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,