Monday, November 24, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time

Hello Friends!

Oh my word, these have been a wonderful few weeks. Its been such a joy for me as I've had a decent amount of extra time to spend at our house and with people in the neighborhood. One of the people I've been able to invest in the most is our dear friend Sinora. She has come over almost every night I've been home for the last 2 weeks and we've gotten to hang out a lot. Her and her family have been such an important part of our lives here and its been great to get to talk to her about the neighborhood a bit more and just share life. As our relationship deepens I see how much she looks up to us and am so encouraged by the work God is doing. I invited her to church with me a few days ago and she wants to come so next weekend hopefully we'll be able to make that happen. I've also been able to spend some time with a few other neighbors and meet their families through the wonderful bonding experience that is cookie baking.

Who knew how much God can use chocolate chip cookies? They are probably the best tool though in just serving people and forming relationships! And now that its almost Christmas I get to make Christmas cookies too which I am thrilled about as I've been counting down the days now for at least three weeks. We've even got our Christmas lights up in the kitchen now and its so nice to just sit at the table and enjoy them with friends at night.

In the spirit of the season yesterday Sinora an
d I went ice skating in Bryant park. It was her first time and we had so much fun, she fell a bit at first but laughed it off and was skating around by herself by the time we left! We even got our picture taken by the cute photographer who she tried to get me to talk to for her:)

This week Sara and DeWanda will be heading out for Thanksgiving but I am so so excited to have my family up to our house to share the holiday with our neighbors. It sounds like we'll have a revolving door of folks from the block coming in and out as we all want to visit each other but are cooking for our own families. I hope all of you enjoy the holiday and have a chance to reflect on how truly blessed we are. As the Christmas season comes up would you pray with me about how we as Christians can give glory to Jesus in the coming month rather than to material goods and also be lifting us up as we look for creative ways to serve the neighborhood and bless the community in this exciting season. Grace and peace my friends, may your love abound!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Up to the South Bronx

I went up to the mountain
Because you asked me to
Up over the clouds
To where the sky was blue
I could see all around me

I could see all around me—


-Patti Griffin, Up to the Mountain (MLK Song)

I’ve never heard the voice of God. Oh, would it were I had that great gift of Moses and could receive His will for my life directly from His mouth. Instead, I must keep my eyes, heart, and spirit open to discover His specific instructions for my life’s’ journey.

Indeed, do not be fooled, He has a calling for each and every one of us. We are all called up to our own respective mountain tops.

From my cliff, I see the Diego Beekman Security Officers; I see the Boys on the Block; I see many, many, MANY children. & I love it like Pooh Bear loves honey. There are those who consider this model ambitious with negative connotations. Still, everyday I find confirmation that this is exactly where I should be. Not moments ago I received an email from an awesome playwright inviting me to a performance of students from the Roundabout Theatre Company’s program, VOICES. I already have an invitation: my next door neighbor gave it to me as she fixed me a plate of chicken & rice. (Which was on point!)

Today was the first day I spent some time alone with some of the younger ones. We painted nails and peeled it off. We read along to the lyrics of Alicia Key’s ‘Superwoman.’ We read a little from a book of our growing library. We watch a little bit of Polar Express which not only gave me an intense anticipation for Christmas, but made me long to eat snow as I crave it heartily every winter. Mmmm…anyway…It sounds like we spent a good six hours together, but if you account for the attention span of kids it rounded out to about two and a half. After gently reprimanding one of them for touching all the M&M’s in the candy bowl, telling another she couldn’t have any more cookies or chocolate milk on my watch, and watching the third make a mess of her fingernails I was exhausted. Exhausted, but satisfied.

The other day after I excitedly ask K if she wanted to help me clean she said, “You’re picky aren’t you.” I immediately knew she was referring to my type-A organization and cleaning habits. She had not even known me for more than a few hours and already she asserted an accurate psychoanalysis. I’ve always had a very nurturing and maternalistic streak although I’ve hidden it behind tougher fronts than those of the boys on the corner. Here, however, I am able not only to feel Love for my neighbor, but to activate it through lessons on discipline, conversations with my neighbor, and mixing whole-wheat “Love Biscuits.”

I am so blessed to be here on Beekman, and although I see there are miles left to climb, I like the view just fine.

Friday, November 7, 2008


Hi Friends,

An hour or so ago I was out on our front step, reading stories with some of the kids while others threw a football. Its pretty warm here right now so there were a decent amount of people outside being that its a Friday night. I said hi to a bunch of different people we knew and then right in the middle of a story gun shots went off. A car drove down our street and as it stopped at the corner just 20 feet away from us let off a couple shots in the opposite direction. We all ran inside and none of the people on our street were hurt although from the looks of it a lot of people are pretty shaken up. I didn't see who they were aiming at or if anyone was hit but for about 20 minutes after the shooting there were still some people outside looking around and what not.

Now though the police have come and cordoned off the block and it looks like most people have cleared out. Pray for us this weekend that as we and our neighbors go about our business we would be safe from any retaliations that may occur. Pray also against the violence that guns have brought to our streets and pray with me for the people who were targeted that they would not respond with violence. We appreciate your prayers and will keep you updated on things here.

Grace and Peace!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Dancing in the Streets

Well friends, we've got a new president! Regardless of your political views last night was a beautiful night in the South Bronx; as the news was announced on CNN and NBC people started screaming and poured out onto the streets, cheering, dancing, and even crying. For the people of our neighborhood this is such a huge deal, there is so much hope in their faces as for the first time, many of them feel like things might just change. Many of our neighbors grew up during a time when they were not even allowed to vote because of their race and to see a candidate who has experienced that be elected was just so exciting for so many. I am so thrilled that when I ask my students who they look up to the answer will no longer be 50 Cent or Jay-Z but can now be the President of the United States. I realize that we don't all agree with his policies and that even if we do no President is going to bring about the changes we really need, only Jesus can do that. Still for our neighbors and others all across the country to finally have hope in their country and fellow citizens is pretty inspiring. Join with us in praying for our government to bring our nation closer to the Kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of America. Let's remind ourselves each day that we can vote with our actions and our hearts and that that can make a bigger difference than the name we place on the ballot every four years.

Some exciting news on the home front is that I took some money that had been donated to us and went to the books store yesterday to get a bunch of books for the kids and teenagers we have built relationships with. We now have our very own little library complete with American Girl Books and Captain Underpants as well as some good picks for the older kids. Also I got us a few Bibles that we can begin to give out to the people we talk to. It was so exciting to get these things and thankfully as soon as I got home with them a few of the girls came over and we read stories together. It was so exciting to see them eager to read to us and to be able to encourage them in their academics. Pray with us as we consider developing an official tutoring night here once a week. It has been a dream of mine for a while and it seems as though the need is definitely here so it's something I'd like to begin next semester.

Enjoy your day all and be encouraged that no matter who is sitting in the Oval Office, the Creator of the Universe sent His Son so that we would not have to fear death or anything else of the world, including elections. Praise the Lord!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Full House!

Greetings Friends!

There are some exciting things goin on here on Beekman. First and foremost we have a new roommate! DeWanda just moved in with us yesterday, praise the Lord. We met her through a mutual friend and she is an NYU Grad and actress who also does really cool community based theater work. I cannot tell you how excited we are about having her with us, please pray for us as we build relationships and form a new community. Also keep an eye out cause she'll be updating the blog too!

This weekend we also had a fantastic visitor from Abilene... Brad Miller! I was really excited to meet Brad (Sara's Boyfriend) and it was obviously a pretty big deal for Sara because it had been over 2 months since they'd seen each other. It was great for him to see our house and meet some of our friends from school and the BX. We all had some really good times and it was great to see Sara and Brad together.

Also this weekend we had some good time with our neighbors Sinora and Ayesha. These girls have spent a good amount of time with us and came over on Saturday night to hang out with us and our friends, we had a good time and even got into a discussion of faith in front of them. I was a bit worried about this but it was no problem, Ayesha seemed particularly interested. Yesterday Sinora even came over to make cookies and we had a great time. Megan was also over doing an interview with me for the documentary and so Sinora got to hear a little bit more about why we are there and about my faith in particular during the interview. I also got to talk to Sinora about the neighborhood and gang violence. Halloween is always dangerous in the South Bronx but this year it was also Blood initiation weekend and since our block is a Blood block people were a little on edge. Thankfully we haven't heard or seen of anyone we know being harmed. It was good to talk a bit more about the issues with Sinora. Join me in praying for us all as we deepen our relationship with her that we would boldly proclaim the love and gospel of Jesus to her. Praise God that DeWanda has already formed a relationship with her and Sinora will be giving her a tour of the neighborhood today!

Things are going really well and we are looking forward to the next few weeks as our schedules calm down a bit before Thanksgiving and we can really spend time building our community. Pray with us for direction, we'd love to do something really scandalous for the holidays to serve the neighborhood, and also we are still looking to fill another spot in the house so pray that God would be guiding our decisions and working in the heart of a special lady to join us. Also let us know how we can pray for you, we pray together every morning and would love to serve you in this way!
Grace and Peace from the South Bronx!