New Place New Site

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Hi everyone! Thank you so much for supporting my in my YAV year! Now that I have begun a new part of my journey in seminary, I have started a new blog about my very small kitchen in my apartment. I would love if you followed my new journey. https://thetinykitchenstruggle.wordpress.com. I hope to see you on my new site!

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Where Has the Time Gone

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It’s July. This time last year, I was stressing on how to pack for a year in two suitcases and telling people about my future work with people experiencing homelessness in Hollywood. Now I’m trying to figure out how to get all my stuff home, because it has grown exponentially, and processing my work at First Pres. I have less than 20 days left at the Lord’s Lighthouse. My flight back to Virginia is in just over a month and I am trying to figure out how to move all of my stuff for my new apartment in San Anselmo in my Toyota Corolla. This year of service is quickly coming to an end, and I am in awe of how fast it went. I have made life long friendships and gained experience that I never thought possible. This year has molded my future ministry in so many ways. I had to write an essay for a scholarship application which asked the question, what kind of ministry do I feel called to? I cited several experiences I had had and books I have read, all within this last year. I’m not sure what type of ministry I will be called to do, but in the last year, I have learned and experienced hospitality in such a way that makes me feel called to always be working towards extending hospitality in the way that Christ did. Seeing that I have already written this essay on radical hospitality for the grant application, I thought I would post it here.

Calling of God

            In Tim Chester’s book, A Meal with Jesus, he writes, “Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, or put on events. He ate meals.” Obviously, I’m not going to seminary and pursuing ordination just to eat meals. But the beauty I find in this phrase is what ministry I am pursing. I am not sure of the future job title or position I will hold, but I am sure of my call into a world of striving to be more like Christ in all my future endeavors. I am called to a ministry of radical hospitality in which I serve and am served by all those around me. I feel called to this ministry based on the work I have been doing, the books I have been reading, and the voices who have affirmed this to me.

            I am currently serving as a Young Adult Volunteer in Hollywood, CA. While Hollywood provides the imagery of glitz and glamour, I have seen a much different side of Los Angeles in the last 8 months. I work at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood with the Lord’s Lighthouse Ministry. The Lord’s Lighthouse is a homeless outreach ministry where we serve a lunch twice a week, lead a bible study and homily, provide basic hygiene and clothing needs, connect our friends to further housing and health care resources, and most importantly, attempt to create a sense of community and church for those experiencing homelessness. What is commonly found among those experiencing homelessness is not only a loss of permanent housing, but a loss of community and a sense of belonging. The Lord’s Lighthouse works to create a church for those most often overlooked by society, most often forgotten. In my position as a YAV, I have the privilege to simply be present with our friends during a shared meal. I have forged real, meaningful, and mutual relationships with many people by sitting with them at the table and eating.

            During January and February, I coordinated a winter shelter at FPCH. The shelter, or Winter Refuge, as it has been renamed, has existed for the last 4 years. It was created by a group of Hollywood churches who felt a need to create a shelter model that was intentionally hospitable. While most winter shelters in Los Angeles, run by the county, are first come first serve, we work on a guest list to ensure that our guests     receive a full 8 weeks of rest, food, shelter, and love. For 8 weeks I enjoyed breakfast and dinner with our friends in the shelter, I shared in life. Christine Pohl writes in Making Room, “Around a dinner table, family and guest share food and life.”

            In the rest of her book, Pohl writes about the practice and history of radical hospitality in the Christian form. She cites the story of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke stating “Jesus redefines neighbor and love for neighbor. The scope of our responsibility to care includes anyone in need. This expands more tightly bounded definitions of neighbor that tends to limit responsibility to those we like or those like us.” Radical hospitality is a ministry that Christ continually calls us all to be a part of through this story. The challenge is to find space in our lives in which we can do this work. I not only feel empowered by Pohl’s words to do this work, but also urged to share her words to create a society that is once again based on radical hospitality. The word hospitality in our modern day typically refers to the service industry in which we pay for people to be overly welcoming to us. What would many major social issues look like if we, as a society, were overly welcoming to all?

            Another book that has been empowering me to this type of radical hospitality is Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow. While Alexander does not put this book in a Christian context, it was easy for me to find a clear message in my own calling from her book. She looks at the War on Drugs and it’s persecution of mainly African American communities. Alexander writes “We could choose to be a nation that extends care, compassion, and concern to those who are locked up and locked out or headed for prison before they are old enough to vote. We could seek for them the same opportunities we seek for our own children; we could treat them like one of “us.” We could do that. Or we can choose to be a nation that shames and blames its most vulnerable, affixes badges of dishonor upon them at young ages, and then relegates them to a permanent second-class status for life. That is the path we have chosen, and it leads to a familiar place.” If, at any point, we as a society are choosing to create a “second class status” we are not following in the call of Christ. It is far too often that there are people who have been isolated in society and hurt by the church. I feel called to be a part of a church that no longer feels the need to do this, but instead, truly has doors wide open.

                As a YAV, I am urged to discover those isolated and alone. As an intentional community in YAV we have read books on racial reconciliation, gang issues in Los Angeles, toxicity in modern day charity work, the struggles of living on low and below living wages. We all work with homelessness in Hollywood and also run a community center in the primarily Hispanic neighborhood we live in. We are engaged in many facets of life in Los Angeles. I find that the more I engage in the city, the more I am led to be a part of the city. Not just a YAV living here for a year, but truly being in this city for the whole year. While I do not plan to be in Los Angeles after my year, as I am starting school in August, I want to fully be a part of the city. The church is not just the four walls of the sanctuary, for me I find the church in the city. DOOR, the partner organization with YAV in Hollywood, operates by the motto, “Find the Face of God in the City.” God is at work in all places, and not only is this my job as a YAV to seek that out, but also to be a representation of God and the church in my work in the city. My hope is that in any city and any job I am called to, this will forever be my call in the world, to create the Kingdom of Heaven, on earth. To love all on this earth because they are creations of God.

And is anyone surprised that I talked about eating meals with one another. For the 4th of July, I made Lanita and Sara, the only two housemates that stayed in LA for the holiday, a picnic lunch, as is required on the 4th. Here is the result and recipe for Sriracha Bean Burgers with a Bleu Cheese Butter. This is pretty messy to make, so get excited. The best part is that you throw everything into the food processor and let it do the hard work. Here’s what you’ll need:

1 can black beans

1 cup bread crumbs

1 eggDSC_4417

2 tbsp. Sriracha

1 tbsp. brown mustard

A handful of Cilantro

1/2 a red onion

1 red pepper

3 cloves of garlic

Juice from 1/2 of a lemon(or lime)

1 tsp cumin

black pepper

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Make sure it’s blended well and really thick, the thicker the better. You can always add more breadcrumbs to make it thicker. Cover and refrigerate for an hour, they hold better cold.

After an hour, form into patties, coat with breadcrumbs and cook on a greased griddle or frying pan. I liked the grooved griddle that we have. It is very squishy and messy to form but the breadcrumbs are helpful in keeping it together.

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They only need to cook for about 5 minutes on each side. For these put red onion, tomato, avocado, brown mustard DSC_4400 (2)and bleu cheese butter on a toasted bun. The Blue cheese butter is super easy to make, combine 1/2 cup of butter with 8 oz. of blue cheese crumbles. Whip together with a hand mixer and serve. It’s also really good on steaks. DSC_4400 (4)

Put all together and serve.

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Pack Nothing

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Each night at YAV orientation the poem, Passover Remember, by Alla Rene Bozarth, was read by one or more of the small group leader. I had not heard this poem before, and honestly have not thought much of it since. But tonight, I was reminded of it’s opening line: “Pack nothing. Bring only your determination to serve and your willingness to be free.” Pack Nothing, a similar title to one of my previous blogs, was not a reference to what physical items I was should leave behind for this year, but rather the mindset I should have for it. This has been a year of learning in, what has seemed as a year of turmoil in this country. This may not be the case, as I was the most uniformed during my college years. But working in a non profit, social services setting, has really opened my eyes to the issues in this country. When California voted on reducing non violent drug felonies to misdemeanors, my friends with the Lord’s Lighthouse program were effected. When protesting broke out around the nation over a deeply rooted racial issue, many of the guest spoke out. And most recently, the Supreme Court Decision to create marriage equality in all 50 states has created reason to celebrate for many in the community I serve with. And with all of these issues, I have seen and heard the other side speak out and act about the hurts they felt. The Facebook posts about the heritage of the confederate flag have filled my news feed and I most recently saw a post called “How can churches protect themselves” in the wake of the Supreme Court Decision. Within the last year I have experienced and read about the impact that these decisions have. I have had conversations with people who fall on both sides of very heated topics. When I think of “pack nothing” as it pertains to this year specifically, I hear the call to be open to the world I live and work amongst. I came into this year having very strong opinions based mostly on my parents beliefs and the basic understanding I had of the world. What I did not have, was the ability to listen to the other side. I was not open to this willingness to be free in the sense that I think Bozarth meant. Be free in a way that lets us be with one another, regardless of our ideas and beliefs. Be free in a way that doesn’t let us miss the opportunities for growth. Be free in a way that looks first to understanding and compassion as opposed to fear, hatred, and bitterness. It’s easy for me to think that my opinions are right, and if you don’t share those, you’re wrong. But I’m working on unpacking my preconceived notion of the other and come to a place where we can all sit at the same table together.

In this last year, my experiences have molded my political and social beliefs more than any other time in my life. Most recently, I finished Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow. In this book, she outlines the history of repression among African Americans and argues that the War on Drugs is only newest form of this repression. The majority of inmates are in jail for non-violent drug possession charges. Studies have shown that all races commit all types of crime equally, including drug offences. In fact the National Institute on Drug Abuse states in a recent survey that white youth are 7 times more likely to use cocaine and heroin and 8 times more likely to use crack than black youth. But 80% of people sentenced under harsher crack cocaine laws were African American. Here is a list of facts and statistic that you might also be shocked to discover:

1. The war on drugs was announced by President Ronald Reagan in 1982, but crack cocaine was not introduced until 1985. Crack Cocaine was the most publicized drug when promoting the war on drugs and holds some the harshest sentencing.

2. Crack is is pharmacologically similar to cocaine, but is stronger so can be sold in smaller quantities for more affordable prices.  However the mandatory minimum sentence is a “far more severe punishment for the distribution of crack.”

3.Since the beginning of the war on drugs, 31 million people have been arrested for drug offenses. But in 2005, 4 out of every 5 drug arrest were for possessions and not sales.

4. “Between 1980 and 1985  FBI anti-drug a funding increased from $8 million to $95 million.” But National Institute on Drug Abuse went from a budget of $274 million to $57 million.

5.  The United States imprisons more racial minorities than any other country. In Washington D.C.  “three out of four young black men can expect to serve time in prison.”

6.Three-fourths of all people imprisoned on drug crimes are black or Latino.

7.There are more African American men under the control of the correctional system (probation, prison, or parole) then were enslaved in the 1850’s

8. Alcohol related deaths account for roughly 100,000 people a year while drug related deaths, such as AIDS, over dose, and subsequent violence, only accounts for 21,000 people per year.

9.” In Vousia County, Florida, a reporter obtained 148 hours of video footage documenting more than 1,000 highway stops conducted by state troupers. Only 5 percent of drivers on the road were African American or Latino, but more than 80% of the people stopped and searched were minorities.”

10. In 1994, President Bill Clinton, endorsed the “three strikes your out” policy and authorized $16 billion for “state prison grants and expansion of state and local police” making the Clinton administration the time of the largest increase of prison inmates in American history.a

I can’t possibly retell all the points from this incredibly, eye opening book, and I won’t try. But if the recent months and even last few years have not shown that racism is alive and well in this country, then this book does. It shows that we as a nation have created a type of caste system which makes it possible for us to continue to discriminate against African Americans by labeling them as criminals. Once you are under the control of the criminal justice system, either in jail, or on probation or parole, you become ineligible for public housing. You cannot get food stamps and other government relief opportunities. Most housing options will deny you because you have an felony, and so will most employers. You are not eligible for student loans. Many higher educations will not admit you based on your criminal record. You may owe the government money for public defenders, court cases, and other fees. Many states laws currently say that you will not be allowed to vote until they are paid off (sound like a poll tax to you?). In the 1970’s, criminologist theorized that the prison system would be almost obsolete in 30 years. Instead, mostly due to the war on drugs, the prison population has quintupled.

In the two weeks since the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, six predominately African American churches have been burned down. There is hate and anger in these communities. But in light of the atrocities in Charleston, the families of the victims killed by Dylann Roof, forgave this young man, as we are called to do by Christ. This young man was afforded love and grace by this community that he devastated. This group of people truly know what it means to share Christ love better than most. It is often said the the Bible is the greatest love story ever written. When asked about the most important commandment, Jesus responds with two commandments, one old and one new. “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.” I am disheartened by the way this country is continuing to live with one another. We are suppose to be this great melting pot of beliefs and ideas. We are country that is suppose to be based on freedom. We are suppose to be one nation, under God. And yet we spew fear and hatred as our main message. We have to remember that we are one people, united by the fact that we dwell on this earth for a limited amount of time. We are human beings and we are responsible for each other. Jesus ate meals with tax collectors, prostitutes, leapers, and fisherman. He chose to walk beside all groups of people. He set the table that we are all invited to. It’s time that we set that table again, we need to be reminded of the love that exists at the table and we need to share it with all, not just the ones we agree with.

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I can’t end a post about sitting at a table without posting a meal to serve at it! A few weeks on one of our weekly community days, I made breakfast for my housemates. I decided to go all out, so I learned how to make egg Benedict with all the fixins. Now to start, I have never poached an egg before. My mom has this great little insert for a pan that has these little cups that sit over water and it poaches the eggs. But once again, I am in a semi-well stocked kitchen without my own utensils. The poaching of the egg is the reason I have been hesitant to attempt to make this recipe before.   There’s a scene in Julie and Julia, where Julie is learning to poach an egg, and she basically just scrambles it in water. I am not yet brave enough to attempt this. But as if by magic, a Pinterest post shared with me a great tidbit of information that said I could use aluminum cupcake liners in a pot of water to poach them. So that’s what I did. It makes them a little thick, but it works in a pinch.

DSC_4385 As the eggs cooked, I started on a Hollandaise Sauce. For the 6 of us, I  used 1/2 cup of butter, 4 egg yolks, juice from half a lemon, a dash of salt,  and paprika. I really like paprika, so I tend to add more as I cook.  Whisk it all together and set on the stove top on low heat. Keep  whisking as it thickens. If it starts lump whip faster and constantly. Leave it on the the heat until it thickens up.

 

 

The great things about Eggs Benedict is that you can basically put anything on them. I cooked eggplant, spinach, bacon, and smoked salmon for ours. Ham, mushrooms, and tomatoes are also great. I also toasted English muffins as the base for the egg. Once everything is ready just plate your eggs. There is not really a wrong way to construct eggs Benedict, but I like my English muffin on the bottom and the hollandaise on top.

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Love Has No Borders

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“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has demolished the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;  for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God”  –Ephesians 2:14-19

I could not possibly put all that a learned and experienced in the 5 day retreat in this blog post. The joint YAV retreat to Tucson/Mexico gave me a whole new insight on an issue that I have been feeling pulled to for over a year. After graduation last year, I went on a service learning trip to Guatemala. The trip focused on many social justice issues within the country, one of which was the violence and subsequent migration out of Guatemala. For years, the government has been inflicting mass atrocities to try to smother out any uprising amongst the general population. This fear is what led many people to try to move to the United States by any means possible. We visited a migration center in Guatemala that would attempt to dissuade people from making the very dangerous quest across our border, but also provided the resources to make the trip safer if people were determined. When I returned from this trip, a national crisis in the United States was occurring, in which tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors from Mexico and Central America were crossing the boarder illegally and being detained. The children had most likely either been sent by their families, in hopes that they would be safe in the U.S. or had come looking for parents that had left them behind until they could make enough money to come home or bring them along. This issue of immigration had reached an all time high, because we weren’t just dealing with adult capable of caring for themselves, but suddenly inundated with children. I remember a news story about a detention center, that was going to house some of the children until we as a nation could plan a course of action, that was near my home town in Virginia. There were protesters waiting at the center with hateful message towards the children and another group their protesting those protesters. I am not a politician, nor do I know as much as I would like about the logistics dealing with migration, but I am active in the church, and if YAV has taught me something very important this year, its that we cannot be the church and allow social justice issues to pass us by because religion and politics don’t go together. Jesus came into the world to stop the injustices that were occurring. Jesus was the most political person with his faith, and in order to be more like him each day, I must also use my faith to back my political beliefs and I must be outspoken in those beliefs. You may not agree with what I have to say in this post and that’s okay. The great thing about this country is that we are allowed to form and have our own opinions. I will lay out in this post why I feel the way I feel about the issue of immigration based on what I have read, what the bible tells me, and what I learned in my experiences in Guatemala and more recently, Mexico. I welcome feedback and even push-back, because that’s how we learn, but please let it be from a place of love, grace, understanding, and education. This is a tense and personal issue for so many and I hope we can all respect the different opinions and journeys that have led us to them.

On our first day of the retreat in Tucson AZ, we met with John Fife, a Presbyterian minister, former Moderator of General Assembly, and a Co-founder of the Sanctuary movement in Tucson in the 1980’s. During that time, the governments of Guatemala and El Salvador were equipping death squads to put an end to citizen uprisings. It was common for people who were merely suspected of being a part of these uprisings, to disappear and never be seen again. Droves of refuges fled for the United States seeking asylum. The United States refused the majority request for asylum, claiming that the migrants were not fleeing from unfair persecution, but rather poor economic situations. They were labeled economic immigrant and refused legal entrance to the U.S. This is possibly because the U.S. was financially supporting the governments executing the death squads. “Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow writes “The CIA admitted in 1998 that guerrilla armies it actively supported in Nicaragua were smuggling illegal drugs into the United States … [and] blocked law enforcement efforts to investigate illegal drug networks that were helping to fund its covert war in Nicaragua.” While Alexander is using this fact to support her argument that the War on Drugs being created in order to regain a sense of a racial caste system(which I will be writing another blog about), it also supports the notion of the U.S. aiding mass execution of Central American citizens. All this being said, John Fife and many other religious leaders began the Sanctuary Movement in which they were helping migrants into the country and to safe houses. The religious leaders were all tried for violating immigration laws and sentenced to 5 years probation. John Fife told us that they sentenced a Catholic nun first. The judge said that he would sentence 5 years probation if she promised to stop doing the same work with migrants. She responded with this “You clearly have not been listening the last 7 months of this trial, because if you let me walk out those doors, I will be going right back to what I’ve been doing.” The judge left the courtroom and returned a few minute later and gave everyone the same 5 year probation sentence. The coverage of the Sanctuary movement and the trial spread and churches and college campus joined in the movement and laws actually got changed. They have unfortunately been overturned and our immigration laws even more of a mess. John Fife left us with two pieces of encouragement; the first “How can the church be faithful under these circumstances,” and the second “Welcome to the struggle, I’m glad for your involvement and I hope you don’t forget about it when they stop calling you a YAV”

Later that same day we witnessed Operation Streamline in a Tuscon courtroom. Operation Streamline began in 2005 as a “no tolerance policy” to immigration in which those who enter the U.S. illegally. Migrants are tried in groups of up to 70 people at once. The whole process takes about 90 minutes and all those prosecuted are sentenced to 30-180 days in jail. Each client, most of whom do not speak English, meet with their public defender for maybe 30 minutes before the trial and each public defender can have up to a dozen clients each day. They are all put in shackles and given headphones for translations. I watched as 70 men and women were given their “due process” and sent to jail. We then spoke to a public defender thoughtfully frustrated with the assembly line model of “justice”. It was completely random which people were picked up by border patrol and which ones border patrol offered voluntary deportation. Because the cases are tried in federal court, the prosecution does not have to share evidence before the trial, making a plea bargaining the safest bet in amount of time served. The U.N. has listed 25 issues in which the U.S. breaks international human rights law, one of which is immigration. In 2010, the U.N. urged the U.S. to investigate the detention and deportation of migrants, as they are currently failing to meet basic human rights. The United States has failed to make changes and Antonio Ginatta,US advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, states “Governments at the Human Rights Council should press the US on mass surveillance, police violence, and detention of migrant families. The US should take the opportunity to make a serious commitment to roll back these abusive practices.”

The next two days we spent time on and around the border itself. We started on the U.S. side where a memorial was set up for a man caught climbing the wall back to Mexico was shot and killed by border patrol. The man was driving a car with drugs, but was unarmed. Mexican citizens saw the young man trying to climb over the wall and threw rocks at the patrol officer to help him do so, which may be why the officers shot the man several time in the back. This extreme use of force by the border patrol is only mirrored in our national news right now with the treatment of young black males. The fence that currently exists in Douglas AZ is made of rusted pieces metal 20 ft tall  that were left after the Vietnam War. The wall is only this tall until you get farther into the desert, then it turns into vehicle barriers that are easily crawled over or under. At one time most of the individual cities are responsible for their own section of the  wall. So each city built high fences to the city lines, which pushed migrants farther out and forced them to wander farther into the desert. Not only is this not solving any problems with migration, but is actually causing more injuries and deaths due to extended time in the desert. The second day we were on the Mexican side of the wall with an organization called No More Deaths. They attempt to provide water and other resources to make the dangerous journey somewhat safer. Many migrants making the journey to the U.S. are mislead by coyotes and guides, saying that its only a day’s walk to the states, when in reality its several days or weeks. This often means that the migrants are ill prepared with few resources. We started our walk at a water station set up by this group for the migrants. We then walked to the fence through the desert. When we got to the wall, many people started climbing it, including a 13 year old. The wall is high, but easily climbed. There are also gate opening at the bottom of the fence in this particular section. During monsoon season in desert, the previous walls were blocking the natural flow of water, and eventually, the water destroyed all the walls. In the new wall, which has been up for 3 years, they built in areas that could be opened to allow more flow and less destruction. Not only is human migration hindered by the imposing wall, but nature is actively resisting it. Animals that use to go between countries are now stuck on their respective sides. Kids use to be able to go back and forth to play baseball and other games with each other, and border patrol use to give out popsicle to the kids. The fear of the “other” has created not only a physical border, but a border within us, letting us forget the humanity that exists on both sides of the wall.

Mother Teresa said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” No one tells this message better than Jesus in the story of the Good Samaritan. I know I have used this before in talking about radical hospitality, but I think this story, as used as it is, is not fully grasped in means of solidarity. Christ is talking about an unconditional type of love that unites all humans. In Luke, Christ tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate what it means to love your neighbor. In the story, a Jewish man was attacked and left for dead. The religious leaders left him and it was a Samaritan who cared for him. The Samaritans were despised and he still cared for the man who would in most context, not treat him with the same care. But solidarity and loving ones neighbor is not about how others treat you, or would treat you. It’s how you show God’s love daily. In the case of our border, it is our physical international neighbors, that we as a nation are constantly saying, our love does not encompass you.

The last day in Mexico happened to fall on the day of Pentecost, which was perfect timing. In Genesis, God decided to scatter the languages of the world, disuniting the people. The people were now divided by a language barrier and a geographical barrier. Genesis 11:8 “In that way, the Lord scattered them all over the world.” It is here where the idea of nations and differences between the nations seems to take place. But, on the day of Pentecost, God rectifies this in the book of Acts. “And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.” Now granted, we don’t all understand all languages, but we are united by many common threads. We are united by humanity and love. We are one people, whether or not a fence divides us. It’s time we started treating each other like we belonged to each other. One more over used passage to get this point across. “and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

I have much more to say about this trip, but I believe this post is long enough. Keep a look out for more about Mexico and my reflection on the amazing book The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Also I will be posting more picture from the trip so look for those! Thank you so much for your continued support in my year of service and growth!

 

Packing Light

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How do you pack for an entire year in a new city with only two checked bags. I asked/joked about this questions for months leading up to the start of my YAV year in Hollywood, CA. When I moved into my freshman dorm, I had a packed minivan with the seats taken out and more stuff in my own Honda Accord. When I started packing for LA, the day before as all good procrastinators do, I laid everything out on my bed. Piles of t-shirts, skirts, books, shoes, pictures. I had several of the plastic air tight bags that you used a vacuum to suck all the air out. It made for a lot of extra room, but also a 75lb bag. I reorganized and re-prioritized. So maybe I didn’t need 10 books, mom could ship them to me as I read more. I didn’t need 20 T-shirts and 10 long sleeve shirts (it doesn’t get cold enough in Cali for those).

In the last two day the YAV office has challenged me to think about something I brought that I didn’t need, and something I need that I didn’t bring. I looked around my room for things that haven’t been used since their arrival in LA. I still have too many books and too many shoes. As for things I wish I had, I am always sad to be in the kitchen looking for that one utensil or pan to realize that its back in Virginia. Don’t bring kitchen stuff, it wastes space, and you get much more creative with what you have. Who knew a double boiler could be replaced with a very precarious placement of sauce pans.

Something I definitely lacked when I got here was an open mind. I had it all planned out of what living in intentional community looked like, what working in a church setting looked like, what living in Hollywood looked like, and what the working with people experiencing Homelessness looks like. Everyday I am reminded that I have no clue what any of that will  look like the next day. Some days I’m surprised by how supported I feel by my friends who live homelessly and how non-Hollywod Hollywood really is. There are days when I overwhelmed by the commitment of the intentional community to be with each other, I have really lucked out with my awesome housemates, but I also am adjusting to living with people who process differently, who have different priorities, different life stories and goals, and interact differently than I do. I’m an extrovert, I know this is not news to anyone, but I can be with people all day and then do it again the next day. Not all my housemates want to be with people, or even me, all the time. I’m learning to find restoration in my alone time, and I hope my housemates are learning to find peace in a crowd of people.

YAV’s tag line is a year of service for a lifetime of change. While I love this line as I do hope this year molds my future, I find that much of the changing is happening during my year. When I first arrived to Hollywood, the DOOR directors challenged us to flip that statement, this is our year of change for a lifetime of service. I packed a lot, and there are days I wish I had packed more (I brought stuff back at Christmas and now It will never all fit to go back to Virginia.) But what I wasn’t prepared for was the constant change and adjustment this year has brought. You can’t pack for that, you don’t know what will stretch you or challenge you.

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Peace Meals and Easter Eggs

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Happy Holy week. Holy week is always a busy time in the life of a church. Beginning with Palm Sunday, continuing on with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, up to the joyous celebration of Easter Sunday. The Hollywood YAVs spent Palm Sunday in Phoenix Arizona. We took a long weekend to stay with Heather’s parents and watch a few spring training games. It was a mere 95 degrees for the Giants/Mariners game on Saturday. Fortunately, the temperature dropped 10 degrees for the Diamondbacks/Rockies game the next day. We celebrated Palm Sunday at the church Heather grew up in. We had an amazing trip of family and baseball. We quickly returned to our work week and the community house. Instead of attending a Maundy Thursday Service, we dyed Easter eggs and had an Easter egg hunt with the kids in our community. Some of our kids had never dyed Easter eggs before, and it was so much fun watching them explore the different colors and ways to make the eggs two toned. The Good Friday Service at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood was done in collaboration with Reality LA, a non-denominational church in Hollywood. I recently questioned why Friday is referred to as “Good” during Holy week, as it is the day that Christ was crucified. But then the pastor of Reality LA said, “In order to get the celebration of Easter, we must go through the suffering of the Crucifixion.” With out the death of Christ, there is no resurrection. Without death there is no life. It is through Good Friday we get Resurrection Sunday.

As a part of my family’s Easter tradition, we dye Easter eggs on Easter Eve each year. I have a picture of my first Easter, sitting with 3 of my siblings and my parents, the dining room table covered in newspaper and cups of vinegary dye with eggs in all of them. It’s tradition. As long as I can remember, I would plop my designated number of eggs into various colors and be done dyeing eggs in 5 minutes, and then sit very impatiently while my wildly creative sister would spend what felt like forever on her eggs. I got better as I got older, but never quite to Jennifer’s level. The wax crayon was my best friend, and I would write different things that I loved, my school, my pets, my sorority, my friends, my parents, and many other generic tokens. This year,  I watched the kids dye eggs as fast as they could, trying to remind them to take their time, and enjoy the process, word I never heeded as a child. But today, my new YAV family and I sat down to dye our own eggs. This year it took me 2.5 hours to dye 5 eggs~ Here are my creative masterpieces:

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Aren’t they lovely. The dyeing of Easter eggs is the tradition which brought us all to the table, to bring us together in fellowship and laughter. Most of the time only food can do this! Speaking of which, I finished my next book on the list! Peace Meals,  is the personal memoirs of war journalist Anna Badkhen. She tells her journey of  reporting from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other war torn countries in the Middle East and Africa. In each chapter, she tells the stories of former warlords and terrorist, rape victims, American soldiers, translators and drivers, prisoners, and everyday people, and how the meals she ate with each person forged a bond. Badkhen writes in the epilogue of her book ” In extremity, an offer to break bread is more than invitation to hear someone’s story. It is a chance to link that person’s life and yours.”

Exciting News! I’m going to Virginia in May! I’m so excited to see all of my sisters for the first time in a year. I just booked my ticket so I can see my nephew graduate from VMI! See you soon VA!

 

Also, my birthday is one week!

Making Room

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I finished the first book on my list!

Making Room is both a history and guide book through the practice of extreme hospitality. Christine D. Polh spent time with several intentional Christian Communities that practice this form of radical hospitality to learn how it is done most effectively. These communities exist both nationally and internationally and serves people from all walk of life. Pohl writes “Today when we think of the hospitality we don’t think first of welcoming strangers. We pictures having family and friends over for a pleasant meal. Or we think of the ‘hospitality industry,’ of hotels and restaurants which are open to strangers as long as they have money or credit cards … but we rarely see it as a spiritual obligation or as a dynamic expression of vibrant Christianity.” The organizations that practice radical hospitality provide welcome to refugees, immigrants, people experiencing homelessness, people with mental and physical disabilities, and other who live on the margins of society.

In reading this book, I couldn’t help to notice the similarities between the the practices of radical hospitality and the lunch program that I work with. While we only offer our program twice a week, we employ as many of the practices of hospitality and welcome. We start each day by giving each of our guest name tags which is “one of the simplest ways of communication welcome … learning their names quickly.” The other highly important form of hospitality, and the basis of our ministry, is to share a meal. We urge our all our volunteers to eat with the guest once the meal is served. While we are providing the basic necessity of food, we are striving to provide more, a place to build community and a sense of belonging. “In hospitality, the stranger is welcomed into a safe, personal, and comfortable place, a place of respect and acceptance and friendship. Even if only briefly, the stranger is included in a life-giving and life-sustaining network of relationships.” The last piece of radical hospitality we try to employ is to redefine the relationship between guest and volunteer. “Hospitality involves friendship as well as serving food.” We play the role of the church, and as such we strive to create mutual friendships instead of a social worker helping a client. “Because eating is something everyone must do, meal-time has a profoundly egalitarian dimension. Meal-time, when people sit down together, is the clearest time of being with others, not doing for others. It is the time when hospitality looks the least like social services.”

Pohl uses many biblical references to support the idea of radical hospitality. One in particular comes from the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan. “Jesus redefines neighbor and love for neighbor. The scope of our responsibility to care includes anyone in need. This expands more tightly bounded definitions of neighbor that tends to limit responsibility to those we like or those like us.” What would it look like if we took a Good Samaritan approach to issues of homelessness, immigration, and others pushed to the margins? How can we love our neighbors and refuse to offer them equal rights, allow them to go hungry and sleep on the street, and believe that they do not have a place in this world. Because, not only is each person we meet a representation of Christ, but our response also represents Christ in the world. “The response we give to an unexpected guest is connected to how that person experiences God’s love and welcome.”

Here are a few more quotes from Pohl’s book that I found helpful and intriguing:

“Without supper, without love, without table companionship, justice can become a program that we do to other people.” Murphy Davis, co-founder of the Open Door.

“When sanctuary and a slower pace are combined, there is a sense of peace.”

“Around a dinner table, family and guest share food and life.”

“The front door of the home is the side door of the church.”

“Generous and steady hospitality, practiced among believers from different backgrounds, can be the beginnings of significant reconciliation.”

“Church, like families, need to eat together to sustain their identity as a community. The table is central to the practice of hospitality in home and the church – nourishment we gain there is physical, spiritual and social. Whether we gather around the table for the Lord’s Supper or for a church potluck dinner, we are strengthened as a community.”

“It is in the shelter of each other the people live.” Irish proverb

And of course it wouldn’t be a blog about breaking bread without a new recipe. Today it is a fruit and rice salad. While this recipe can vary to your liking, here is what our lovely salad contained!

Beets, Beet Greens, Kale, Lettuce, Green Onions, Wild Rice, Strawberries, and Feta Cheese.DSC_3366

Start by cutting the greens off of the beets, wrapping the beets in tinfoil and baking them for 40 minutes at 350°F.DSC_3368

 Remove the spine from the beet greens and kale, cut all the greens into smaller pieces and combine them together. Slice the strawberries and add them to the greensDSC_3373.

Cook wild rice according to packaging and add to salad.Next, once beets are finished cooking, peel skin, slice and quarter. But be careful, their messy and will stain your hands.DSC_3379

Add the feta and chill for one hour.  DSC_3385

Again, any salad dressing will work but I like to make a balsamic dressing for this salad. Start with the juice of two lemons.DSC_3387

Combine 1/2 c. of olive oil.

Then add 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp. of rice vinegar, and a dash of paprika. Shake and serve! DSC_3390

One of our new goals as a house is to have dinner at least twice a week together. We have chosen Friday nights to share our meal and share our week. Due to a long work week, we usually are full of energy and full of laughs. This week we enjoyed dinner outside, because it’s L.A. and always warm. DSC_3392

“Hospitality will be most satisfying for both host and guest when food is served.”            — Joetta Handrich Schlaback