Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More Glenwood Camp Reflections

I think that it surprised me how hard the Glenwood Camp was on me. I have known most of these kids for years and felt like I understood them to a degree, having lived in their neighborhood and led them in tutoring (and even some of them in Sunday School). And yet being with them all day every day for 10 days revealed a new level of cultural dissonance and differences that I had not experienced. That made me sad in some ways, that it has taken me 5 years in the neighborhood to get to that level of immersion, and I was surprised at how out of place I felt. I had posted on my blog about the kids speaking a different language when it came to words of kindness and love, but there is just a different language altogether when it comes to understanding the world. The way that my world works is very orderly, controlled, managed. It makes sense to me. There are rules to follow, and the rules are there to be obeyed, not one of many options to consider. Their world system is chaotic, parents loving them inconsistently and in ways far different than I would ever love my kids. For them, rules are an enticement to disobedience, boundaries are meant to be tested and pushed. Order is confining in some ways and is not trusted. Authority is not a safe thing. And so placing a controlled (controlling) person with a managed life governed by rules and systems in a position of authority (not trusted) over a group of kids used to chaos and disobedience was really an interesting mix. I found myself spending more time policing than I did enjoying the kids, more time governing than just showing them the love and life of Jesus.

I’ve also been feeling much more “white” after camp than I did before. I felt the difference between me and the kids, the struggles I had with relating to them sometimes, and I am just feeling much more aware of my race than before. And I find my self drifting back into fear and shame again – fear of being rejected or hurt because of my skin color, shame over how much that I have. Last night we did a Bible study on God’s renaming of Jacob, and I am in need again of God’s reminder to me of my new name. He has called me Chosen, not Shame, not Fearful. If I am Chosen, then I can walk my streets as one sent, confident in my Father’s hand on my life. If I am Chosen, I can walk without fear – God has Chosen me, picked me, and He will be with me to accomplish His purposes.

Monday, July 17, 2006

More GUPY Blogs to check out

In lieu of a plethora of posts from me, check out two more GUPY blogs - these students are really taking in a lot and being changed. It is amazing - God shows up and works His ways every year on this thing, despite my worries that He might now.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Check Out a GUPY's Blog

A few of the GUPY's have blogs, and one of them posts fairly regularly. THis week during our Bible study on racial reconciliation, she had an "ah-ha" moment, which she blogged about on this link:
Her blog site for future reference is As I get the blog addresses of the other GUPY's, I will post them.
We head to the beach with the Glenwood Campers in about 8 hours - please pray for our time there!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Kids Getting to Be Kids

We took the Glenwood Campers to Stone Mountain, NC for a one-night camping trip last weekend, and we had a really great time. My brother-in-law had given me and Diane a 10-person tent, which easily housed all of the boys, and the girls had several tents for their campsite. After setting up camp, we hiked down to the waterfall (think really big rock with water sliding down it rather than cascading over it), and for an hour it was a joy to watch the campers get to just be kids for a while. They smiled and laughed. They found crayfish and snails in the water. They splashed in the water, climbed from rock to rock, explored downstream. They had their pictures made standing in the water, swimming in the water, posing on the rocks. The cares of their families seemed to melt away, and even the hardest kids began to soften. I think that for many of them, carefree moments are rare, chances to just do the things that kids do, things that I had the chance to do hundreds of times growing up. Who knows how the Lord was able to heal broken places in their hearts by revealing His love for them in the beauty of that place?

My favorite time was taking a trail downstream with two of the guys who wanted to just explore, and to see them delight in the creek, the rocks, the water and the dense trees. I love the mountains and walking beside streams, and to share that with them and see them captured by that beauty was such a great connection. It makes me want to create more spaces for them to shrug off the burdens of growing up fast and just be kids.

One of my pastors says that a huge gap between our Glenwood kids and other kids is the gap of experiences – they’ve not been to college campuses for a football game or to a musical at the theatre. They’ve not camped in the mountains or spent weeks at the beach. Teaching them academics is important, but it’s just as important to broaden their experiences in the world.

Monday, July 10, 2006

A Foreign Language

One of the hardest things for me in taking part in the Glenwood Camp has been listening to the kids tear one another down with hurtful, hard words. It seems that five minutes can’t pass without someone calling another a name or making a comment about their hair or clothes. It’s especially hard to see two older brothers mock and degrade their younger brothers. We tried to address the issue with a devotional one day on a hike, but within minutes of ending, the biting words began again.

A light clicked on for me during small group, though, later that day. One of the passages we were looking at was Galatians 5:21-23, the fruits of the Spirit. I asked the boys in my group of they would rather be around someone who was loving, joyful, kind, etc. or someone who was hurtful and negative. One of them spoke up and said, “I’m always around mean, negative people, so that’s who I end up wanting to be around.” He went on to say, “When someone is nice and kind, I don’t really know what to do. I don’t really like it. It’s not natural for me, and I don’t trust them. It’s just weird, and I don’t want to be around them as much.”

I realized that for many of our campers, words of affirmation, hope, love, and kindness are so rare that they almost literally don’t understand them. It is almost as though we are speaking two different languages. Theirs is a language where status is maintained or achieved by tearing others down, a language where teasing and mean words are the norm, the way of relating, and where words of kindness are a sign of weakness. To expect kind words from mouths that are so unfamiliar with speaking them and ears that are so unfamiliar with hearing them doesn’t make a lot of sense, like plunking me down in the middle of China and expecting me to speak Mandarin with ease in just a few minutes time.

But my attitude at camp has been, “Quit saying these things. Quit hurting each other. Stop doing bad things.” This approach won’t work. An external solution to an internal problem is, in the words of Jesus, putting a new patch on an old garment. And so my role now, perhaps, is to speak my native tongue, the language of love, and see if immersion in that will begin to teach the kids a new way of speaking. I have hope that one day these kids will receive a new way of speaking as their hearts are captured by Jesus Christ.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

GUPY Update, Two Weeks In

So the four interns have been here for two weeks today, and I think that they have had a good experience so far. For me and Diane, having all the GUPY’s living here in the house has been a real blessing and has really made us appreciate that Eliza and Psalter get to have such wonderful people around them for a whole summer.

The feel of this GUPY is very different from the other two. I am with the students most every day all day because we are serving mostly with kids in the community through things that my church is doing, thus they are not at their internships all day and then with me at night, as in year’s past. Also, riding the bus is less of a necessity and less practical since we are shuttling kids around a lot, so that part of the experience is not happening. Overall, I think that I have chilled out a good bit and am enjoying the students being here more. Also, I sense a change in my heart in terms of what I hope they will take from the project. While I don’t think they can escape learning about justice and the 3 R’s and having a heart for the poor, my hope is that they discover that those things must be under girded by a growing intimacy with Jesus. The students are each in a different place in this regard, and each has been eager to learn, both about Jesus and about the community here. Last week and this week we have been serving as counselors for a camp for Glenwood teens, and are really learning to cross cultures with the kids! After a few days of rest, we head to the Dominican Republic on July 21 for a 10-day missions trip with YWAM.

I also feel that I am entering a wait-and-see phase for the GUPY aspect of our ministry with IV. Glenwood is changing rapidly as drug dealers are being pushed out (or locked up) and prostitution is moving to other parts of the city. I only know of one place to buy drugs on my street right now (as compared to 5-plus in years past), and the bad elements of our neighborhood are being funneled and concentrated into one ever-shrinking area. This leads me to wonder what my family’s role is here for the future, and what GUPY will look like as the neighborhood continues to improve in terms of crime, yet remain diverse. More and more my heart seems to lean towards a project that is less about urban ministry and more about discipleship in an urban context, where the goal is closer communion with Jesus and where we are made aware of our need and of His presence as we serve. I have tossed this idea around before, but this time feels more peaceful and less generated by my fears and flesh.