Debbie Foley has been one of our most tireless workers, and has been leading the Bible club tent, as well as leading Bible clubs herself and through many helpers all over the community. This last Saturday, she was playing with some of the children by hopping over some benches. Well, she didn’t make it over one, and came down on her arm and broke it, as well as dislocated it. She will require surgery to set it.
Due to a series of insurance delays, she STILL has not had it set in a cast, and is not expected to get it set until next week. She is having some pain. Please pray for a quick resolution to all of this, comfort, and miraculous healing!
The first thing that struck me in our conversation was that Yuslivia was remarkably articulate and mature for her age. Several times I felt like I was speaking with a sophomore in college, instead of a junior in high school. In hindsight I shouldn’t have been that surprised, all of the LEAD interns up to this point had been mature for their age.
Yuslivia is very much a humanities person. She writes for the newspaper at school. She is enjoys english and theatre classes. She likes reading—a lot.
However children are Yuslivia’s biggest passion. She discovered this passion while helpin her little brother with his homework. One thing led to another and she found herself tutoring at St. Francis to two times a week. As she’s begun to imagine what she wants to do with her life, she has discovered her tutoring and time with youth has given her a desire to be a third grade school teacher.
In order to become a teacher Yuslivia aspires to go to university in L.A. She thinks it would be just far enough away from her family for her to be independent but close enough that the environment and people aren’t too different.
Her own teachers have been very encouraging in this newfound desire to teach third graders and it was this love for children that led Yuslivia to help with Bible club at the Pekary’s house. April was giving her a ride back to her house one day and told her about LEAD. It sparked her interest (especially the part about working with children) and she decided to apply. She looks forward to being challenged in making new friends, gaining skills to be a become a better leader and learning to help kids grow.
Two years ago I decided I wanted to play club soccer. I started with one team here in East Palo Alto and then I met Shannon. I really like Shannon. Once I asked him for help with my homework and he said. “Ok, but I only have 45 minutes” Because he had to go do yard work. We finished three hours later! I coached soccer once and Shannon told me that I should apply to LEAD. I really like
What do you like about soccer?
I like competition. I also really like running. But I like running as a part of a game!
Where do you go to school?
Eastside College Prep here in East Palo Alto. I’ll be a senior next year. My school is great. They are very supportive and they want me and my friends to succeed.
What subjects do you most enjoy?
I really like studying science like biology and chemistry. Maybe I like biology a little bit more. I used to like math but it’s gotten a lot more difficult lately. I really like doing the biology experiments. I also really like the outdoors, nature, hiking and animals—especially when we do dissections. It’s cool to see how complicated our world is.
Are you hoping to study science at college?
No, I actually want to study communications. Maybe somewhere like St. Mary’s College.
I think it would give me the skills to achieve my dream. I want to open a school like [the school she attends] but I would start at kindergarten and go through high school. I know it would be a lot of really hard work. But it’s really important to me and I’m determined to work on it. That’s been something I’ve actually been learning recently: if I Iset my mind to something and work hard, I can do it.
Why do you want to open a school?
I enjoy working with kids. I’ve appreciated my school and think it’s important to see more of them, but I don’t want to be a teacher. I’ve been volunteering at the Girls2Women program since I was a freshman. I’ve been organizing games and spending time with them and they have helped me to remember the important things in life.
You must be looking forward to LEAD then.
I’m very excited for LEAD. I think I have a lot of patience so kids listen to me when I talk to them. I’m excited to see how I will grow in the classes and I look forward to working with other LEAD interns and getting to know them better.
Carlos sat across from me, somewhat shy and yet somehow also curious—about what I’m not sure, maybe our conversation. I hadn’t told him much only that I worked for RYAA and I was wondering if I could interview him for both the blog and the newsletter. He readily agreed.
He is almost seventeen and will be a senior this year. This summer he will be an intern in RYAA’s LEAD program. The LEAD (Leadership, Education And Development) program for high school students that spans six weeks in the summer. In the morning the interns will attend classes as well educational and career exposure trips and in the afternoon they run and coach sport programs for kids. The program is suppose to empower the East Palo Alto high school students with a better understanding of the opportunities and work necessary to excel after graduation while simultaneously forcing them to exercise their leadership skills while working with children.
Carlos and I began our conversation with soccer. He likes soccer. A lot!
I got the feeling that he was pretty good at it as well though he remained adamantly humble throughout our time together. I discovered that he plays with a nationally ranked team and that he derives great pleasure in just practicing by himself.
Soccer was the reason Carlos heard about RYAA and he began playing when he was younger. He befriended Shannon and over the years kept in contact. This last year he coached 10 year old soccer for RYAA. Of his experienced he reflected.
“I loved training those kids. They improved so much and we even got really, really close to the finals.”
He stated that his kids learned a lot about teamwork one day when one of them had been made fun of after tripping over. He gave the team a pep-talk followed by a serious conversation. “I was surprised that they were willing to be serious and listen.” Carlos beamed with pride. He described how the next game the kid who fell helped the team go from 1-0 to 1-2, and win the game in the last two minutes.
I asked Carlos what he was looking forward to at LEAD. He responded with some profoundly wise words. He said that the was looking forward to meeting new people, but also that he was looking forward to new experienced with the kids and listening and hearing what their life was like. This, he explained, “would help me to remember my own memories and past, which would in turn help me to better help me give them advice and support in their life and learning goals.” Here I sat back in my chair and listened as Carlos talked about the importance of listening to younger children and how that simple act along can empower them in getting ahead.
By this point in our conversation, it was evident to me that our discussion of his life and the moments of maturity had excited Carlos. He was much more open and engaged . When asked what he wanted to do with his life, Carlos was quick with a response.
“I want to become an engineer.”
Preferably at UCLA he adds. He described how programing robots as well as designing and then, launching rockets had inspired him. Learning math and attending the NASA step program at Moffett Field had given him a passion for technology and technology.
By the end of our time together, I too found myself inspired by Carlos’ story and ambitions. He cares about kids and wants to help his community. He has big dreams and is willing to put in the hard work and discipline necessary to work towards them. Without a doubt I am sure that his time with LEAD will be a time for him to perfect his leadership skills and gain necessary knowledge and skills to prepare for his future.
In a previous post we introduced the idea of “relocation” as a beginning step towards community development and spreading the Kingdom of God here on Earth. Like the Pekarys, The Joh family is another family who have moved to East Palo Alto after having learnt from Dr. Perkins’ promotion of Jesus and divine relocation.
In the beginning…
Before they were married and before they were even dating, Amy and Steve separately heard about the value of relocation and incarnational ministry while working with Bayshore Christian Ministries (BCM). For both of them this was right after college. Amy had moved straight to East Palo Alto in order to volunteer with BCM and quickly discovered the practical aspects of living in the city she was serving. In reflection she described how, “…you see more of the needs of the community as they start to become your needs.”
Having grown up in Los Altos, Steve recalls that the only thing he knew about EPA was that he was told not to stop on his way across the Dumbarton bridge. Yet after graduating Steve’s interest in social justice and ministry resulted in a job with BCM and he soon found himself in EPA all the time.
While working together at BCM, Steve and Amy began to date and the two began to become increasingly familiar with the families, youth and city of EPA. After Steve got a job with Highway Community church the two married and moved to Sunnyvale.
Relocating back to East Palo Alto!
“Being away in Sunnyvale made me realize how much people care about this city and it made me realize the real depth of the community here in East Palo Alto. People are more connected; they fight more for their community and have pride from being from here. The people of this city have worked hard for this place and they love it here, this is their community.” –Amy
After a year of living in Sunnyvale, Steve and Amy were compelled to move back and onto Beech Street. Steve was initially hesitant but eventually came to a place where he felt peace with the move. Steve commented that, “not only was it very convenient, with our current house being so close to BCM, but we knew it was both good and right.” Aside from the practicality of Amy working just a few blocks away from home (an increasingly important detail since the arrival of their second daughter), both Steve and Amy have described the move and relocation as a step of obedience for them.
Steve remarks that, “Biblically speaking, there’s a constant theme of there being something special about the poor. God is with the poor.” Amy added that, “God cares about the poor. We felt that we should go where God is, and God feels more visible here than in the surrounding suburbia. Hard things happen here but being part of a community that suffers, forced to be aware, to participate, to live through that suffering has forced us to have a deeper faith and hope that is in your face.”
Thoughts on Relocation.
Both Steve and Amy have remarked that the step of relocating and living incarnationally has benefitted their ministries. Amy has found that it is easier to connect to the people she serves at BCM and that living in the same community helps to ease barriers. Kids and parents alike respect and treat her different. The act of merely living in the same community, Amy has found, “demonstrates the depths of how much you care in a way that words can’t.” Steve has found that living in EPA has made it easier for him to challenge and change perceptions that people in the church may have regarding the city. The house has served as a sort of “bridge home” that serves a safe place for Christians from outside EPA to begin to think about serving those in more tough situations. It also has forced him to think about living out what he preaches as someone on staff at Highway. Living in EPA has enabled him to live out what he teaches when it comes to loving the poor and underprivileged.
In moving to EPA the Johs are trying to follow the footsteps of Jesus, who himself relocated from heaven to Earth in order to share with his community the love of God. Since doing so they have learned new things about themselves, about God and about what it means to be a part of a community. It’s not always easy, as the couple have described the grief of seeing friends and acquaintances go through difficult times that have included gangs, drugs and death. They also add that they are very much still trying to figure things out and know that they will eventually have to decide where to send their daughters to school. In the meantime, Amy’s concluding thoughts on the manner is that, “While relocation is not for everyone, for those who are working with the poor, it’s very important.”
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.
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.