Bringing Shalom to the City….

stories from CityTeam International in Oakland, CA

Written by Jordan Williams

7/5/12

Hello Everyone! It has been over a week since my last entry and, once again, too much has happened to write in entirety, but I will hit the highlights. Saturday was our Sabbath and it certainly qualified as a highlight because, not only did we get to see two of our guys graduate from the program, but we also got to play in a 3 on 3 basketball tournament put on by a local rec department in East Oakland. The graduation was a privilege to be a part of because two of the guys that I have gotten to know very well (Cory and Paul) both completed their year of recovery without relapse and CityTeam put on a ceremony and reception for them at a local bookstore downtown. I considered it a privilege to be a part of because of how powerful the ceremony was. Not only were the guys’ families in attendance (most of which they had not seen in months), but all the staff workers, all the men they had been living with, and even some BayUp interns from last year came down from Stanford to witness the graduation. I think the guys were somewhat overwhelmed, but their speeches were very moving and I think they are an inspiration to everyone who is still trying to complete the program right now.

After the graduation, Me, Corrie, and Mike raced over to the basketball tournament (that we were late for because of the graduation), which we found out about through ReGeneration Church and played our games. We got second place out of 8 teams, which was much better than we expected given that the competition was very good and that Me and Corrie had huge blisters on our feet from playing the day before. The blisters were very painful and that became even more of a reality once the adrenaline wore off, but even that was such a testament to what God can do with pain, because we were more focused on the fact that we played in an honorable manner (respectful and sportsmanlike) and honored Him the way that we wanted to on the Sabbath.

Another highlight during the week was our program day on Monday, when all of the BayUp’ers got together and listened to speakers/discussed the major controversial issue of education. A lot of the discussion was very heavy and difficult because we addressed issues like the systemic disease of racism in the country and how it appears subtlety all over the place and especially in the public education realm. We then watched a film called “Waiting For Superman” that also addresses the broken public education system, the roles of teachers, the growing achievement gap between the rich and the poor, and how little progress there has been in the past century to make efforts to bridge that gap. The movie was very difficult for me to watch, because it made me reflect on all the privilege I grew up with in regards to having a quality education (growing up in a wealthy neighborhood, going to school in a school district that’s test scores rank among the best for public schools in the state, growing up with parents who held jobs that were profitable enough to provide me and my siblings with the basic resources needed as well as academic support, growing up knowing the value of nutrition and how it relates to bodily function and academic performance, etc.). By and large, I realized that I was set up for success and that there are millions of kids every year in this country that are set up for failure, due to substandard teachers, inadequate curriculum, lack of parental support, additional social stresses that are a detriment to academic achievement, or almost any other resource that I had at my disposal growing up (whether I took advantage of it of, or not).

The last highlight came yesterday, because a 4th of July in Oakland is unlike anything i’ve ever seen before. Our day started with us going with the guys at CityTeam to an A’s game. We tailgated before the game, hung out and had fun with each other, and witnessed an A’s victory over the Red Sox. It was a great experience, mostly because it was the first time any of the guys had been off the City Team block in months so it meant a lot to them. After the game, Me, Corrie, and Samuel went to Yu-Shaun’s house for a 4th of July BBQ with the rest of the BayUp people and our night culminated with all of us going to one of the teams’ houses in East Oakland to hang-out and enjoy the rest of the day off. Finally, the part that explains why 4th of July in Oakland isn’t like anything i’ve ever seen before. From about 8-12 PM, people in the streets set of “real” fireworks at will consistently for hours! Apparently it is customary for the Oakland Police force to be unresponsive to this tradition because it is very difficult to tell every single street to stop setting off illegal fireworks. Overall it was a crazy experience and I will now be unsatisfied when I witness any other fireworks show, but it was well worth it and I am excited to see what the rest of the week has in store!

Once again, I appreciate everyone’s continued prayer and support for us here at CityTeam. Even though I did not really hit on it in my entry, the week has not just been all fun and games. We are building deeper relationship with the guys and serving them through whatever kind of support is necessary every day (help with their chores, discipleship, relationship, prayer, friendship, etc.). I am seeing God revealed more and more in each of their lives. I would ask for continued prayer for us and also prayers of safety and support for two of the guys who were asked to leave the program yesterday; that they would feel God’s hand laid on them despite getting kicked out, and that they would be granted the grace to continue on their path toward recovery.

Love you all and I will talk to all of you soon! Peace!

-Jordan

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