the ashes of people’s things fall on my apartment steps and into my eyes.
the city is on fire
even thirty miles away
the brain pinching smell of piss perfumes the cracked cement backyard of my city apartment. as i walk downtown, i find there is nothing special from alley to alley, nothing particularly unique to differentiate each building back from the last.
grey and narrow and edge to edge with anotherman’s trash, this is tight city living. where people find parking in front of each other’s garages, and life is hard to come by but not completely void.
people dig through trash with their shopping carts, bicycles, and flea market carts, collecting odd old things. there is a small bit of shame as we exchange shy lip-stretched smiles and covert glances at each other in the walk-by. stories skipped over as we pass, and soon forget each other’s faces.
there may be nothing particularly unique about these narrow walkways, but the character of each one shines brightly through the patchy floors and chipping wall paint.
the difference you pay when you live where there is no backyard.
The following two excerpts are email updates I sent out to a small group of people when I was at LAUP, or, the Los Angeles Urban Project.
This summer, I participated in a six-week mission trip called the Los Angeles Urban Project, or LAUP.
LAUP is partnered with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and sends college students and recent grads all around los angeles to live with and work with the urban poor.
My team was placed in West Long Beach.
We worked with Fountain of Life Covenant Church’s family center, tutoring k-12 kids.
14 July 2017 – three week mark –
Contrary to my own belief, these first three weeks were actually super difficult. I was pretty homesick and overwhelmed the first week, pretty tired and overwhelmed the second week, and pretty challenged and overwhelmed the third week.
I came in with a posture I often have with new challenges, thinking,
It’s easy, I got this!
But was immediately bucked from my high horse to the welcoming and humble, humble ground.
Orientation week kicked me in the butt. Four days full of talks, and discussions, and bible studies, and social justice, and money, and living incarnationally and convictions, convictions, CONVICTIONS out the wazooooOOOooo!
Plus, commuting up from West Long Beach to Lincoln Heights for the week, and eating mainly pasta and rice gives you the farts, the fats, and the carbo-loaded energy to run around,
not sit in an old, unpadded chair inside a hot, windowless, sanctuary for eight hours…
Week two was our first week on site, and getting used to working full days from 9 – 6, creating full curriculums and filling the day for these kiddos nearly pushed me into burnout.
Reflection was needed. And reflection was had.
And the hard things started coming up.
I think I realized that I initially signed up for LAUP for reasons besides what the program actually is all about.
LAUP is about community living, community involvement, and living a life as selfless as Jesus.
And I signed up because I thought it would be fun.
Of course I wanted to grow closer to God, I wanted to learn about His heart for the poor, the marginalized,
but I really just wanted to do it for me, more than anything. Because my friends and mentors said it would be a great thing to do, because I was a little aimless about what I wanted to do after college, because I wanted God to put something on my heart.
Now, those don’t seem like terribly sinful reasons, but I realized that I never prayed about it, or asked God if this was where he wanted me to be for the summer, and that disappointed me.
That said, week three has brought a bit of redemption for this realization!
As I have gotten to know these kids, my heart has begun to hurt for them, and I can feel God begin to show me where He’d like me to go.
Some of you may know that starting a charter school (in the way distant future) has been something that me and some friends have been toying with this last year or so. At the very least, school reform is something on my mind
I think that while working with the Family Center, my mind has begun to picture that future more and more.
The kids are here for a reason. They were left behind, they fell through the cracks,
they became marginalized.
I’m working with kids who are in the first grade for the third time because they can’t read, kids who look like they’re about to cry when I bring out division, kids who were just left behind because they learn differently.
And that is breaking my heart.
It’s only been three weeks,
and ideas have not been fully processed,
but these things that God is bringing up, as difficult as some of them are to [deal with],
have been very cool to deal with.
6 August, 2017 – Post LAUP –
So… LAUP ended.
And now, I’ve got some plans.
If you’ll remember, when I last wrote, I was barely realizing my understanding of where God might like to send me post-grad and post-laup.
What seems to have transpired from my six weeks is a desire to work with marginalized kids.
I’m going to take the CBEST (California teacher test), and apply to be a substitute teacher (you only need a BA to do it!) to see if a classroom environment is the one for me. That said, as of right now I am still exploring different avenues of how I can best use my skills of media and film and storytelling to cater to underprivileged youth in and around Long Beach and LA, because teaching isn’t necessarily the only path.
I’m really excited to see where this takes me, and super grateful that I have found something that both breaks my heart and fills me with joy, allowing me to instill some sort of change in the community I am in.
LAUP was transformative in so many ways, and I am so happy it was my first post-grad adventure. It is going to change the way I enter the working world, and how I try to impact it.