LAUP stories_002 | wor_ship

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.

this is the story of when i led worship on a container ship.

before we begin, dear reader, i’m afraid you may feel like you’ve skipped a chapter in a book, and some things may miss your darling brain. so, this bitty intro here provides some context to keep you informed. if you think you know enough, then by all means, skip this chapter and read ahead. but, for everyone else, please stay and read.

my team this summer consisted of five lovely souls beside my own: jeff, emaly, michael, and kim, our ASC, or team leader. we stayed at the house of a biracial white/indian couple, who we called mama fay and papa chim. papa chim is a retired chaplain at the port of long beach, and had been serving for over twenty years, building relationships with captains and seamen, even occasionally housing a few.

papa chim invited us to go to the ports with him to sing worship songs to the crew before they set off to japan. we had to get cleared by the ports a few days in advance, and had to leave the family center early that day.

well then. now that you are filled in, reader, so begins the story of my favorite day of LAUP.

tuesday, 18 july 2017
PORT OF LONG BEACH – 6PM

it takes 10 days to get from long beach to japan, by ship.

24 hours to unload,

then 10 more days to get back.

21 days of work

and 4 days off.

they choose to spend one of days those with us.

it felt like we got out of school early. we cut tutoring short so we could get to the ports by 6pm.

we were laughing and bouncing and yelling in the car, just a bunch of kids on their way to a shipyard after school.

we meet up with papa chim and sam, his chaplain friend, at the port of long beach. they came with a stack of pizzas, we came with a guitar and djembe, ready to worship.

we were taken to the captain’s quarters, towards the top of the ship. ported, it looked down on the shipping yard, as giant cranes lifted crates from floor to ship.
we climb all over the couches, children in dad’s office, gaping at the giant claw-machines grabbing for prizes.

we fight for window space,

my turn!

i shove emaly out of the way. with my face pressed into the thick bolted glass window, i can kind of make out the neighborhood of my beachside apartment.
i look down at the faded blue and red crates, stacked like a building.
this is something i didn’t think i would see when i signed up to tutor third graders for a summer.

the captain takes us to the bridge, the main steering room.

we take the elevator up, which made me nervous only because mama fay told us a story about a little boy who died in a ship’s elevator once;
his body got caught between the inner and outer door, and when it shut, the elevator pulled down half of him with it.

we pile in.

it feels like a coffin.

i am matchboxed in between six other bodies.

this casket of an elevator makes my back cold and wet with confinement sweat.

the elevator stops and i get out last, making sure to jump out with both feet so i don’t get caught in between anything.

on deck, we touch and take pictures of just about everything. the bridge is panoramic. it overlooks the entire port and everything going on below.

we make our way into a small common room.

sam and papa chim introduce us as missionaries. and before we start singing, sam says a few words

when they were our children, they were bad.
but when they become God’s children, they become better, and good.

worship was great.
i’ve never lead worship before.

i made mistakes, and it wasn’t perfect, but it was fun, and a privilege to lead worship on a ship, for a group of men about to go out on a 10 day journey.

our presence to these seamen was very important, as papa chim explained a few nights earlier.
they go out to sea and have a grueling schedule, one that allows for very little downtime. they often leave behind family for months at a time and completely change crews after a full shipment.

it’s a lonely job, especially for the captain, his authority ostracizing him from his crew most of the time.

the thing with LAUP is that we are put into an environment we’re not all entirely used to; one that is meant to show us what underprivelage looks like,
living in lower class neighborhoods, living on a stipend of $175 a week, living in the confines of a 1 mile radius from our site.

and it’s not to be a tourist at a zoo; we are there to integrate with, build relationships with, and sympathize with the people of our community; being a christian is all about community living, and you can only do that if you live in community with all of God’s people, from all parts of privilege.

so when we got this special treatment, it was displacing, uncomfortable,

and made slightly more uncomfortable when i learned that the pizzas papa chim and sam brought had disappeared along with a majority of the crew, and we were set to eat a dinner with the captain only. it was prepared by and served by ansari, a crew member who stayed extra long and took extra pictures with us after worship.

after dinner, the captain takes us to explore the engine. we each get a pair of earplugs because it’s so loud.

and for the rest of the time we were on the ship, i let myself just be there, and stay innocent to what i know is a very hard life.

we reach the very bottom and take the elevator up; too many stairs to climb.

i came back outside with the same amount of privilege i came in with.
stipend living does not take away our college educations, our living in a first world country, our ability to give up six weeks of our summers, to not have a job
and to live with the people that must.

the only difference is that now, i know what it looks like. and as simple as it is, that’s all i needed.

.

.

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this is the second piece in a series of LAUP stories. click here to find more.

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LAUP stories_001 | LAUP_date

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…
#imnotbitter #oweek

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.

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underneath the colosseum pier | the living water

8 april 2017
jesus, i hope i can play with you tomorrow

9 april 2017
easy acoustic guitar, soft singsongy voices, and citrus lime cake.

we sit quietly in the car afterwards, speechless really. golden hour approaches, the 6pm sun is setting. we are headed to the beach.
when we park the car, the street is sunday busy, so not really busy at all.

we are barefoot before we hit the sand, flip flops in hand.
stephen starts us off as we run to the water, sand slowing our speed, but not our energy.

we jump and splash and kick in the puddles. it’s cold but it feels good

activating

a spring of life, the first taste of summer.

it wakes up the children in us.

we run to the pier,
against the wind, our jackets and towels picking up air like kites and capes.

underneath the pier, it feels endless.
as big as a colosseum, with the sun slowly lowering over white foamy waves, falling over, folding over, each column they run into.
standing ankle deep in clear water, feet playing with the loose sand, and little sand crabs, and tiny baby sand clams,
gently brushing our soles.

we stand there for a while, watching the liquid land in front of us wave in and out
the unblocked sun steadily burning our skin, eyes, the tips of our noses – unable to look away – thinking about how we got to this day.

we walk back, the edges of our shorts soggy from the last wave
smiling, overwhelmed at what we were doing.

stephen picks a washed up stick and runs in a spiral
circling it along the sand as justin, jordan and i chase him
completely careless and stupid happy
children playing tag before supper
this is a life that’s full of color

the wind picks up as we take our time back to the car
the sand behind us, a thin grey haze itching our ankles.

justin grabs a handful and lets the breeze push it from his hand
it follows the wind

we are kid_s
this is wonder_ful

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speed dating was so weird

i went speed dating at my school last week.
and it was so weird.

i invited lots of friends to come, and three showed up, which i was very grateful for.
before the event, we tried to hype each other up for it, but most of us are introverts, so we were not looking forward to it that much.

i was asked by my own friends if i was ‘seriously prospecting’ or if i was doing it for lol’s.

i did it for lol’s, and because it’s a weird experience that you see in movies, but never really get a chance to do.

so it was pursued for lol’s and living out a movie.

and
speed dating was so weird.

the event started with the emcees telling us not to ask questions like, ‘do you know what chloroform smells like’ and then sending us off.
the girls sat on the inside of a square of tables, and the men rotated around us in three minute dates.

sit, shake, swoon
but not really.

it was more like,

‘hey, tell me about yourself’

‘so, what’re your hobbies’

‘this is me, blah blah blah’

the guys pretty much always started, which was a bit of a sad lady observation, that i didn’t actually really want to start the conversation… but i still responded, and when i did, i responded with the whole truth:

waiting patiently for the thing to start, SAMI, a small girl with newly bleached hair sits between strangers, splitting the coffee bean decorations with her fingers instead of picking at them. a dude with a nice smile takes a seat, shakes her hand, and introduces himself as DUDE.

DUDE
hey, tell me about yourself.

SAMI
EHH that question is awful. it’s way too general for me to answer, ask me something else.

DUDE
what? what am i supposed to ask?

SAMI
just ask like, what’s your major…?

DUDE
ok.

silence. sami’s expectant stare. dude says nothing. so, sami asks a question.

SAMI
…what’s your major?

dude answers, and then the timer dings and the thing starts all over again. sami loses more energy.

 

i was also spreading the gospel to at least half of the guys i talked to, and got some of the strangest responses from them.

 

shaved head, vest, and slow speech, GUY, who was way to old to be prospecting college girls, tells sami about himself before asking her about herself, but does ask sami some questions, too.

GUY
so, what are some of your hobbies?

SAMI
oh well i’m in this CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP CALLED INTERVARSITY AND I LEAD A SMALL GROUP WANNA HEAR ABOUT IT

GUY
oh i believe in God.

SAMI
oh cool, would you want to check it out next semester?

GUY
oh maybe… i believe in God. but i only believe in four of the ten commandments.

SAMI
well you know, they’re all important.

GUY
yeah, but i really hold these four to the highest respect.

he counts them out on his fingers…

GUY
respect thy mother and father, don’t steal, don’t kill, and thou shalt not commit adultery.

SAMI
oh ok… do you go to church?

GUY
yes, sometimes… i went to church last week with my mom. and i’ll probably go this week too.

as he explains his church schedule, the timer goes off, and he stands up to leave, and sami calls out to him with her last minute advice.

SAMI
ok. you should keep going to church!

 

and some guys were just completely stressed out.

 

JOHNATHAN, full suit, gelled hair, upside down name tag greets sami hand first. she takes it and shakes it.

SAMI
hi johnathan! your name tag is upside down!

eyes wide, johnathan rips off the nametag and puts it right, on his chest.

JOHNATHAN
damn!

sami has no idea how to respond with his stress, so she just lets him lead the conversation.

 

yeah.
speed dating was weird.

but i’d do it again in a single heartbeat ❤

 

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