LAUP STM 2017 - Midpoint Update
Hello friends and family,
I hope your summer has been enjoyable thus far! Since my last update, we've gone through one week of orientation with the other LAUP teams and a couple weeks of serving at Harambee for its summer program.
Our team has been SO BLESSED these past few weeks- thank you for all your prayers and support!! Living on $5/day hasn't been very difficult, and all of it truly comes from God's provision. We were fined a $46 parking ticket on the first night, $20 of which was paid off by another LAUP team. We've been treated to food in unexpected moments; just this past weekend, we bought popsicles for a group of neighborhood church volunteers who were repainting the Harambee building in 102F heat, and they decided to regift us an extra two boxes of pizza and doughnuts. God also blessed us with our housemates Jill and her daughter Clarke, Jill being an education consultant for Harambee (who is exceptionally wise and an amazing resource when it comes to getting to know the kids), and pretty much our mom <3
Building friendships with our housemates and neighbors allowed us to learn quite a bit about the history of the surrounding neighborhood (one of the ladies living across from our house has been here since the 50s!). Through the influence of Harambee Ministries, Navarro street in Northwest Pasadena has progressed from having the highest daytime crime rate in the entire U.S. to being safe and lined with houses of families. It's not all rainbows and butterflies though; one of the difficulties felt here in recent years has been the rise in estate prices. We've taken neighborhood walks and noticed some new remodeled houses standing out starkly against the older, paint-worn ones. As a result, many of the families Harambee has been helping support cannot afford to live near the area anymore, and it's led to a decrease in student attendance. (There are 36 children here ranging from ages 4-13, and I've been helping with the kids going up to third and fourth grade.)
One of the things I've been challenged to understand is how to actively enter into God's heart for peacemaking and (re)conciliation, in light of how systemic injustice permeates into our individual realities. Being here at LAUP has helped me reflect on how I've perpetuated systemic oppression, both actively and passively. More specifically though, Harambee is also a place where I've seen systemic injustice actualized. From speaking with staff, teachers, and the children themselves, our team came to realize very quickly that beneath every violent tendency and inappropriate behavior lie stories of brokenness in the children's family and upbringing. Almost every child here comes with heavy baggage: for instance, I've spoken with many kids here to learn that their parents are divorced. One of the boys' father was recently released from jail, and least two children's fathers were recently shot and killed, as well as another boy's uncle. Aside from these, there are numerous other stories of brokenness manifested.
Yet somehow in the midst of brokenness, I've also seen the way God is at work. We've noticed how the children here often share food and their possessions with each other without an ounce of selfishness, as well as their resilient character amidst adversity. While beauty doesn't erase brokenness, it was through overcoming apathy and actively engaging within the unfamiliar (and oftentimes uncomfortable) spaces of these children that we could become aware of both. As much as it has been intellectually enlightening to attend Scripps College and learn about systemic and institutionalized injustices in the classroom, it's been through knowing this in practice that has been profoundly hope and life-giving for my faith journey.
For the sake of concision (which kinda failed tbh) I think I'm just going to leave it at that. There's a lot I haven't said, but I'm sure it'll be covered in my final update!
tl:dr: We are very "ok but challenged"! (credits to Julie for the phrase)
Thank you again for your love and support <3