Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Reppin' the Block

Hi Folks,

I hope you're all having a great February. For all of you in the north, it's almost spring! If you are in the south we are so so jealous of the warmth you are experiencing. It's been a different neighborhood since the winter started, everyone has moved inside and we often go weeks without seeing some of our favorite neighbors on the corners.

Last Sunday though it was a pretty warm night (about 45 degrees) and a lot of people were outside when we got home from church. We had all been planning on crashing as soon as we got home but after we saw some of the security guards and our other friends on the way back I told them all I would make cookies and they could come over and get some.

One of our neighbors who we love so dearly is actually one of the guys around here who is a "Blood." This isn't how we know him though and we've come to love him as he was one of the first people to welcome us to the block and often refers to us as "his favorite neighbors." He has opened up to us a little bit more about life on Beekman and on Sunday he brought his cousin over to hang out with us.

They both grew up on the block, spending their childhood summers during the worst days of the South Bronx watching friends and family getting shot all the time and even more people arrested or addicted. Hearing some of their experiences makes it easier to understand the cycle of poverty and violence that affects our streets. No wonder these guys have done serious time and never graduated from high school, when they were little they saw shootings right outside their windows on a regular basis and the bullets even burst into their own apartments on more than one occasion.

For them and so many others joining a gang is not only the expected way of life it's the only way to gain protection and a sense of control over their environment. For these people the Bloods provide all the family and opportunities that the world didn't give them. As they've begun to open up more to us it has really been on my heart to pray for the Bloods on our block. Jesus can break even the ties of gangs on our block and these people can be free from their prisons- both literal and metaphorical. I beg you to pray with us for these dear friends, I can see the binds of Satan breaking as these young men begin to hope for jobs and school rather than drugs and drive bys. It is a hard road though as most have felonies and no education to speak of, so pray with us that we could help them find work and most of all that they would come to know Jesus and be restored by Him. Love, Peace, and Blessings Abundantly from Beekman!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Well kids, I'm here!

I pulled up to 321 Beekman Ave in a cab coming from La Guardia Airport about 3 weeks ago, and even then I knew I was home. I’ve spent my time painting and decorating my room, doing way too much homework, and getting to know the neighborhood. I’ve played with the kids next door a ton, but almost every time they’re over one of them will say, “Wait, you live here?”
And I say, “Yes, silly.”
“For how long? A week? Or forever?”
They have watch a cycle of people come through since Jillian and Sara struggled to find permanent roommates. It is nice to know I’ll be here for a while, at least a couple of years—which seems like forever to the kids. They are SO MUCH fun but also a lot to handle. Even when we have 3 of the roommates home they keep us super busy. All 7 of them need lots of love and attention, which I am glad to give, even if they do tire me out.
Here’s a cute little story: The youngest of the group, age 5, was staring at me kind of funny when she came over one day. I asked her what she was looking at and she said “nothing.” She kept looking so I covered her eyes and tickled her. Later the two of us were playing Candyland, and I looked up from shuffling the deck to see her staring quizzically again.
“Why do you have polka dots on your face?”
Jillian, who was making some mac and cheese, and I shared a confused look and then burst out laughing.
“These are called freckles, sweetie.”

Really, all I have to say is that I am so blessed to be here. It is wonderful to be in a community of strong, beautiful women who are passionate about living the way Jesus did. We pray together every morning and it is a wonderful way to start the day. I am constantly amazed by the awesome spirits of these women. And I am growing closer to each of them as we get to know each other in new ways. I hadn’t met DeWanda before moving in, and spending time with her has been a blast. Sara and I knew each other last year but obviously living together adds a new dimension to our relationship. This is the second time I’ve lived with Jillian and it is great to see how Christ has grown us over the last two years.
One thing I’ve been convicted about since coming back is in regards to spending more time in prayer with Jesus. James 5:16 says that “the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective.” God chose to give us the power to change history through our prayers. What we pray for comes before the throne of God and he listens and considers the words of our hearts. The Lord of the Universe cares about what we have to say. This is comforting and challenging, for if prayer is powerful and effective, we should examine our prayer lives. How much time to we spend praying about ourselves and our friends? Certainly these things should not be ignored, but I was challenged to remember more than just my intimate circle when I am talking to Jesus, but also to pray globally.
Returning to New York brought all the joys I thought it would, from reconnecting with old friends to revisiting my favorite haunts like Think, Joe’s, Esperanto, and Tea Spot. It has also been fun to run into friends from Florence in a different context.
Yeah, I think that’s it. I am so excited to see God continue to flow through our lives, our neighborhood, our city, our country, our world. Amen!