded me that the best thing I can do is lift them up to Him, and pray that God provide what is needed for these kids to find Him in their lives.  OBUGS concluded last week with a camping trip to Bodega Bay, which was the first and potentially only time camping for most of the kids.  It was very saddening to say goodbye to the kids, but I was reassured with the fact that from now on I can carry these kids in my heart and remember to frequently lift their names up to the God who can intervene and save them from the most broken of situations.

The God Who Roars

Posted: July 22, 2011 by stanford bayup team in Uncategorized

By Rob Johnson

View from our balcony at CityTeam.

We are continuing to learn so much from BayUP.  This last Saturday, we spent the entire day together with the other BayUP teams studying the Biblical book of Amos.  The study included a mixture of classic Intervarsity inductive Bible study (better known as “Stay within the text!”), powerful commentary from local pastor Michael McBride, creative responses, and time spent contemplating how the themes of the text relate to the world of today.  For those of you unfamiliar with Amos, the book consists of a series of prophecies warning Israel and the surrounding nations to abandon their unjust ways or face God’s judgment on their wrongs.  In particular, Amos portrays God as deeply concerned with economic justice, calling out the nation of Israel for the ways their society systematically exploited the poor and the vulnerable.  The book opens with the image of God as a roaring lion, announcing His anger with the oppression He sees and His willingness to do something about it.

It seems odd to think that a text of social critique written for an agrarian society over 2700 years ago could be relevant to today.  But once the layers of images specific to the original context were peeled back, we discovered a striking resemblance between the issues confronted in Amos and those we’ve been learning about this summer.  If anything, the principle critique of a society in which the poor are oppressed and neglected while the wealthy live in ever-increasingly decadent leisure is more relevant to post-Industrial America than it was to ancient Israel.  God’s rejection of Israel’s worship stood out in particular, proclaiming that their songs of praise were like noise to Him unless they “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” in the words of the book’s most famous image.  (Amos 5:24)  Amos definitely challenged us to examine the ways in which we’re complicit in oppression and have been only worshipping God in ways that are convenient to us rather than seeking justice as He desires.  I know that we will continue to wrestle with these ideas long after BayUP ends.

Outside of Amos, our group has had to face some of the harder realities of the city’s brokenness recently.  Within the last week, four men have dropped out of the Cityteam recovery program.  While one is starting recovery over at Cityteam San Francisco, we don’t really know where the other three have gone.  We had made friends with these men, holding out a lot of hope that they would all make a full recovery, and so it’s been difficult to face the fact that that’s not happening this time around.  Meanwhile, during the program nights we’ve been engaging with the brokenness of the education system, the immigration system, and the sex industry in Oakland, all of which seem hopelessly twisted and complex.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking about the greatness and gravity of these problems, and tempting to just throw up one’s hands in despair.

But in the midst of such darkness, we still refuse to give up hope.  Our God is still the God of Amos, filled with compassion for the poor and oppressed.  Just as God roared like a lion at the injustices of ancient Israel, He is roaring at these daunting issues we face today, and just like back then He won’t relent until justice rolls down like a mighty flood.  Aslan* is on the loose in Oakland, restoring lives and transforming our broken society.  It’s not our responsibility to save the world, but merely to join God in His great work of redemption.  And when the brokenness of the world stretches out so far beyond our capacity to fix it, that’s the most reassuring thing I can think of.

“The LORD saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice.  He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede.  Then His own arm brought Him salvation, and His righteousness upheld Him.  He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head.  He put on garments of retribution for clothing, and wrapped Himself in zeal as a cloak.” (Isaiah 59:15b-17)

*The lion representing God in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia

God is breaking the power of addiction at CityTeam

Posted: July 17, 2011 by stanford bayup team in Uncategorized

By Mike

We have been at CityTeam Oakland for two weeks now. Just a recap—while we all live at CityTeam Oakland, Rob, Chris, Adrian and Mike work there. CityTeam is a multi-purpose facility. It primarily runs an all-male program helping drug and alcohol abusers to recover from their addictions. CityTeam also has a shelter for the homeless, a food distribution program, and a medical clinic that runs each Thursday serving anyone in need.

The day begins for the men at 5:45 in the morning, when they are required to have breakfast (if you think that’s early, the person that cooks breakfast has to be there at around 3:30am..). They then have a series of programming throughout the day, such as Bible study, work with the twelve-step program of addiction recovery, tutoring. On top of that, they need to complete their own chores around the house, whether it be cooking, helping at the shelter, or cleaning the house.

Chris and Mike working their culinary skills.

We have spent most of our time getting to know the guys—through meals, programming that we attend, and games that we challenge them to (monopoly, chess, spades…and yes, one day we will share the joys of Settlers of Catan). Making friends with these men has been a huge blessing. Most of them have experienced a lot of difficult times. I’ll tell the story of one of our good friends, Louis (not his real name). Louis is one of the friendliest guys that we’ve met at the program. He has been an amazing cooking teacher for us, giving us tasks that were appropriate for our different levels of ability and that he thought we would find to be enjoyable. Louis became involved in the cooking industry when he began cooking at restaurants when he was younger.  The restaurants he served at had a culture of drinking and drug use, and he fell into a cycle of making money followed by binge abuse for weeks at a time. He enrolled in several recovery programs but had relapses each time. Several months ago, he became a member of the CityTeam family. A couple weeks later, he had a relapse—he left CityTeam. In the rain. Six hours later in the rain, he began questioning what he was doing, turned back, and returned to CityTeam. Since then, he has been clean. God plays a huge role in his life. Throughout his difficult life, Louis has sought after the Lord. Louis shares his amazing talent in cooking at CityTeam out of his love for the Lord. Furthermore, the Lord has called him to serve beyond CityTeam. He plans to cook at a site similar to CityTeam after graduating from CityTeam’s 18-month program to serve the homeless and to share God’s love for the underserved.

Mike putting together the lasagna.

Louis and Adrian with the finished product.

We have been grateful for the time we have spent with the men in the program. They have been great brothers to us and have helped us to grow and connect with others different from ourselves. A lot of us have not experienced the pains that they have—we’re highly educated, we have not been battling vicious cycles of drug and alcohol addiction, we come from families that accept us—yet at the root, we are all filled with brokenness. The mere difference that we have had the better luck of the draw and started off in a better position in life (being born in a wealthier family or in a safer environment) has affected downstream many of our later actions, but it does not escape the fact that we are no less broken than anyone else in the program. We are just as in need of the Lord.

Loving God’s Children at OBUGS

Posted: July 12, 2011 by stanford bayup team in Uncategorized

By Sarah

Busyness is the hot topic these days. Like being busy. We’ve just finished Week 3 of BAYUP and Week 2 at our sites, and we’re all realizing that these six weeks are totally packed with tons to do and learn, leaving less time for processing everything we’ve seen and sharing with each other about it. But we still have been pretty good at making time for hanging out – Age and Sarah owned Chris and Rob at cribbage , we’re on chapter 22 of Hunger Games, and Mike, Nathan, and A’Lester have played way too much Monopoly with the guys in the CityTeam program. But we’ve also settled into a good routine of work. Sarah, Seisha, Nathan, and A’Lester work at Oakland Based Urban Gardens (OBUGS) from 11am to 5:30pm Tuesdays-Fridays. Our official title at OBUGS is “Volunteer Camp Counselor” and we help manage, teach, play with, and tease about 25 kids (6-11 years old) at St. Martin de Porres elementary school in West Oakland.

Hiking with the OBUGS kids at Tilden Park.

Each day, we make a (sometimes) delicious vegetarian meal with the kids and eat it together for lunch. These kids would much prefer Taco Bell or Burger King to the quinoa and kale salads we make, so there’s a rule called “Don’t yuck my yum.” This is to prevent them from saying something is “gross” or “the lentil soup is vomit” and make other kids not want to eat it either. Then we split the kids between a physical activity related (loosely) to science – Weed Assassin was a big hit and Plant Part Factory complete with rhyming chants was not – and then a science activity. This week, the theme was cycles, so the kids scooped out compost one day and looked through it with a magnifying glass. Then for the last hour they do art and gardening. The decoupage potpourri jars on Thursday were a hot mess, but it worked out okay. Then, each Friday OBUGS takes the kids on a cute red and white bus to a field trip. Last Friday was the Exploratorium in SF (super fun – Sarah and A’Lester struggled not to lose kids as they got distracted doing different activities themselves) and this Friday was a trip to Tilden Park up in the Berkeley hills for a hike, petting farm animals, and playing field games. Sarah beat up on some kids in soccer, and then one of her favorite six year olds, Halimah, fell asleep on her on the bus ride back. Another kid, Gabriel, who is crazy energetic when he is conscious, fell asleep with a half-chewed carrot stick hanging out of his mouth and the lead counselor, Elliot, took pictures of him.

Gabriel is dreaming of carrots.

But yeah, the overall experience with OBUGS has been great. We are having a pretty great time with these kids, who are all African American or Latino, and from families from a lower socioeconomic class in West Oakland. It’s a lot of work and pretty challenging to understand some of the behavioral problems sometimes, but we’re getting familiar with all the different personalities and learning how to see each kid with God’s eyes and love them where they are at.