A personal connection

April 7, 2010

So, it’s the beginning of my second year at UCLA. It’s the middle of training for my first year as an RA in Rieber. I am settling in to my single room with my furniture and shelves and everything. It’s my first night inside my own room. At Fall training, we train till late at night, and sometimes we wouldn’t sleep until 2am only to wake up at 7:30am.

It’s getting late, but then my phone starts to ring at 1am. I answer it and find that it’s my friend calling me and that she wants to come by and say “hi” (she’s around because she’s a Move-In-Assistant) and I think to myself, “Why the hell not, right? I could show her my new room!” So I bolt my door open and resume organizing stuff on my computer.

10 minutes later there’s a knock on my door. And when I open the door, I see my friend standing there, with no shoes on, swaying left to right a little, and smiling. I give her a hug. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist (or the north-campus equivalent) to determine that she might have had a little too much to drink.

I became concerned. I sat her down and made sure she’s okay. I ask her where her shoes are and how much she has had to drink.

But then I also wonder… what if I get in trouble? What if people knew that I had a drunken person inside my room?

Please understand, I was a new RA in my room for the first time and I was nervous.

So, instead of purely following protocol and calling an EMT to check on her or even being nice and just letting her knock out on my couch, I did a separate option that I thought, at the time, was perfectly okay:

She was pretty coherent: she knew where she was and who I was. She was able to say where she lives (the building right next door) and how to get there step by step. So I stood her up and told her she should try to go home. I told her that the moment she is back at her room, to call me and tell me so. And I walked her to the elevator.

And I waited for her call.

And I wait…

And she calls! She tells me she’s at her door, and that she’s keying open her door at that moment. And now that the door is open. I’m glad, so I her farewell and we exchange “Good-nights”.

Pretty anticlimactic, right?

Well… a month later, I’m talking to the same friend again and that night comes up in conversation. We’ve talked about it before and she’s told me how she doesn’t remember any of it or even remember coming to visit me. But this time, she tells me that she knows how the rest of the night went after I got off the phone with her and that she just never had told me.

She begins to tell me what happened. She begins to tell me what I had no idea about. She tells me that after she had hung up the phone, a friend who saw her come into the hallway that night, had followed her into the room and raped her.

Because she couldn’t resist, she had lost her virginity that night to some friend who saw an opportunity.

For so long I struggled and blamed myself for it, that I was responsible for her getting taken advantage of. I could have kept her in my room for the night. I could have walked her back to her room. I could have done anything. It was exactly how they say; Inaction was the biggest form of action.

It was that night that I learned that there are so many ways that our campus is broken;

First: There are so many men who are willing to do horrible things to get what they want, at the expense of others, at the expense of women. These men who treat women like they’re objects and not real people with real emotions and real hurts. They treat them this way so that when they have their way with them, guilt is at the minimum.

Second: There are so many women who have trouble understanding that affirmation and love doesn’t need to come from other men, so instead they (and I say this with as much compassion as I can) intentionally or unintentionally put themselves in situations where they can get hurt.

And finally, there’s people like me. A person who decides to stay quiet and do nothing. And I wonder… what does it matter that I am a good guy if I am a good guy doing absolutely nothing?

It sucks that this had to happen for me to realize that the women I love need more that just strength for themselves but that God calls us into friendships and relationships that require everyone to support and protect each other. I wish I could have known this lesson without needing an experience that would force me to know it.

I sometimes worry that people who have been sexually abused have to relive that experience whenever someone refers to “the rape trail” or casually talks about how they “raped that test.” It absolutely sucks that I had to wait for this experience before I would relive my friends’ experience every time someone said it.

So I want to tell everyone this story, and I want to tell everyone that statistics says that 1 in 4 women have been sexually assaulted, and I want to tell everyone that each one of those persons has a face and name and story, and that they’re more than just some stupid 1-in-4 statistic, but that they’re my friends and that I love them and that I would never want this to happen to any person, friend or not.

I want to see more Christian men stand up and show our sisters’ in Christ that we support them in all that they do and that we want to protect them and show them God’s love. I want us to step up and tell women that they are beautiful and that they have value in God’s eyes and that to all the women that have been mistreated or hurt or abused, that I’m sorry, I’m really really sorry. God did not want those things to happen to you and neither do I.

And if my spreading this awareness gets even just one guy to rethink what he might do to one of my sisters in Christ, then Dear God, it’s worth it.

-earl

God engages my soul.

April 6, 2010

My time in St. Louis. Hm. Jesus confirmed my passion for justice and showed me the way I want to live the rest of my life. Not necessarily in St. Louis, but I met a lot of people who are doing justice and really enjoying their lives. That’s what I want to do. Justice is SO prevalent in the Bible. God has been expanding my heart for justice beyond racial reconciliation, and I’m not sure what to do about that. It’s exciting that God can use me, and I’ve come away with a really willing heart to serve in whatever capacity he sends me. God also used the trip to affirm my decision to go into the Peace Corps. I kept thinking throughout the week, “I wish I could serve people. I wish I could just help people. I wish I could help in education…” at which point I would stop myself and think, “Oh wait, that’s exactly what I get to go do in July. Thank God.” I guess my biggest concern about the Peace Corps is that it’s not a Christian organization. But God has shown me that just because I might not be physically surrounded by people who follow Jesus for the next two years, I have my community back home, and most importantly, I have Him. Like one of my favorite songs says, “No power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand.” No matter what I encounter while I’m abroad, whatever Satan tries to throw at me, I still rest safely in God’s hand. Thank you Jesus.

In St. Louis, God used Pastor Barry to point out that I can’t survive in fighting for justice without understanding God’s grace. I am so grateful for that message, because I know it’s something that I don’t fully understand, and it’s something I want to keep wrestling with. I learned tools that will help me while I’m abroad and beyond. God’s grace is so humbling. He doesn’t need me, and yet he decides to use me. I mess up. I’m a perfectionist, so I try not to, but I mess up. And God blesses me anyway. After even getting a glimpse of that grace, I’m compelled to worship and serve Him.

My passion for justice is something that makes my heart hurt. In those moments where my soul is engaged, where my heart hurts, in those moments I get to see what God sees. I feel so blessed that Jesus has allowed me to see a few things in His eyes. I want to love people. I want Jesus to use me so badly. Not that justice is easy, not at all. In fact, the ways that I’m currently engaging in issues of justice (either in BCM or with my LGBT dialogue) are the most challenging aspects of my life right now. I don’t enjoy every minute of them… in fact, sometimes I catch myself counting down the weeks until I graduate, so I won’t have to be engaging so fully in these issues. But my soul is engaged. This year has probably been my most fulfilling year, because I’ve actually taken the step to do what I love. While God has given me these passions and begun to narrow down the path he’s leading me on, it’s still a wide-open path. I have no idea what I’ll be doing two years from now when I get back from the Peace Corps. I have no idea what I’ll be doing ten years from now or twenty, but I hope that I will be serving Jesus to my fullest capacity. I hope that I will be partnering with him in combating these injustices, whatever that means in my context. I hope I grow closer to the heart of Jesus, I hope I see more like him. I hope that everyday I’ll come closer to the moment when he looks at me and says, “Well done.”

– Evelyn 🙂

I’ll be honest, I still haven’t fully arrived from St. Louis. It was a place that captured my heart as I saw that it was a glimpse into the Kingdom here on earth. My first thoughts were, "it’s cold" and "adventure." I was so excited to be there, with the people I arrived with and would meet up with, and be able to share the Lord’s blessing with those I would serve.

I should have known it wouldn’t be that simple.

Shortly after arriving, we put our stuff down and had Gerry welcome us into CityLights. At the end of his welcoming, he said, "Welcome home." Home. A word that became foreign to me as my family continued to move and as I feel like I keep losing mine here in college. How could this become home? How could I possibly live here?

By falling in love with St. Louis.

As we ventured through the city tour, listened to the stories of the people who chose to live in the city…worshipping with them, serving them and with them and loving them… I found home.You see, as I did all these things I found St. Louis no longer merely a place, but a city where my brothers and sisters are living and an unyielding desire to be on this journey with them. A part of me really wanted to stay, and a part of me really wants me to return.

Love changes everything, I’ve seen it. Working at Harambee demonstrated that. Hearing Aaron speak about the children in the neighborhood blew my mind, I was one of them. A child from a broken home clinging to the hope of my mom’s refrain that everything was going to be okay. And as I finally got up the courage to ask Aaron if the love and attention he showered on these kids had done anything for their cross-gender relationships, I held my breath as he said yes. He explained that the young men they work with see their role as a father as a responsibility and a privilege; that the young ladies desire more than their mothers’ experience.

Wow. Young men seeing that the responsibility of being a father does not only mean providing financially, but loving their sons and daughters as they desired to be loved as they grew up. Not only that, but they saw a responsibility in taking care of their children’s mother. To take care of the household, not solely the children.

Young ladies learning as they see Michelle and Anthony (Harambee staff) date and become engaged, that love looks differently than the picture they grew up with.

It was later, as I heard the stories of four of these young men: David, Deoni, Enoch and Tracey, that I couldn’t help but be amazed at God’s goodness in the city. These men shared what they’d been doing before Harambee…gangs, drugs, violence…all the while looking for something different. As I heard the stories, and often hearing "by the grace of God", "I thank God" and "I thank God and Aaron, Chuck, Michelle, Ant…" and ultimately hearing that some of them want to go to college, are engaged and will soon be married or are waiting to see what comes next…

joy.

I felt joy. Joy coupled with hope and a promise of God’s restoration of St. Louis.

Amen.

Sol Eufracio

“But what we can and must do in the present, if we are obedient to the gospel, if we are following Jesus, and if we are indwelt, energized and directed by the Spirit, is to build for the kingdom. This brings us back to I Corinthians 15:58 once more: what you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that’s about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that’s shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting roses in a garden that’s about to be dug up for a building site. You are — strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself — accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God’s new world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world — all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. That is the logic of the mission of God.”

N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, pg. 208, italics in original.

During Spring Break, 16 members of InterVarsity Bruin Christian Fellowship attended CityLights, a urban mission project in St. Louis, Missouri. There, they experienced hope, sorrow, racial reconciliation, service, faith, justice, and most importantly love.

There they were privileged to see glimpses of the Kingdom, here on Earth.  They didn’t see how far off Los Angeles and UCLA has become, but rather how much potential there is.

KOGAH will be host to various testimonies in the coming week from these students and followers of Christ. The things they wish to say may very well speak into the things this ministry hopes to bring forth.

So stay tuned and all the glory be to God.

Sent for Me

March 22, 2010

So I got to Bruin Cafe late to my very first time doing homeless ministry in Westwood. I knew the rest of the crew didn’t mind though. But of course, as God would have it, regardless of tardiness, frustration, and hunger, He had something to show me.

Being a part of homeless ministry was always something I was wary of, simply because I didn’t want to get caught up in feeling prideful because I was helping someone else in need. I never wanted to look at ministry of any kind like I was doing it to assist someone in need. I’ve seen too many people get caught up in that trap. When I act on anything, it should never be because I feel so privileged that I owe something to others. It should simply because God’s given me love. Love for myself, and love for every person on this earth. It’s been something I’ve been waiting for God to show me. I’ve wanted to know if He could really instill a sense of love in me for someone that I didn’t know at all. If He were to move in that way, I’d know that I was called to serve that person in love.

So God decides to meet me right there on Gayley. We all stopped to talk to Lindsay, a Black man who was so incredibly clever and wise that I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. The first thing he says to us is “You guys Christians?” with a smirk on his face. He knew the drill, and he knew how to switch it up on us. I was glad, because I wasn’t down for just giving food and praying. I immediately identified with him because he was black. This was something 100% from God. I have incredible difficulty with identifying with my ethnicity, but something about him was familiar. He reminded me of one of my uncles, who always has something smart to say. He even reminded me of my dad, describing to us his hope to be an entrepneur and an inventor. It was really the weirdest interaction with a homeless person I’ve ever had. And definitely the best.

A part of me felt like I had a close connection to him because of the familiarity. I felt somewhat uncomfortable with everyone else there, because I was the only black person in the group. It brought BCM to mind and the chasm between BCM and IV. It made me feel like I just wanted to sit alone with him and have a conversation. Just then he talked about how he doesn’t need anyone’s pity, but he could use some big help, prayer, and friends. I listened to him intently and asked a few questions, still feeling uncomfortable because I wanted to talk alone with him. Then he began to ask what we wanted to do with our lives, and he gasped when we all essentially claimed that we didn’t know. We told him how hard it is to choose with the unending possibilities ahead of you. But then he spoke truth into the situation–a situation that I’ve been trying to figure out for the past few months. He told us that it shouldn’t be so hard to “find” a major. How it’s not as if we have to search somewhere, seeing as how if we know who we are, then we have to look no further than ourselves. He didn’t guilt-trip us on how he never had opportunities, so we shouldn’t complain about having too many. He simply told us bluntly what we should already know.

Linsday had so much in common with me, but so much differed from me. I just wanted to talk to him. Learn. Teach. Engage. Nothing about him said homeless. He even had a portable dvd player. I really just want to be his friend. It’s possible that I may never see him again. But if I keep saying that to myself, I probably won’t keep going down to Westwood, hoping to run into him, hoping he might remember my name someday.

The rest of the trip to Westwood was enjoyable, but it’s Lindsay that I know God sent for me. Not the other way around.

Aseem Kelly

Danny

March 12, 2010

It was Thursday. I was honestly surprised when Zoe asked me to go to homeless ministry with her on a Thursday because she knew I couldn’t go on Fridays because of class. I was touched by the fact that she thought of me and her conscious effort. And some how I knew that God would bless us for this effort.
And he did.

We met Danny that day.
He was a white middle aged, ex-convict, homeless man. At first you would think that I would have nothing in common with him but as he talked and as he shared his beliefs in God, his vulnerability, and his doubts in salvation I started to see some aspects of myself in him. He clearly knew the teachings of the Bible, sometimes even more than us. But he was troubled by overanalyzing and over thinking. He would take the word and as he tried to process it in his mind and lose the core meaning. Something I find myself doing that as well. But I realized that what was different in our struggles was that he didn’t have anyone to share it with. He did have accountability partners, mentors, or any kind of community where he could confide his troubles. That thought made me really sad. But also so thankful for the community I have and how much I have grown because of the relationships I have with others. I wanted Danny to have that as well.

I also felt like Danny needed to go back to the word again. In my mind I was thinking ways of getting a Bible to him. I guess Zoe felt the same way too and offered to give him a Bible next time we saw him. But what do you know, Paula had her Bible in her hand offered it as a gift to Danny. It was so exciting.

While we were saying our goodbyes Danny told us it would be nice to get coffee one day and read the bible together. I was really happy to hear that.

I want to give glory to God for sending Danny to us. For giving us excitement for homeless ministry. I really can’t express this excitement in words. You really just had to be there. I highly encourage everyone to go and experience this for yourself.

Sarah SunEun Kim

It’s a Whole New World

March 12, 2010

After the rain cleared up, I thought it was a good idea to join the Homeless Ministry in their good intentioned quest of feeding the homeless of Westwood. So along with my friend Kimberly, I walked down in front of Bruin Café and presented myself to Zoe and Scott. After swiping for sandwiches and a little bit of prayer we headed down to Westwood.
Our first encounter was with a guy (I cannot remember his name) who talked about how careless some people are with the water supply. The anecdote goes like this: it was a rainy afternoon and this guy decides to clean the sidewalk, his method, using the water hose. He was watering the sidewalk while it was raining! His anecdote made me think that there are still people out there that still don’t know the effects of their actions. So I pray to God that he illuminates these people (not in an offensive way, I am lacking in many ways too, so I pray for myself too). Then we met John, who is not really John. He must be one of the most humble men I have ever met. Then we met a really chipper guy his name is pretty cool, Ocean. He actually came up to us, he pointed out that we almost walked passed him. His approach surprised all of us but we enjoyed helping him. Lastly, we walked up to Mary, and talked about sports and about how much she doesn’t enjoy the rain. These last weeks were very tough for her. Overall, I really enjoyed meeting her and the others.
I hope to keep joining the Homeless Ministry since this experience really opened my eyes and showed me a whole new view of the world that I had no direct knowledge of. Thanks.
–Melissa Reyes