Thursday, November 26, 2009

Chica Chica Go Go

My dear beloved readers,

Not that I am normally very regular with this blog anyway, but I will be out of commission for a few days.

Ruthie and I are traveling back up to Chicago for a few days to catch up with friends and get a little R&R. I'll be working until about 1:30, then we'll be on the road for the rest of the day and well into the night.

Catch you on the flip side.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cancer vs. Bird

Betsabe wanted raise some money for cancer research. I told her that we could probably find a way to do so, and when a friend of our ministry donated secondhand clothes and household items, we got to work.

I presented the idea of doing a fundraiser yard sale in the community, then donating the money for cancer research. This way people in the neighborhood could get clothing and household items for cheap, and the kids could learn to run an event and help others.

Melvin thought it would be a better idea to raise money for a new bird since our dove escaped. Wanting to let the kids plan and execute the fundraiser themselves, I put it to a vote. Bird won by a landslide. On Saturday morning, some of the kids went out into the neighborhood promoting, others priced the items, and one worked security.

After the sale was over, we distributed the unsold items, then put the rest of the clothes in the donation box on our property.
The whole thing was a great hangout time, and a chance to work on cooperation, planning, and generosity (although judging by the vote against cancer research, we may have a long way to go).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Picture Round-up

Being the sort of person who loves to talk and talk and talk, I haven't been the best at posting pictures of our work lately. So here's a collection of snapshots from our recent activities:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Compassion and Chaos

Last night, I brought a few kids with me to the Communicycle shop to work on bikes. The shop is located in a large warehouse that is shared by a couple of other ministries.

The adult leaders, myself included, tend to have a peer approach, asking everyone to show respect to everyone else, and giving the kids a lot of freedom. We all want an atmosphere that leads to honest, uplifting relationships. We joke around and play while we work on bikes.

Recently, some of the kids have been acting up- picking fights with the other kids, distracting others from working on their projects, speaking disrespectfully, and refusing to follow shop guidelines. So we as leaders are wrestling with how to handle the chaos.

The usual approach is to crack down, to set the rules and assign all adults with the task of enforcement. This would be the easiest way to deal with the problem, and I've seen many of these kids respond well to loving discipline - it seems that having someone who cares enough to correct is actually a felt need.

However, then we get a dichotomy between the leaders and the youth that cuts against what we're trying to do - create a safe zone where we all interact on an equal footing. To create a heirarchy where we are at the top minimizes their responsibility and demands that we spend our energy enforcing a code.

The other option is to lead laissez-faire, letting the kids do as they please, hoping that they won't see us in the same way as all the other adults in their lives. This can lead to chaos as well as growing disrespect, and there is a suggestion of detachment inherent in this response.

So what do we do?

There's no easy answer. You always give something up when you pick your approach.

The solution that I lean toward is as follows: We spend time talking to kids about what they want out of shop time - I think any policy needs to spring out of relationships - and find out where their ideas line up or collide with ours. Then we need to work with them to find a medium we can all live with.

Once we have a shared vision worked out, we can depend on the natural leaders from among the kids to help the others, and when things go wrong, when boundaries are crossed, when leaders step away from the shared vision, we pull them aside and talk with them privately, providing consequences only if they are unwilling to work with us.

This way, we can provide discipline, and it still rests on the kids to figure out how to make a shared vision work. This way, we avoid becoming representatives of "Law," and we get to work together with the kids to establish a kind of liberty that doesn't lead to anarchy in the Communicycle warehouse.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Like a Record

First, the video, then some thoughts about why it's so embarrassing:

If you made it through the video, congratulations. I had to turn it off the first few times.

As someone who has to live with the brand of "Christian," this stuff is really embarrassing. As someone who works with kids, I see it as counterproductive, if not profane.

I don't have any problem with translating for a given audience, or for allowing the local culture to discuss and embody the gospel in a distinct way. In fact, I'd encourage those things. I think the problem with the above expressions (obvious plagiarism, sock spinning, praying about honor then telling Jesus he spins you right round like a record, etc.) is that they only engage superficially.

They scrape across the top of the culture, looking for the benign, fluffy elements that they can use without actual thoughtful engagement. This way, they can present an "interactive" gospel that has no danger of pollution. Basically, the gospel becomes "contemporary" without ever having to deal with human complexity.

Those of us who are into "incarnational" ministry often have a hard time with the way Christians use mass media. We're into the relational connections, the kind of relevance that springs out of living among and with the people who we are trying to reach. When bigger, more formulaic ministries use what we see as "cheap" tactics to seem cool, it looks like a joke.

So maybe some of it is preference. But really, spin your socks? A Holy Spirit Hoedown? Docey Do?

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Few Opinions about Money

After lifting weights with my friend Stephen, we went over to the Waffle House and replenished our protein. Over eggs and bacon, we had a good conversation about money, how it affects us and what we think about managing it. I had three opinions which I thought I'd relay here:

  • I feel like it would be wise for some people to ease up on giving to ministries until they are out of debt. A lot of people make commitments with money they don't really have, and they compound their debt with religious giving. And as one who lives off donations, I would rather have someone knock out their debt, free up their money, then be able to give consistently, even if it makes things a little tighter in the moment.
  • It's good to determine how much money you need before the money comes in. Once the income starts flowing, it gets easy to think you need more and more. I want to sit down and figure out a healthy amount of income, and if it is surpassed, I want to put the extra money back into my faith and neighborhood communities.
  • It's important to be involved with ministries you support. Encouragement, prayer, accountability, and hands-on service are all crucial to missionaries. We appreciate checks, sure, but they mean way more coming from friends, family, and ministry partners. Plus, it's more rewarding for the giver if she/he can see the fruit.
I don't know a whole lot about money, so I wouldn't encourage my readers to go out and make huge life decisions based on these things, but you gotta fill up a blog with something or other, so now you know what I think about money.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Does anyone remember when the word "emo" referred to a genre of poetic, emotionally driven punk rock? When the word "emo" referred to the music of bands like Fugazi and Sunny Day Real Estate ring any bells?

The word has a different meaning to the kids we work with.

The other day, I was talking with Tito and Betsabe about my iguana, Rockette, and how she scratches me all the time. I showed them where her claws had cut into my forearm.

They responded, "Oh. We just thought you were emo."

Apparently, the subculture that formed around the music has evolved into a label for those who cut themselves.

Yesterday, one of our fellow missionaries heard one of the girls talking about how awesome it was to be emo. We've heard reports of a few other kids cutting themselves as well.

As far as we know, all of the kids who do this have made professions of faith.

I get so frustrated sometimes when churches think they can just drop in, do an evangelistic SWAT operation, then vacate. These kids, Christian or otherwise, need stable, longsuffering relationships.

Please pray for us as we try to introduce and demonstrate a love that heals. It sometimes feels like we're in over our heads.