Bringing Shalom to the City….

stories from CityTeam International in Oakland, CA

7/11/12

Written by Jordan Williams:

Hey everyone! I hope your summers are continuing to exceed your expectations like mine is. Before elaborating, I would describe my experience thus far as a convicting, humbling, but also an extremely fulfilling one. God has really been challenging me and the rest of the team to become more selfless and to get outside of our comfort zones and He has not failed to show up every time we have stepped up to the challenges.

This past week has been especially convicting for me as we have discussed, analyzed, and reflected upon injustice issues surrounding immigration and the criminal justice system in America. Aside from admittedly apathetic attitudes I had in regards to immigration, it is baffling to me to find how narrow and inaccurate the views I (as well as many Americans) have held and how the truths regarding the matter are either largely ignored, or repressed because of how unsettling they are. On Saturday, we had the privilege of listening to the life stories of two undocumented immigrants and how drastically their undocumented status effected their lives economically, socially, and emotionally. Later that day, we looked at what the bible has to say on issues regarding immigration/migration and teachings usually addressed a duty to receive and be hospitable to strangers, to love them well, and to always go with the moral law that God has layed out for us (even when it comes into conflict with the law of the land). We also discussed how unbiblical the American approach to the illegal immigrant “problem” has been and how it at its core, has been rooted in: fear, racism/discrimination (Arizona SB 1070), and greed. This attitude has caused a rise in deportation of immigrants (mostly Mexican, Latin American, and South American individuals) every year for the past few decades and the I.C.E. (Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement) agency, which is a branch of the Department of Homeland Security has set annual deportation goals that must be met and these goals have risen every year (2012 they are expected to deport over400,000 undocumented immigrants). Throughout the course of the day, the injustice surrounding the issue became more and more palpable, especially from a Christian perspective (I mean, Jesus was an immigrant in response to unjust political oppression as an infant for crying out loud!).

On Monday, we had another program day the addressed the injustices of the current criminal justice system. We listened to talks that addressed issues of: mass incarceration rates in America (over 2 million as of 2012 and far more than any other country in the world), the racial discrimination apparent in the ratios of inmates from race to race (African-Americans and Latinos make up over 80% of the current prison population), the discrimination of inmates even after they are released from prison (from social discrimination to the inability to be considered for many professions, or even food stamps!), the dangers associated with being in prison in the first place, etc. Our program day culminated with us watching a very heavy movie called “The Interrupters”. The movie addressed the social disaster of violence and murder rates in inner-city Chicago (one of the most violent cities in America over the past several years) spiraling out of control. The movie is called “The Interrupters” because it is a documentary (based on real footage) about ex. convicts that changed their ways making efforts to stop the deadly cycle of murder after murder (fueled and perpetuated by revenge, pride, and hatred) by interceding amidst dangerous interpersonal disputes and rivalries in an effort to help people to become aware of the severity and consequences of their actions. The movie was very graphic, sad, and difficult to watch, but it also addressed issues that must be acknowledged, and at the very least prayed about because they are happening on a huge scale all over the world.

The issues we went over this week were very heavy and difficult for me and the guys to process, but what did need to be acknowledged is that God is present amidst all of the brokenness, that his heart breaks more than anyone’s over these issues, and that redemption/renewal can be a reality for every one of these people (I feel that way, because Jesus felt that way about one of the men that he was crucified between and his crimes had to have been just as severe as these peoples’).

So… seriousness and sadness aside, what still cannot be forgotten is the fact that all of us have grown in our own unique ways this week and we have had the pleasure to witness many of the men at CityTeam experience similar growth in Christ as well. Today, was a very strong testament to that, as at least 8 of our guys got baptised at Shadow Cliff Lake in Livermore during our team outing today! It was such a privilege to witness guys we have been working with for weeks make such a strong declaration of faith! I was wayyy too stoked.

Well, to culminate, I would ask again for continued prayer for our growth as a team and that our relationships with the guys continue reveal Christ and bear fruit. Hope all of you are doing well and thank you for all your love and support, see you next week!

(p.s.- for anyone visiting us this Saturday, I would prefer that you arrive anytime after 11 A.M., I am looking forward to catching up, showing you around Oakland and our work site, and elaborating on my incredible summer, we are planning on having a BBQ for our team another BayUp site and all of our visitors around 4:30 (please bring food as we have a miniscule budget and will not be able to provide very much). Looking forward to seeing you all and God bless!)

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