Community Healing

I had arrived at Urban Project a week late not truly knowing what to expect when I was going to arrive. I was going to a place where I felt called to be but also knowing that I was going to have to open up to people who already knew each other and had established relationships. About an hour before I was supposed to leave for Urban Project, I felt this overwhelming sense of anger and annoyance that I was even going. I knew I would be learning about important social issues prevalent in society, but my need to learn about these issues didn’t feel as enough of a reason to go. I didn’t know what was going on inside of me but I forced myself to attend and be as open as I could. Once I got there, it wasn’t easy getting into the swing of things. I’m not the most social person so it took time for me to get to know the people and in doing so, I had to push myself to open up to many pressing issues facing American society today.

We started talking about racial tension and these talks became so deep and vulnerable that my first instinct was to crawl back into my shell and peace out. Though I figured that there would be no change, no understanding of my African American experience received by my white brothers and sisters in this country if I didn’t share my experience. In order to create change and healing, these wounds need to be mended and cleaned out to heal correctly. This healing process requires pain, both from whites and blacks. For whites to bear the guilt of what other whites had done to blacks and for blacks to relive and open our pain up to others. 

We had watched the movie, 13th on Netflix the other day and I had never seen it before. The stone-cold truths I witnessed in this film were disturbing, saddening, shocking, and extremely manipulative. In this film, the director depicted the inhumane flaws of the American system that blacks suffer from. The injustice overflowed throughout this film and wreaked havoc on me spiritually, mentally, and physically. As discussion of 13th was opened up to my Urban Project family, I felt inclined to speak. My truth to my family was that I didn’t know half of the facts that were stated and shown in 13th. I am a black woman and with that being said, I am ashamed to say this but I am guilty of buying in to the depiction of blacks being dangerous and monstrous. The leaders of America wanted blacks to appear as criminals to society through the media and I shamefully ate it up. There are still educational aspects of this black narrative that I am lacking. Even though I have felt the burden of being a black female, I have not suffered through incarceration and many more consequences for being black. With that being said, I never wanted to feel the pain of seeing injustice in the news, so I had usually looked the other way. There are white people who know less than I do and will never understand the struggle that blacks face, but my main message to share is that we need to educate ourselves and immerse ourselves in this topic. Just as Jesus immersed himself in the lives of sinners and the broken, we are also called to do just that. With those of us who are broken and spiritually disconnected to one another, we have to take the time to tend to our wounds with care and with a plan to heal the disconnect. The first step is to learn, the second step is to apply this knowledge throughout our life experiences. Figuring out ways to comprehend the depth of this problem and talk with one another about solutions and take action. My dad always said, “If we can raise the tide high enough, all the boats will be able to float.” Only as a community can we heal and become one.

Jessica - University of Missouri

#UPLA18 @UrbanProjectLA

Rejoicing Over a Lost Wallet

Saturday morning I listened to a song which talks about thanking God in difficult circumstances. Little did I know that I would face a challenging situation that very afternoon!

I’ve memorized James 1:2 which says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,” but the concept of having joy in trials has still been hard to embrace. The sentence continues with, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” Well, I can certainly say that my faith was put to the test, and that the past couple of days have been an “endurance builder.”

Saturday afternoon, I lost my wallet while getting off of a public bus. I don’t know how, except that I had it when I sat down, and right after getting off the bus I noticed that it was gone. I told the team that I had lost it, feeling sorry for myself and also feeling bad for them since I’m their leader and I lost some of the team’s money along with my personal credit cards.

The first thought that came to mind was to just pray out loud. Honestly, I didn’t feel comfortable doing so but I knew that I needed to pray, and I needed to pray in the company of others. My teammates showed their support by praying with me, and helping me in every way possible to track down my wallet. We did all we could, including notifying the bus company, and even waiting for the same exact bus to circle the route again- but at the end of the day it had not been found. 

I felt really down on myself for losing my wallet. I try my best to take care of my things and it was something that I thought would never happen to me. But I felt loved and cared for by my teammates after it happened. We were scheduled to run a road race later that evening, but part of me no longer wanted to run. I just felt too down on myself and undetermined to participate. 

After speaking with my wife on the phone, she encouraged me that the day was not yet over, that money is not eternal, and the important thing was that we were all okay. She helped me see the perspective that what happened to my wallet was a spiritual attack, and that I shouldn’t let Satan keep me out of doing the Lord’s work.

So I decided to choose joy, and run the race with perseverance! 

I wish I could say that I won the race, but that didn’t happen. I did, however, probably have my best race of the past two years. I felt good, and I ran with joy because God gave me the ability to enjoy running, he gave me awesome teammates, and he’s allowed me to build relationships with many people here. I even met a man at the starting line who is also a Christ follower! He noticed the backs of our uniforms which have a big cross with Philippians 3 written inside. I heard from a teammate that another person had taken a picture of the back of my uniform. I believe that God wanted me to run that race with joy that comes from Him.

If I had chosen to let myself remain down and discouraged, I would have missed out on allowing the Lord to use me and I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the things that He has blessed me with. As a leader, I’ve got a team to take care of and I can’t let a small setback get in the way of being a loving, godly example to them. I’m learning that being filled with the Holy Spirit is the key to living the Christian life- because He’s the One who helps me exemplify Christ in challenging situations. 

I’m happy to report that my wallet was found! Somehow, the police got ahold of it and I was able to go down to the station Monday morning to retrieve it. Since I don’t speak Spanish well, I had to work hard to communicate with the officers. It was an exhausting and intimidating process, but finally we understood each other and they matched the name on my passport (which I had in hand) and my drivers license, which was in my wallet. The cash was gone, but fortunately the credit cards and other things were still inside!

The past few days, I’ve been thinking of the parable of the Lost Coin, found in Luke 15:8-10.

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Join me in praying for the people of this island, especially the friends our team has made, that they too would be found.

-Joel, for the team



Child-like Joy

Hi! Today I’m going to talk about my experience at beach day. We took about 30 kids to the beach on Saturday (June 16), and it was one of the best experiences I have had in a long time. The kids looked so happy and joyful, and it was so beautiful to see. Some of these kids have lived in California their entire lives, and have never been to the beach. Everyone was playing and having a really great time. My favorite part of the day was the soccer game we played in the sand. One of the boys on my team scored a goal and the excitement in his face was something I haven’t seen in a while! It is something that I have wanted for such a long time.

Seeing this young boy’s face was the perfect image of innocence and Christ’s love. Being around these kids everyday at the Boys and Girls Club, and then at the beach brought Matthew 18:3 to my mind. Mathew 18:3 reads, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” Playing soccer in college has had its ups and downs for me. Being at Urban Project - Los Angeles, I have learned that my identity cannot be found in my sport, but in God. I am a child of God. Sometime in sports, I do not act like a child of God. Rather there is a lot of frustration and brokenness that goes into plying soccer. So reading this verse reminds me to be a better teammate and act like a child of God, obtaining pure joy like the kids at the beach.

So to wrap it up, working with the children in Los Angeles has taught me so much. Some of the kids, that we get to hang out with and serve, don’t have a lot and live in rough areas. However, they still have so much joy and love in them, and its truly one of the most inspiring things to me. Many times I take things in my life for granted, so through this experience, I’m learning to appreciate everything that I have. I’ve loved every moment of my time in Los Angeles, and I can’t wait to see what else God has in store for me here and beyond.

Hannah - Colorado State University

#UPLA18 @UrbanProjectLA

Buffet Style Family

The beauty of Urban Project is that it gets real. Real as in, if you truly believe that the body of believers are brothers and sisters in Christ, you won’t let things slide. You will call out if there is frustration, sit in hurt when there is hurt, inform and correct where there is ignorance. That is the side of family that I have not often talked about or considered in my Christian community. I have “buffet styled” what family means in Christian Community. What I mean is it’s easy to pick out only good things and keep things surface level. It’s also quite easy to pick out which problems and burdens I want to hear and when, how often and how much I want deal with them. I certainly hear my brothers and sisters in their hurt, but don’t actually step in and stay in to do something besides praying or having one good talk. 

But if I actually believed my brothers and sisters in Christ were my real brothers and sisters, I would move much further beyond that. See with family, no matter what happens, when you wake up in the morning they are still your family; they don’t go anywhere. We don’t give up on each other. I have one brother by blood and he is never a lost cause to me in what he thinks and does; his problems are never “not my problems;” and his closeness to me is never broken. I sit in the hard things that don’t change over one prayer or deep talk, that don’t foreseeably get better. I certainly speak candidly to him, even full blown argument, out of love because it matters to me what he values and how he treats others. I don’t let it slide when he says or does things I don’t agree with because he is tied to me. There are no “elephants in the room” that I need to address with family. I speak my mind. He is my family and, no matter what I do, I can’t, nor want, to detach from that. So that also means that when we have disagreement and get real we don’t walk away from each other. I don’t say “forget him.” The next day we still say we love each other, we still value and cherish the other as one with dignity. I will never view him as less. 

So why would I act differently with my Christian family? Why would I avoid the tension, rubbing and bumping that is required for growth? Why would I allow the good parts of family and draw those out yet relegate the bad parts and true despair to a “quick fix” prayer or talk? Why, when there is disagreement or differences in personality, would I give up and relegate the relationship to one I “don’t want to deal with” or even as far as detaching them from my family? That’s not possible with family. The title of “brother” and “sister” in Christ is not a term to be used lightly, it’s not just a phrase. It is the internal reality that we all share in Christ. Urban Project has made me strongly rethink what “brother” and “sister” in Christ means to me, and whether or not I can consider the love I was showing my brothers and sisters before this trip real unconditional love. 

Kendall - AIA Staff, San Diego State University

#UPLA18 @UrbanProjectLA

My Worth Doesn't Come from Winning

Wednesday was by far one of my most memorable days here in Tenerife! We began the day by exploring Teide National Park and it was absolutely breathtaking. It really made me feel so blessed to be able to experience God’s beautiful creation with this amazing team. When we got to the top, we were literally above the clouds. It was indescribable. It put in perspective how powerful God really is and how perfect his creation is also. I will never forget the fullness I felt in this moment.

Later, we competed at a local track meet and met so many new faces. It was such a treasure to share laughter and love with these girls in the Canary Islands! Lauren and I competed in shot put and were able to connect with a lot of the other participants. Sharing the excitement of getting new personal bests and being able to compete at an amazing facility, doing the sport we love, we were able to relate with each other. We talked a little bit about their interests and culture here. It was cool to hear their perspective on track and field and realize how important this sport is on this island. Some of the girls, being a lot younger than us, explained how they wanted to run track for a university in America. It was a good transition to be able to talk about where we go to school and begin telling them about what Athletes in Action is. At the end of the meet we exchanged shirts with them and they seemed so excited and grateful that we gave them AIA gear.

This really helped me appreciate where I’m at in life right now and look at all the blessings I have. I attend a university and I’m also able to compete in the thing I love AND now, I am able to share my love for this sport in a way I have never been able to before.

It also put into perspective that winning is not everything. Joel shared a little of Genesis, chapter 4, that really stuck with me. I discovered how God was happy and pleased with Abel because he gave him his absolute best. That’s what I have started to think of during my races. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in all of the competition and wanting to win, and doing so for the wrong reasons. Giving my absolute best effort and glorifying God is really all that matters- my worth isn’t in how good or bad I do.

Everything I have learned through this experience I will hold onto for forever and I am so excited to continue in this growth and sharing His Word. This group is continuously pushing me out of my comfort zone and helping me become the woman of God I have always wanted to be: holding me accountable with my personal, as well as, communal relationship with the Holy Spirit and just as important, my relationship with non-believers. I’ll truly never be the same after encountering the love and grace of Jesus Christ here in the Canary Islands. I will be eternally grateful that God placed each of us here, together.

I’m so thankful to grow closer with these brothers and sisters in Christ! (Sadly, Joel and Paul not pictured)

-Jillian, but you can call me “Clara”