Relocation

Have you ever relocated? Knowing that Americans are extremely mobile, I’m guessing you have moved from the house you grew up in and have, at least once, established a new home or business. People relocate for many different reasons ranging from work, to health, to love, to family, to education. Underlying almost all of these is the strong desire to strengthen human relationships in pursuit of those aims. God well understands the idea of relocation. The desire for better relationship was the reason God relocated to be with us in the form of Jesus Christ. He loved and cared for us so much that he came to us as a child, and He has been with us ever since.

Relationships were the reason the Pekary family relocated to East Palo Alto. Shannon and April were compelled by a desire to share their relationship with their God with their community and their neighbors of East Palo Alto. The Pekarys became familiar with the idea of relocating to poorer neighborhoods and cities here in America through the writings of one wise pastor, Dr. John Perkins and in relocating the Pekarys took the first step of a process of what Perkins describes as critically important component to spreading God’s justice, triumph and love here on Earth.

Perkins is an African-American pastor with an amazing testimony and life story (you can read about it in the book “Let Justice Roll Down”) and has been in ministry since the 60s as passionate vessel for God in the areas of racial reconciliation, civil rights and community development. He’s been a pastor at several churches and has been at the forefront of founding and advising many different organizations that are involved in empowering and developing poor communities and neighborhoods—the most prominent being The Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). In his book “With Justice for All”, Perkins describes the different steps necessary of working for biblical and just community development.

Relocation

With his first step Perkins echoes Christ’s call for believers to go and live among the poor. He describes his own struggle to obey Christ’s command to return with his family to Mississippi (from where he originally left) in order to share the gospel. Perkins shares with his readers with words of profound truth when describing the need for relocation:

“Neither politicians nor philanthropists can offer people what they need the most—the incarnate lover of Christ. Unless the church fulfills its responsibility to proclaim by word and deed the “Good News to the poor,” the poor have no true hope. We, the church, bear the only true gospel of hope. Only through us can the power of Christ’s love save and deliver them. The fate of the America’s poor is in our hands.” (pg. 56)

Relocation is not a value that Perkins has created out of thin air. Relocation is what Abraham, Moses and Nehemiah did. It’s what God did. We would not have the gospel today if Christ had not relocated and dwelt among us. Perkins writes,

“The incarnation is the ultimate relocation.” (pg. 89)

To relocate and live among those who are poor, to seek to make their needs our needs, to live out the gospel by working for the improvement of our neighbors’ lives in every manner—this is what Jesus did and we, as Christ followers, are called to imitate in obedience. Perkins stresses the divine importance of relocation:

“Not only is the incarnation relocation: relocation is also incarnation. That is, not only did God relocate among us by taking the form of man, but when fellowships of believers relocate into a community, Christ incarnate invades that community. Christ, as His body, as His church, comes to dwell there.” (pg. 89)

In relocating to East Palo Alto and sharing their home and lives with their neighbors the Pekary family have positioned themselves to share Christ’s love in daily action and deed. And now, with RYAA, the Pekarys are helping to spearhead an organization that serves the youth of East Palo Alto in a Christ-like manner—beginning with being physically, emotionally and spiritually near and present to those they serve.

This blog post will be the first of a series of blog posts that will be discussing the idea of “relocation”. Keep tuned! We will be bringing you future posts on this subject from the perspective of those who have decided to make East Palo Alto their permanent homes. 

Cesar Perez on LEAD

Over this past summer, I had the privilege of working at LEAD. LEAD is a summer job open to teenagers and it provides them with leadership skills so that they can make a difference in their community (East Palo Alto). As many of us know, East Palo Alto is not the best neighborhood existent. East Palo Alto is a small community that lacks many key things; LEAD, however helped me and others fill in a very important gap in the lives of many children growing up in this neighborhood. As children grow up they need to feel loved, either by their parents or by someone whom they grow up with. A way to show a child that you love them is by giving them your attention, even if it’s for the shortest time. However, many  parents work during the day so they need a place for their children to be and feel loved and they have that opportunity at RYAA.

As LEAD took on a load of kids attending RYAA, I was shown that kids really do need attention and love from any person possible. Every day we would work with these kids, which gave us the opportunity to build a relationship with them personally. Some of the relationships we built developed over the course of one day or even just a second. What helped us build these relationships was making them feel important. A simple high-five made the day of any one of those kids. A smile from them completed our goal of making a change in the community. However, I must admit that it was hard keeping calm while working with so many active kids. Sometimes I felt like I couldn’t handle the kids, but I learned a trick to get the children to realize they needed to behave. I would focus on the ones behaving, and while my attention was still given equally would the children did not realize that.

I thought that when it was all over I would never see the kids again, but I was wrong. I bump into the kids all the time and it’s awesome because they remember you so well and ask for the other LEADers. Overall I think it was a great experience and I can confidently say that the kids were touched by LEAD’s work because smiles and love, to a kid, is worth more than anything in the world. I’d also like to acknowledge Shannon’s work and everything he has done for East Palo Alto because if it weren’t for him the lives of these kids would be totally different. I want to thank him for allowing me to be part of LEAD and I’m sure the kids thank him as well for putting together such a great camp.

by Cesar Perez

A safe place to grow up

We published a video a couple weeks ago that showed some younger students playing sports during recess as a result of the organization and leadership of some of our high school students. (Link to our video)

Little over a month ago, an article was published in the Mercury News reporting on the film submission of 14 youth from East Palo Alto to Cinequest’s “Picture the Possibilities” project (Link to Mercury News article). The project included submissions from youth from all over the world, from “Beijing to Mexico City to New York” and the article describes how the documentary made by the youth from East Palo Alto “struck the most powerful chord” by showing youth talking about violence in their neighborhood and their simple desire for a safe place to skateboard. You can watch the video below:

In more than a couple ways, the video above with its discussion of the effect of violence on youth, stands in a stark contrast to our own which shows kids playing sports and having fun. For us at RYAA the disconnection highlights the need for what we do: providing safe, positive and healthy activities for youth while walking alongside them in whatever situation they find themselves in. The children and youth of East Palo Alto deserve safe and constructive environments that equip them to be tomorrow’s leaders.