Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Time for a Bit of Good Ol' Fashioned Open Commensality

A couple years ago I took a religious studies class at NYU about the new testament and one of our readings was about this radical thing called "open commensality" that Jesus practiced. Basically this means that Jesus ate with all sorts of different people, many of whom weren't considered "clean" according to 1st century Jewish laws of ritual purity. While eating together is definitely important in our society, it meant even more back then that Jesus was willing to eat with these people, (tax collectors, prostitutes, beggars) because nobody who was anybody ate with these people. I've always been super fascinated by this, partially because I love eating with people and partially because it is yet another example of how freaking cool (BA I might even say?) Jesus was!

This weekend we decided to practice this for ourselves on Beekman. After spending the day apple picking in NJ with navs, we decided to have a bunch of our friends, from NYU and the BX over for Chili and Apple Crisp. Folks it was one of the most beautiful experiences I've ever had. A lot of our friends got to see the house for the first time, the food was amazing, and we even got to invite our favorite security guard Mike over! He came all decked out for a bit and teased all our school friends just like he teases us. The kids from next door also came over and ate, even more importantly though they got played with! Our friends were so wonderful at embracing them and entertaining them, a huge blessing since with 7 of them they don't get a lot of individual attention from adults. Huge shout outs to Allie and Matt for chasing them around the house, they have never been so tired before and they definitely need to get their energy out like this more often!

Then the beauty begins... We moved up to the roof and of course Denny busted out the guitar and we started singin some worship songs. The kids all settled down and picked a lap to sit in, getting to be held for a while and having their eyes opened to the beauty of God's kingdom. I had little Kiwi in my lap and he was confused about what was going on so I had a little conversation with him that went like this...

Me "Have you ever been to church before?"
Kiwi "no"
Me "Do you know who Jesus is?"
Kiwi"No, but I know who God is, he's up there (points to sky)"
Me "Yea that's right, and He is the one who created everything, even you and me"
Kiwi "Even the killers?"
Me "Yes, even the killers and He loves them but not what they do, but He especially loves little kids like you Kiwi and right now we are just singing songs to Him"

It was such a wonderful experience and hopefully a great time of planting seeds and loving these kids, the next afternoon they were over before we went to church and one of the girls told me she liked the part where we were singing! Pray for us as we have some of our adult neighbors over for dinner this week that those relationships would deepen and we could serve them.

I'm finally attaching some pictures of us and the kids over the last few weeks!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Just the Two of Us

(building castles in the Bronx)

It has been quite a week up here, full of lots of fun and experiences of the Kingdom of God but also lots of exhaustion. On Thursday our wonderful house mate Kate (the great) told us she would be moving back to Texas. She had not found a job here in NY yet and decided it made the most sense to go back where she could get one no problem. We fully support her and love her a whole lot but its been a pretty emotionally exhausting journey for Sara and I (Jillian) these last 8 months or so as we've had lots of people seemingly on board and ready to bring the Kingdom to the South Bronx with us and for reasons that are really hard for us to understand all of them have decided not to be with us. Most of them are our good friends and family who we love and don't begrudge them their decisions at all but it is still pretty tough for Sara and I. We are trusting God that he is going to do amazing things whether we've got a house of ten people or two but we'd love to have some more people to walk the walk with. That said, we've sort of temporarily decided that if we are going to have more roommates its gonna be through God's work and not ours, we really don't want to be let down again and it'll be right when God makes it so. Pray with us though that He would call workers to the South Bronx, specifically to be with us but also all over the neighborhood. Pray also for Sara and I that we would not be lonely, my personality doesn't allow for much time with just me before I go crazy so I'm gonna need God's help to feel satisfied by myself sometimes.

In other news we've had a lot of good times with the neighborhood this week! The kids from next door have been over almost every night this week which is such a blessing to me as every time they are here they make me smile. We had a lot of fun on Thursday night and they all made a puzzle of the United States with Sara and our friends Ryan and Jared while I cooked us dinner. Then we got to sing with them to "With You" by Chris Brown (which Sara and I sing to every time we ride the subway together, video footage to come soon!) We've also spent a lot of time just hangin out on the step and getting to know the neighbors a bit more. Another fun thing has been having Sara's Aunt, Uncle and cousins in from Texas for the weekend, they have been really helpful in preventing our loneliness and it's also great to see people so excited about the city. It's an important reminder of the amazing place we are blessed to live and the opportunity we've been given to make it better for everyone.

That's all for now, I'll post pictures (the kids have taken a million of them) as soon as I find a bodega that sells AA batteries! Stay Blessed!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Welcome to the Hood!

We've been living in the South Bronx for about a month now and have finally gotten ourselves settled in. By (semi) popular demand we thought it was about time to start our very own internet blog (thanks Mr Patch!).

In case it's unclear exactly why a group of privileged NYU girls would move to the South Bronx, here is our attempt at explaining the journey that has brought us here to Beekman Ave. In January of 2008 our good friend "set us up " (Sara and Jillian) and we realized that God was going to do some pretty amazing things through our Friendship. We had each been deeply changed over the previous year by reading The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne and by letting Jesus speak to our hearts and decided to go out for coffee at Joe's to talk about our journeys. By the end of that first date we had decided to move to the South Bronx together (we both are giggling because it sounds like we are a couple that got engaged after just one date- it really was that amazing though). We began to meet weekly to read about Jesus in Matthew and to pray over how our lives could look more and more like His. After four months of this, God gave us a vision of what His will for our lives in the South Bronx could look like. Over the summer our little relationship became a love triangle as Sara's cousin Kate Henninger decided to join us!

So here we are now, in our beautiful little house on one of the "worst" streets in NYC (we like it a lot though); spending each morning seeking the Lord's heart in prayer, doing our best to give generously to each other and the community around us and learning more and more each day about the love of Jesus for the poorest neighborhood in the United States and all that He has in store for us here. (If you want more details ask us and we'll give you the full low down or even better come visit us and we'll show you!)

We've met lots of people on the block, and now that the curiosity about the white girls has died down we've been able to start forming relationships with people and feeding them lots of cookies. Last week the last of our new neighbors moved in and brought her seven kids along with her. We were making some cookies before having a bunch of NYU people over for dinner when we saw two of the girls sitting outside and decided to go bring them and the other people hangin out on their stoops some cookies. After talking to the girls for a bit we found out that they were locked out of their house until their mom came home from work so we invited them upstairs. They were really fun and we talked to them about their lives for a while and then decided to bust out the art supplies and draw some pictures for our fridge. After a while their mom came home and they left, but then she had to go back out and they asked if they could stay with us so they (plus one more) came up and had dinner with all of our guests. We all ate on the roof since it was crazy hot and the NYU folks got to hang out with the kids from the BX. After dinner and lots more cookies we played jump rope with them (the jump rope was made out of cable wires which gave an extra bit of excitement). The night was such a beautiful expression of the kingdom of God on earth as we saw our friends from school spinning the rope for the girls and vice versa. After a while their mom returned home with the rest of the kids who immediately got out of the car and jumped into our arms to hug us before even telling us their names. I've never had such a big smile on my face.

Later that weekend we were all out doing our thing on Saturday night, I (Jillian) went to an NYU event called compelled that was really encouraging and gave me a great opportunity to hear about other people's expression of God's love throughout the city. The event ran pretty late so a good friend James Richard Chalk III (he is strong and a gentleman) brought me home, at home we met up with Ryan Patch who had just fixed Sara's completely broken computer (he is brilliant and manly). It was after midnight so we thought what better way to occupy our time than by praising Jesus! Jim busted out the guitar and we busted out our voices and spent some really great time worshiping. It was really beautiful as Jim and Ryan are pretty much the ones who have supported us and prayed with us since the very beginning so it was nice to spend that time with them and after making (more) cookies we spent some time in prayer together, asking God to bless them in the way he had been blessing us. Again the Kingdom of God came straight from heaven to Beekman Ave.

Last night when Sara and I got home from class we decided to sit outside and eat some (more) cookies, the kids from next door (this time all seven) and a couple other people from the street were outside so we gave them all cookies. Kate came out and we sat outside for a few hours playing with all the kids and helping the oldest girl with her homework. They drew about a hundred more pictures for our fridge which are pretty much the best, cutest artwork I've ever seen (take that Metropolitan Museum!) They were so much fun and such a joy to be around and their mom was very thankful to have them taken off her hands after a long day at work.

We are now just about ready to go to bed although there is probably a lot more giggling to be done before that actually happens as we still have to listen to our daily Chris Brown and Jordin Sparks. We are so so blessed and are unbelievably excited to see what God is going to do with us tomorrow!