LAUP STM 2017 - Post-LAUP Update

Hi all,

August 6th marked the end of the Los Angeles Urban Program for its student interns! After that, I and the other team leaders and program directors spent a few days wrapping up and reflecting at Serra Retreat.

It’s been a packed seven weeks! We worked long days at Harambee’s summer camp, leaving home around 7:30 and getting back around 4:30. A lot of that time we got to spend just hanging out with the kids on the blacktop: playing, getting to know them, learning their stories. Some of what they shared wasn’t easy to hear. We heard about split families, families in jail, families threatened by deportation, and family members lost.

The conversations I had with kids who recently lost family members had a particular bite. Several months ago, a friend passed away, and it’s been emotionally and spiritually a rough season for me. These kids and their stories crawled into that jagged hole of grief. One told me that sometimes he feels like there’s something stuck in his throat and he can’t talk. I told him me too. I asked another whether she sometimes feels like there are sharp things in her chest. She nodded.

But this same girl, when questioned by another student about her father’s death, didn’t miss a beat. “Your dad will die too, and you’ll die, and I’ll die. Everyone dies.” I think God spoke to me in that. Jesus must be a strong kind of Good News if he is to be Good News to these families. The Good News is not that we don’t die, because as my dear small friend points out, we do die. And that’s painful. And yet, God brings me back to two-fold Good News, first that though death may sting and cast its shadow now, ultimately death does not win. Second and especially sweet to me, Jesus is profoundly, tenderly with us in the valley of the shadow of death.

What an honor to be with these kids this summer, and they with me.

Of the many reasons God brought me to LAUP this summer, I think one was to walk me into an expanded sort of grief that also holds and is held by others’ losses. One in which there is room for hope, though it be hazy, and room for joy, if only day-by-day.

We had some fun times this summer, on field trips, swimming and learning to swim at the pool, playing freeze tag on the blacktop, and even when doing worksheets in the classroom! I’m grateful for all the life and energy these kids shared with us.

And of course, we’re grateful for your prayers and support. May God bless you and be with you, wherever you are.


LAUP STM 2017Vivian Zhang