Why community matters

​Hey guys, my name is Shelby Panzarini. I go to Chico State and am double majoring in Social Work and Sociology with a Food Studies minor. Originally I am from LA. I tell you all who don’t know me this a little bit of where I’m coming from. Today is day 5 of debriefing. BayUP has gone by so fast and I have learned so much. One of the bigger take home points for me is has been how important community is. The 7 of us BayUPers lived with around 50 guys. This is a lot in comparison to me and my one very busy roommate last year. There have been many ways in which living in community has been really hard, such as never getting alone time or quiet. One of the first things we did at debriefing was spend 18 hours in silence. This was hard for some but I relished the opportunity. To get Cityteam to be quiet for 18 hours you would have to move the 12-16 guys from the rehabilitate center, close the homeless shelter, not have the soup kitchen during the day, get ride of all the mice for a 5 mile radius, and tell all the cops from the police station that they couldn’t yell or use their sirens. Needless to say this was impossible. I am used to city noise from living in LA, but the constant people noise in my building, I wasn’t. Even though there were hard parts about community, I saw the benefits to it as well. People are always there to talk and help process life in ways that I never expected. One time about half way through BayUP, I was having a bad day and I just wanted to be alone and listen to music, but neither of those could happen due to how small Cityteam is. I’m going to let you all know what I do when I feel overwhelmed, I hold onto the facts of my life. In this case it was how much my friends and relatives paid for me to go to BayUP ($1,690) and the amount of bad days I had had (5 days) and how long BayUP is (44 days). That means every day it costs $38.40. So I felt like I wasted $200 of my friends and families money. That is more money than I spend on food for 2 months. I was just really hurt and one of the guys walks up and simply asks how I am and I tell him my whole wasting money idea. He kindly explained to me how crazy my idea was and how I can still learn on days that are hard for me. Since I came to BayUP to learn, bad days didn’t mean that. Since I was living in such a small place, I couldn’t go anywhere private when I was hurt, but it ended up helping me later. Through all the hard moments of missing LA and Chico, I still value the community I had a Cityteam. When I go back to Chico, my roommate wants to have tons of friends over everyday. Now I want to be surrounded by community more in Chico. Thanks for all the prayers and love sent our way. If anyone wants to hang out and talk about BayUP let me know. -Shelby

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How to Care for Your Friend Coming out of the Summer

Dear Friend/Family of a BayUPer,

Thanks so much for partnering with your friend as they participated in BayUP this summer.

 

I wanted to offer some suggestions to you to help your friend transition back to their lives at home and school.  You may be surprised to know that the transition home is often harder than the transition to the new culture of the city.  This is because students often come back and have trouble communicating what they learned and experienced.  Sometimes they have a hard time finding people to listen to their stories.  Sometimes they are overwhelmed by the relative material wealth they return to their lives compared to the poverty that they saw in the middle of Oakland.

 

As their friend, it is good for you to be aware that the transition home can at times be difficult.  This can help you set appropriate expectations for your friendship in the first few months after they have returned home.  And there are some ways that you can help your friend make the transition back home:

 

  1. Talk to your friend before they return.  What would they like their first week to be like when they get home (they may not know for sure, but talking about it doesn’t hurt!).

 

  1. If you are picking them up from the project, remember that they are coming off of an intense summer emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  THEY ARE TIRED.  They may not be up for an immediate welcome home party, or all the relatives to descend on the house, or dinner out.  Most likely they will want a shower and some sleep.  Ask them what they would prefer.  They will appreciate your warm welcome.

 

  1. If you are not meeting them at the airport or picking them up, a card waiting for them at home or a phone call the day after their return is a great way to let them know you are glad they are home.

 

  1. The thing your friend will need most from you is your listening ear!  They want to tell the story of their summer, but often find it hard to know where to begin.  The question “How was your summer?” can be hard to answer because it is such a broad question.  Asking LOTS of specific questions is the best way to find out what the summer was like.  Here are some examples:

 

    • What was a typical day like?

    • What was your favorite thing about your summer experience?

    • What was the hardest thing about your summer experience?

    • What was the thing that was most interesting to you about the culture you were in?

    • What is different about how people relate to each other here compared to the culture you were in this summer?

    • What was the funniest or most embarrassing thing that happened to you?

    • What was the food like?  What did you enjoy?  Dislike?

    • What was your team like?  Who were the people you were closest too?

    • How were your expectations about your summer met or not met?

    • What did you learn about yourself?  About others?  About God?

    • What are some ways you want to apply what you learned now that you are home?

    • How does it feel to be home?  What did you most miss about home?

    • What do you miss about your summer culture now that you are home?

 

  1. You don’t have to ask all these questions at once!  Consider having a couple of extended times (at least) with your friend where you ask questions about the summer.  Maybe once shortly after their return, then again when the pictures are developed (if they are not already on a digital camera!)

 

  1. Periodically ask how they are thinking and feeling about their summer and how they are applying what they have learned throughout the fall semester.  

 

  1. Some other fun things you could consider:  

 

    • If your friend learned to prepare any traditional food from their summer culture, have a night where they make dinner (or at least one dish!) for you.  

    • Look through whatever souvenirs your friend returned with and ask questions about them:  were they given as a gift?  by whom?  what was that relationship like?  If it wasn’t’ a gift, what prompted them to buy this particular souvenir?

    • Invite other friends of yours and your BAyUP friend to hear about the summer.  Consider hosting a little dessert and let your friend tell his or her story and show some pictures to a group of people.

 

  1. It is ok to remind your friend that you had a summer too!  Life in your world did not stop just because they were on a summer project.  Tell them about your summer . . .

 

  1. Your friend may seem weird or respond to situations differently than they did before they left.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the changes you notice.  Let them know you want to care for them while at the same time giving them the freedom to change and grow.

 

  1. Help them to re-engage with their friends on campus and their responsibilities in classes and with InterVarsity by helping them brainstorm ways to integrate their summer experience into what they are doing now.

 

  1. Most of all, continue to pray for and with your friend.  Encourage them to take time for reflection and to be with Jesus.

 

The most important thing is just to be patient and ask a lot of questions.  Returning home is often as much a part of the growth process as the summer at BAyUP.  I believe the Lord is using all of these experiences to make your friend more like Him.  Thanks again for blessing your BAyUP friend with your prayers, support and encouragement.  May you also be blessed.

Sincerely,

 

Yu-Shuan Tarango-Sho

BayUP Director

Mutual Conversions and Other Immersions

Hello fellows!

For everyone that does not yet know me, my name is Afton and I am another member BAyUPs CityTeam for the summer…but around here people mostly call me “Red”.

This term was coined for me by the head chef of City Team’s kitchen when he figured the name red would be easier to remember me by due to the mass amount of red curly hair atop my head. The name “Red” takes on many additions depending on who you talk to, but sister red, daughter red, niece red, and cousin red are all more than sufficient for me. That’s just how it goes here, we’re all family in one way or another, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The fact is that these people who I now call family were people I hadn’t even met as of 3 weeks ago. In fact, I don’t think anyone on our team had any idea what we were getting ourselves into before we came here. It feels like yesterday my friends and family were asking me the same questions like “How do you not even know your address? Where do I send these letters? What do you mean your first blog wont be for the first 2 weeks? How will I know you’re not dead? What even is city team?”. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little nervous when it was mere days before my departure and I still didn’t have the answers to these questions. All I knew is that I would mainly be working with men in rehabilitation. I had visited loved ones in rehabilitation centers before, but those were top of the line care facilities that my family trusted. But a non-profit all-mens rehab center in downtown Oakland? My poor family were getting bruised knees over hitting their prayer mats for me when I left.

In some ways, I got exactly what I was prepared for. People came in for recovery only to leave weeks, days, even hours later. It was messy, heartbreaking, and very hard to see. But the thing was, this is what I knew I would see, so as sad as it was, my aching heart was not the least bit surprised.

What I wasn’t ready for was something discussed by my dear friend and staff leader a few blogs ago about “mutual conversions”. This is described as a situation where both parties bring something valuable to the table. For BAyUP, this is where we as missionaries from all across our campuses are here not to just give and observe, but to see the sometimes hidden gems of what those we serve actually have to offer us.

This, my friends, is where God has completely rocked my world in City Team this summer. I laugh at the ignorant me that entered into this thinking “I need to be ready to give all that I can to these people, because they need my light and encouragement more than I need a fun summer”. Oh, how God was laughing to himself as I said these self-righteous words, I’m sure he was thinking to himself, “wait and see my child…wait and see”. I was coming off of a challenging year physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I entered in praying desperate prayers for God to overflow my cup so it could pour into others, so when I started my first day at city team I was in a silent panic about how I felt only half full at best.

The good news is, that was just the beginning. When we entered in the men started off by serving us delicious food they themselves had cooked. I looked around, these guys didn’t look like they were struggling…they were laughing. Was I at the wrong address? I was greeted at the table by a character by the name of Danny, and he presumed to be lively in our conversation about sports, hobbies, and music. Before you knew it, we who came to serve were the ones serving us. We would mention that we didn’t have mugs, and without asking we would be receiving mugs delivered to our apartment not but 30 minutes later by some of the guys who overheard us in the hallway (did I mention City Team houses us in separate apartments on the second floor of the building?). I could tell countless stories like this. We had to start to be careful of what we mentioned in conversation because we didn’t want to overwork the men that were joyful to give us the shirts off their back. What a world we live in here at City Team, that you have to be careful of what you say for fear of someone over-serving you amidst a crazy busy schedule. I laugh to think how we are getting better treatment than a 5 star hotel with 24/7 room service, and my family was originally wondering how well I would get to eat.

But these were just added icing to the cake of the real blessings I am finding here at City Team. It was when I finally started to get time to hang out with these guys and get their stories that my mind started to be blown on a daily (if not hourly) basis. One of many of these experiences was had when I was sitting next to a guy named Oren who is in his 2nd or 3rd month of the year long program. I was honored enough to be able to hear some of the jaw dropping wisdom he had to share when we started talking about why he chose such a time intensive facility for recovery.

“I’m here to become a man. I mean a real man, not just what I can get away with on the surface. I never really learned how to be a man growing up, I skipped so many steps along the way. That’s why I’m here, to go back and learn those steps I missed. I’m here to become a real man” he said.

I mean, woah…wait…what?

Like, what just happened? Is this real life? He said it so strongly, but even as he said it I knew he was simply speaking from the heart, and had no idea how heavy the weight of his words touched me. I was floored. I rarely hear such wisdom from even my most esteemed college educated peers and leaders. Yet here sitting before me was a humble construction worker, 60 days sober with dreams of getting his GED. I couldn’t help but sit back and think “Man, this guy has life more figured out than most anyone I know”.

It’s so silly when I think about my mentality 3 weeks ago to now. I thought I was coming here to gain material to maybe even give a large group talk to my fellowship back home…but here I was meeting people I wanted to recruit to give a talk to my fellowship instead of me!

One of the even crazier parts is, Oren is just one of these wisdom-bearing men at City Team, and oh my goodness there are too many to count on both hands. I now crave the times where I simply get to sit and soak in what they have to say about life, loss, pain, hope, and redemption. They quote scripture in every day conversations like my friends quote the movie Bridesmaids. They start their day at 4:30 in the morning and sometimes their heads don’t hit the pillow until 10:30 that night. I will walk into one of the break rooms to see them sitting down, pouring over scriptures and studies based on the 12 steps to recovery.

They have bad days, no doubt. The guys here are more than honest with us about their struggles, and some even claim that without sharing these things they rob themselves of getting the help and support they need. But the strength they find within and in their savior leaves all of us from the outside looking in no excuses when it comes to our own paths of pain and how to struggle, yet struggle well.

I was so blind by my own thoughts before coming here that I hadn’t even thought there was this much healing for me and for our whole BAyUP team here at City Team. The good news is, I still get to serve. The guys are so thankful for us here, and let us know how much help we are. They thank us for our hard work hands on, as well as the kind words and encouragement we bring to their lives, whether we do it consciously or just by being who we are. It’s such a beautiful picture of Shalom, mutual conversions. We all bring our experiences, hopes, and strengths to the table, and they all combine and come together for exchanges that uplifts and encourages both parties and leaves all of us that much closer to God by the end of it.

It was such a shift from what I was expecting that I cannot help but still praise God even as I type for everything he is doing here at City Team. It’s a place of healing for everyone that is willing and goes through it’s welcoming doors. For me it has been a reawakening of certain parts of my soul that I didn’t even know were sleeping.

I have mentioned my prayers of wanting to be overflowed in order to have leftovers to give and pour into others, and how I fell short of that goal when I was arriving at City Team. It’s wonderful to pray these things and to pour into others out of excess. But what about when you come to the table with your cup only half full, like mine was? Or what about all you have in your cup is a few droplets of leftover tears from the pain life has hurled your way? Do you decide to pour out a little, but conserve some for yourself? Or do you simply not come to the table, thinking it’s not enough to make any sort of difference?

This is where I am finding Jesus the most, in bringing my lack of fulfillment to the places I serve, to pour out what I have only to receive that much more. It’s humbling, even a bit painful, to realize you have nothing left to give, and what was in your cup wasn’t even that much to begin with. However it is in these times that, for me at least, the space opened up to let go and let God his way. It’s vulnerable, uncomfortable, but also the most malleable place to let Jesus shape me into a new creation.

I share these things because they were the replacement of the lie I tell myself (and dare I say many of us tell ourselves) that if you cannot bring a full cup to the table it’s better if you don’t show up at all. The fact is, serving when it hurts can sometimes reap even more of the healing benefits, but it also needs to be with done honestly and with your heart in the right place. It was serving while suffering in silence that can kill that healing momentum power at times.

I share these things not wishing to only tell part of my experience, but to share the hope and joy that Jesus has brought me, and all of us, with our time here. I will also use this last bit of space to thank those of you who helped get us here, with financial, prayer, emotional and spiritual support. Keep praying, God is not done with his work here in Oakland, in BAyUP, and in each of our hearts!

I would also like to end by telling those of you asking “But what about me? I need healing, but I’m not at City Team or BAyUP.” Well my friends,  good news! Jesus’s healing power is for everyone, and everywhere! Praise the Lord! Now go out and get real with someone, and let them get real with you, you’ll never see the mutual conversion blessings coming!

 

 

Safe and Sound

Hi Friends and Family,

If you have been keeping up with current events and news Oakland has been in a few of those reports. Addressing the question of safety; Yes, we are safe and well. And we will continue to take all necessary steps to remain safe and well. If anything it is a reminder of how our cities become platforms in times of controversy for opinions to be heard. I recently, heard from a local Oaklanders that in many of these situations its the local residents who get caught in the middle as outsiders come into the city to stir up trouble.

It is also a place for us as a faith community to wrestle with our own convictions while praying for the safety and peace for all here in Oakland. I recently read a statement released by Michael McBride, a pastor, community organizer, and one of our work site partners here in Oakland. He reminded me that the pain caused by the verdict of the Trayvon Martin case is very real and should not be overlooked yet, in a time like this “its not about the verdict but about our collective values.” And how we choose to respond as a faith community should reflect the values of Christ. And maybe our fate is to not be stuck in the middle but to analyze our values and fall on the side of justice and grace.

Tonight, we go to sleep with the sound of sirens but for many in the city, including Honolulu (my city), it is a nightly reality. Tomorrow, may we awake to peace. Thank You!!! for your continued prayers for our safety and also the safety of all here in Oakland.

GodBless,
Jason on behalf of Natalie, Hiram, Shelby, Jackie, Afton, and Philip

The BayUP team joining a vigil at a local detention center in Richmond. We partnered with CLUE an organization working for immigration reform and human rights

The BayUP team joining a vigil at a local detention center in Richmond. We partnered with CLUE an organization working for immigration reform and human rights

Aloha,

Lots of love to my friends, family, and supporters. But an extra dose of love to my Fiance Jodie.

My name is Jason and I’m a staff worker with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa. Currently, I’m living at City Team and working at City Team/ Lifelines to Healing with other students and staff from Hawai`i, Reno, and California. Words cannot describe how fruitful the first weeks of BayUP have been for us here at City Team. BUT. I will try to put the intangible into text and share some of the good things God has been doing for us here in Oakland.

“… To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly
with your God.” – Micah 6:8

I’ve been asking the questions what does it look like to love mercy, act justly and walk humbly. At BayUP we have been learning about so many social justice issues: Environment, Criminal justice, and Immigration; in later weeks we will cover Education and Human Trafficking. I will admit that at times it feels hard to engage in all these HUGE topics while keeping in mind the words of Micah. Especially, when so much seems out of my control and scope of influence. But God is good, and he spoke to me about the walls of injustice during one of our weekly activities with City Team and Lifelines to Healing.

Lifelines to Healing, is an organization in Oakland that aims to address the root causes of violence in cities. One of the vehicles that they have been using to do this is to organize CeaseFire walks in the neighborhoods that have some of the highest rates of shootings and gun violence. In these neighborhoods people are loving and hospitable most have families. In fact most of the crime and gun violence committed in these neighborhoods are committed by less than .05% of the population. As we walk in a group of 60 it feels deceptively secure and safe, so we are reminded to be aware of our surroundings at all times. Yet, in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Oakland, CA a place dubbed the Kill zone. Children come out with water bottles in exchange for high fives, families gather on porches, we hear cheering from behind screen doors or through open windows, countless cars drive by honking their enthusiasm for the message of peace in Oakland. It is at this moment after the waving has stopped and the walk takes a quieter turn I am confronted by my ignorance.

Could this be Oakland. Not the Oakland I was taught to fear because of media stigma, fueled by comments from peers and elders. But could this be Oakland. What life is hiding beneath the concrete?

I Remember the story about how the Israelites had to walk around the city of Jericho in order for God to give them victory. I remember that they had to be faithful by walking for 7 days and then the walls of Jericho came down and they had their victory, 1 step closer to the promise land. This story comes to mind to balance the parable from walking with CeaseFire; A reminder to me that maybe standing for justice looks more like a 7 day march around a city rather than a drive through where you put money in and get results out. That when confronted by injustice maybe the best action is to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly. And let God intervene in His own way too, in cities where the CeaseFire strategy has been implemented they have seen a drop up to 60% of major crime that the movement has targeted.

I remain hopeful that as we continue to learn and live here in Oakland I will gain the knowledge and tools to engage with Gods Kingdom in every situation and every location. To take the motto act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God to heart not as a novelty for compassion but a trajectory for life and faith.

In so many ways I have seen so much life, love, and renewal here in Oakland. It seems to stand in such sharp contrast and equal height to the towers of social injustices. But, regardless how high the walls of injustice stand, I am learning how to be faithful, walk my stretch of the wall, and lend my voice to advocate for justice. And I look forward to the day when the life that was always there will be allowed to burst out of broken places and fallen walls.

Many blessings and best wishes,
Jason

CityTeam: A Recovery Center

Aloha friends, family & supporters:

Bay UP 2013 has been a journey of discovering more of who I am and how my story helps me to connect with those around me.  I’ve learned that I need to first know my own story before even beginning to understand someone else’s.  I’ve also come to find that the people here in Oakland are so willing to open up and share about their experiences.  In the duration that I’ve been in Oakland, I have met so many different people and each one having a different story from the next.

As we successfully stuffed 7 peoples’ dirty laundry of two weeks into two washers at a Laundromat (Yay for community laundry!), Afton and I happened to run into conversation with one of the workers there.  She is an older Korean woman who has been working there for 15 years and as the conversation went on, we continued to ask her questions like how she came to Oakland, what brought her here and what were some things she likes about living in Oakland.  Something that I noticed as we were talking with her was that everything she had to say was positive things; she mentioned Oakland being such a great place with a broad range of ethnic diverse peoples.  This slightly took me by surprise because I was brought up hearing things from friends and family and seeing things on the news about Oakland involving a lot of violence, but seeing, hearing and experiencing this different side of Oakland has been an eye-opening experience.

As mentioned previously, I am one of the three other students that have been working at CityTeams, plus Jason, our staff leader.  CityTeam is not only a rehabilitation center for these men, but a recovery center.  It has been such an experience having the privilege of getting to know the men in the program.  After sharing several meals together, going on ceasefire walks in the community, playing games, going to picnics and AA meetings, working alongside each other and sharing countless stories and conversations with one another, the four of us have grown pretty close to these men.  So close in fact, that we are referring to some of them as “Dad” and “Gramps.”

I wish I could elaborate more about how God has only begun to transform me mentally and spiritually in my experiences here in Oakland, but since I am using a computer in the public library, I am limited to 30 minutes with less than three minutes left on the clock!  But please continue to keep us in prayer as we discover more about our own stories and this journey of seeking shalom and justice within the community.

Mahalo and Aloha,

Jackie (: