Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Take This Cup

Hope is found somewhere in the middle of despair. We are now approaching 5 years of life with our neighbors in Huntington Creek apartments.

We have seen an empty pantry and empty fridge and felt love demonstrated to us in a grocery gift card, or the offer of a meal in the home of a friend.

We know what it feels like to be broke. We feel the weight of the world on our shoulders. And to then be offered the cup, the symbol of Christ's blood shed for us, in communion with our brothers and sisters, who help us bear that weight.

We have felt the sting of sin in our own hearts. We see it working itself out in violence, greed and hopelessness in our neighborhood. When forgiveness is given and received in the mist of this mess, it is tangible. Grace becomes a reality.

Ian and I hope to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this neighborhood. He asks us to do the things that bring out our weaknesses, so that he can be our strength. The work is impossible to do alone, so as we work we experience the joy of community.

He strips us of the things we think we need so that he can satisfy our soul.

He does this through his people. Through you. Over and over again our family, friends,  and church have extended love to us. You are all connected to the cup of lemonade we place in the hands of Dulce, Diego, and Sammy at after school program.

You are connected to the rides and encouraging words we speak to Juan, Georgie, and Alan on the soccer team.

You are connected to a Friday filled with dignity at Refugee Beads class where women receive work and can contribute to their families needs through the work of their own hands.

When we feel we have nothing left to give, God gives us the very resource that is needed for someone's specific need. Thank you for being so generous with us, so we may be generous with those in need in our neighborhood.

We can testify that it is a satisfying way to live. It will be risky, hard, and maybe even dangerous, but God is faithful! Pray that we stay faithful.

We pray that God fills your cup and that you know where to pour it out again.

"And Jesus said, "I earnestly desire to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God." And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood."

Luke 22:14-20

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Up, Up, With Education!

Human beings create laws at a certain time in history with a particular understanding of the world. As time passes we must re-evaluate our laws for OUR time with a new understanding. Laws are for the good of all people. So we must listen to the voices of the oppressed and they must motivate us to justice.

People should never be called illegal. Only our actions can be illegal according to the law. And sometimes laws are unjust.

Take for example Rosa Parks. She stood up against the law to say with her actions; No! I will no longer abide by an unjust law. I am valuable. I am worth seeing. You must recognize that I am present in your society. There is a better way. The law must change!

In our after-school program we see the effect education or lack of education has in our community.

Our children attend schools that are barely able to pass kids through the system. I would say 1 out of every 5 kids in our program have failed a grade level. Teenagers going into High-school are not confident enough to read out loud. Their schools are over crowded and underfunded. Many even have to stand up during their bus ride to school because there are not enough seats. Their journey of education begins at a disadvantage. In their homes, they may be the only fluent English speaker, navigating homework, projects and forms all alone.

This is where we hope to be a presence in the neighborhood that can help.

Many of their parents left Mexico for fear of their life. There was no food and no real way to live if they stayed and there was no legal way to come. So it was a choice between death or breaking the law. So they came illegally.

In the present system, many kids who where not born here and are undocumented see no future in education. So they simply give up. They drop out. They ask, "Why push myself in school if my only options are to be a construction worker, cleaner, landscaper, drug dealer or thief?"

As many of you know we visit Nico in jail every week. He just turned 17. He dropped out of school, got mixed up in the wrong crowd and now he is in the Dekalb County Jail.

Nico spent many days helping me sweep floors for the after school program. He enjoyed playing soccer on Ian's team. But all his life he has been labeled an "illegal". He has not been afforded the luxury of having dreams for a brighter future. He feels stuck.

Some kids, despite these odds, try hard anyway. Maybe they have a mom or dad who push them to be the best they can be. Maybe a teacher, mentor or church community encourages them in the right direction.

When society calls them "illegal" we hope to be that consistent voice calling them "valuable". We must show them that they have gifts and talents the world needs!

These kids make it through high school, often with honors. Yet they find themselves in the same situation. They aren't allowed to go to college. If they are accepted they are forced to pay out of state tuition, and are ineligible for financial aid. Basically, at this point, going farther is impossible.

So what can we do? We can stand up and speak out against unjust laws.

Our friend Tim Isaacson, who started Immigrant Hope ATL, invited us to a Rally at the Georgia State Capitol for the right to in-state tuition for those kids who graduate from high school in Georgia. It was inspiring to see the courage of these young men and women chanting "undocumented... unafraid!", and "no papers...no fear...students are marching here." and "Up up with education, down down with deportation!"

Through our leadership program at the the after-school program, we are able to offer the older kids a way to give back and invest in their community in a positive way, giving them a sense of purpose.

We can create jobs that give dignity and provide resources to help them do well in school. This week I was able to give the job of making beads out of recycled magazine paper to Evangelina. We will use them to make beautiful jewelry for Refugee Beads. She is 15 and going into her freshman year at Cross Keys High School. She hopes to get a school uniform and school supplies with what she earns.

Miguel, a high school graduate that took honors courses but is stuck in limbo as he waits for the opportunity to go the college helps run the after school program three days a week. He is trying to earn a car and an education.

We would love to give more kids opportunities like this, giving them tasks and valid roles to earn their own way!

It takes all kinds of people in all walks of life, working together, to make a difference our world. We live here in the neighborhood and can help in a unique way. You are also are in a unique position, where God has you to love people. We need good teachers. We need good lawyers. We need the church! We need those who have resources to give. We need the housebound to pray!

Elie Wiesel, a novelist, holocaust survivor and political activist said,

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference"