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

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

Pain

Today (June 14th) I saw the real life pain and anger like I’ve never seen it before. I had written one entire blog before tonight that I thought I was going to use, but instead I decided to rewrite the whole thing on what I’m trying to grow in from the experiences tonight. The evening started out with an activity called the “Starting Line.” In the “Starting Line,” everyone starts off at one end of the parking lot. As you answer questions that relate to things that are out of you own control you take steps forward or backwards. Some of the questions are as follows. “Did your parents get a degree beyond a bachelors degree?” “Were you raised in a two parent home?” If you answered yes to these questions, then you would take ten steps forward. On the flip side of if you answer yes to questions such as, “Have you’ve seen an eviction notice?” or “Has someone in your family has been in jail?”, then you take 10 steps back. After about 15 questions, the gap was the distance of the parking lot. In giving thoughts and responses, people couldn’t hear from side to side much like how in society people can’t hear each other from those two opposing sides either. This shows the responsibility of those at the front end of the parking lot (best situation) to come to those at the other end (worst situation), and hear the people who were born into “lower” positions to feel or relate to their pain. Also, even the people in the middle can play a role relaying the information back and forth because they are close to both ends.

After this exercise, we went inside for more group discussion, and this is where I saw pain that had turned into anger brought about by the “Starting Line” exercise, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I would rather just run from it than anything else because I hate tension. I would prefer to go back to a place where I don’t have to see it (this relates to part of the point that I can choose how much I want to be involved or not in social and racial issues, while the oppressed don’t have the same choice). However, after reading two articles in our binder called “Listening Well as a Person of Privilege: Seek to Understand and Embrace Anger” and “Listening Well as a Person of Privilege: From Pain to Hope” both by Christena Cleveland, I was more informed about how to handle this situation directly. This article starts by saying that healthy anger is a good thing, because if those privileged can learn to empathize and embrace the anger of those oppressed, then they can encounter a deeper unity as the body of Christ. Seeking to understand the hurt is the first step.

Another struggle that I think personally, can be the biggest struggle is not getting defensive just because I don’t view myself as what the oppressed person is referring to as the privileged. Even though I didn’t personally make the choices my ancestors did, there is more to understand. The thing that there is to understand in this is that these issues are both individual and structural, and I might have unknowingly or knowingly participated in a structure that causes the oppression. Also it is important to remember that some people, especially Christians, are only showing this frustration because they know you care enough to listen to their diverse viewpoints, and it’s them showing how angry they are at the injustice of the world.

It’s hard to be the privileged person willing to sit and try to understand this frustration, while other privileged people are far off and comfortable. One must also take the anger that the oppressed person feels towards other privileged people as well and attempt to repent of sins committed by the privileged as a whole. The pain in reconciliation is real and not a joke, but this is because as the article states, “ it approximates the work of the cross.” If there isn’t pain and hurt, then it’s not really reconciliation. The reconciliation Jesus went through was so painful He asked God to take it from Him, as it says in Matthew 26:39, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” There’s still hope in the midst of all of this by the grace of God because, “when reconcilers straddle the pain of the cross and the victory of the resurrection, they encounter an unshakeable hope in the experience of pain.”

Lastly, it is difficult thing for me: I listen and observe those who are experiencing oppression and hurt, then expressing anger and frustration towards systems and privilege, all the while I realize that I may be a symbol of their frustration and hurt – I wrestle with this tension and struggle to find words or actions to engage… how do I help?… what do I do?… what do I do with the conflicting emotions?

Jess – Cedarville University

#UPLA18 @UrbanProjectLA

Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice; Mourn With Those Who Mourn

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” - Romans 12:15

Hey everyone, my name is Kyron. I am a junior at Kentucky State University. l also I’m a football player there. My major is Africana studies, and I have a minor in Political Science. I was not expecting to come to LA for the summer. I was hesitant about joining the Urban Project, but AIA staff member/big brother Brett Nathaniel convinced me to come. 

I have been here for two weeks and God is challenging me and making me grow in compassion. One thing that still sticks with me is going to church on Skid Row, and seeing all the homeless people while two blocks away is a thriving community. It’s like they are forgotten about. God tells us so much in the Bible how we’re suppose to care for the homeless and poor. It’s a total different experience when it’s in your face. God has been challenging me about what I can do to help. 

Also I love how we all are learning about racial reconciliation here. We have hard discussions, but I feel like they are growing us all. I love how they are open to learning about what we face as minorities. I kind of lost hope before I came here. I kind of felt like White Christians didn’t care about what we go through at times as Blacks in America. I felt like they were more loyal to America than they were to their Black brothers’ and sisters’ struggles here. Everyone here has changed my view of this. This experience has helped my faith tremendously, and now I will not make assumptions. I will also learn how to engage with my White brothers and sister about certain issues and be patient with them. I’m so thankful that I am here with amazing people who really love the Lord, and love other people.

#UPLA18 @UrbanProjectLA