Monday, December 29, 2008

Where We Are Headed

I hope you are all enjoying your holiday break and finding peace and renewal for the new year! I'm still at home in PA, spending some extra time with family and friends but I'll be headed back to the BX on Friday and I'm so excited to see all our dearly missed family there! I just wanted to update you all on some things we've been praying about and some needs we'd love to meet over the next few months.

It was our initial idea to get to know people and learn about their lives, we didn't want to come in with a bunch of programs or ways to meet the needs we thought people would have but rather to learn what those needs actually were and how we could come alongside people to renew our streets. One thing that has been a dream of mine from the beginning and is clearly a need now is educational support for the youth of the neighborhood. The schools just aren't cutting it in the Bronx and a lot of kids need extra help to have a chance of not falling too far behind. There have been several people that have asked me about tutoring their children but no one really that we've followed through with.

I've been praying for a few months now though about the possibility of having a tutoring night once a week or once every two weeks where some kids from the block could come for one on one academic help provided by our brilliant and wonderful NYU friends and community. It seems as though God is putting things into place for this to happen. I left my other job at the after-school program so I will be able to recruit volunteers now to help us and take all my experience from that job and put it to use in our neighborhood! After talking with our friend Jess who volunteers with her husband with the Navigators at NYU it seems like we may even get some grant money to help us get started here. I'll hopefully be putting a lot of work into this over the next few weeks, developing curriculum and training for new volunteers and talking to our friends in the neighborhood to see how best to advertise this oppurtunity to parents in the area. It is my vision that we would be able to serve more youth than we are right now and in a very tangible, ongoing way. I'd even love it if we could offer music lessons and art lessons as part of the night for students who don't necessarily need the academic help. As you can see there is a lot to think about so would you pray with me that God would guide our actions here and that he would help me to get all of these preparations done before classes start on January 20th?! I'm so hopeful for God to use and stretch us and most of all draw us as a community closer to His heart in the next few months. Thanks for all your prayers and support this last year! Blessings, Friends.

Friday, December 19, 2008

And Pierce the Clouds and Bring us Light


It has been a little while and I pray all of you are experiencing the blessings of Christ come right now. The last few weeks have certainly been busy with finals and what not but we've also been able to do some good celebrating here on Beekman! It has been such a blessing for me this Christmas season to truly see Christ in the holiday, I've come to understand the longing that is present in so many of our Christmas songs and the joy that we have in knowing He has come and is coming again! I'm so excited, not for the presents and food but to deepen relationships with loved ones and for the kingdom of God to come here on earth. (It's going to happen and be so so wonderful!)

I've been able to spend some good time with the folks in the 'hood especially the kids and to celebrate and share about Christmas with them. Last weekend a few friends came over to keep me company (I've been in the house by myself for a few weeks and if you know me you'll know that I am going crazy!) We made lots of cookies, like three different kinds and the kids helped us eat all of them. We also opened up some of the games and negotiated cheating accusations but in the end it all turned out alright and we had some good times with candyland and puzzles. I also got to give the kids activity books to keep them all busy. We've been reading a whole lot of stories, mostly about Christmas and one of the girls even took home a children's Bible the other day so she could read more at home.

A few weeks ago we watched a movie about the nativity that was told through the eyes of a donkey and since the kids didn't know the Christmas story they were amazed/confused. Now whenever we read or hear about anything to do with the nativity they ask if this is about the movie and also where the donkey is. I always have to remind them that we talked about how the movie is actually true and that it is actually why we celebrate Christmas. Last weekend while making cookies I had on some music and Sufjan's version of Come Thou Font came on, one of the girls asked me if this was the song we had sung on the roof (over 2 months ago) and I said that it sure was. She asked if the guy who sang (our friend Denny) was coming and if he was famous. I got to tell her that yes he was coming and no he wasn't famous. She asked if the songs were about him and I got to tell her that no they were about Jesus. So later that night after little M had fallen asleep in my lap (so cute!) we sang some Christmas songs. I honestly can't think of any better way for the kingdom to come to Beekman than through singing with friends and eating cookies and reading stories. I hope you all have equally astounding stories of God's provision this season and I look forward to hearing some.

I've got some more updates about our plans for the new year but I'll write those after I go home to PA tomorrow and have lots of time on my hands! I wish such joy for all of you as always!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Good Tidings of Great Joy

Brothers and Sisters,

This one sure is a long time coming, it feels like time has just flown by lately. I hope the last few weeks have brought peace and true joy for you and yours. We've had some great times here on Beekman for certain but I am also finding myself increasingly burdened by the brokenness that is so apparent now. The good part first though!

I got to spend some great times with the neighbors this last week; before thanksgiving the kids from next door all came over and helped Sinora and I make lots of food. We also got to watch a movie about the nativity and share some more with them about Jesus. We also watched "This Christmas" with Chris Brown together so if you know Sara or I that was pretty exciting for us.

After spending some time at home I came back this week feeling pretty intensely upset about the pain that is an inherent part of this world. Its been a tough week at school for me as I've just been broken-hearted each day for the kids I am working with who have just the toughest lives possible. It is sometimes hard for me to put that pain of theirs that I carry with me down in order to function normally in the rest of the world and this week that has surely been the case. On Friday our friend Jonathan, (check him out at came over for dinner and he got to see how we role here as all 7 kids joined us! It was pretty fun for me to spend time with them and they all helped me make dinner. We danced to Beyonce and played some of the new games that Sara brought up from TX (thanks!). It was a bit rough too though as I began to see how some of the older girls are struggling through their issues and doing it without either of their parents. It sometimes breaks my heart but as I'm learning this holiday we are in a time of waiting right now and this is now how it will always be! The kingdom of God is here and its coming all at the same time and we can rejoice in knowing that one day we will be whole again.
Pray with us this week for the youth of our neighborhood, both those that we know from our schools and from the block. Life here is pretty rough for them sometimes as addicted or absent parents are the norm along with drivebys and hunger. Specifically pray with me that the fathers of the South Bronx would rise up and raise their children in love, as I'm sure many of you know growing up without a father is so darn heartbreaking and most of the kids I know are doing it. Again, praise our Father in heaven that he has provided for us in this way too! I hope you all have a wonderful week and enjoy the grace of God sent here for us!