Bringing Shalom to the City….

stories from CityTeam International in Oakland, CA

BayUp open house

Just a reminder, we will be having our open house this coming saturday, july 14th, starting at 7pm. Come by to see what we are learning this summer, and to hear stories of individuals we have met along the way.

Location: Re:generation church
         238 E. 15th st., oakland, ca,
94606

(free parking is available)

Let us know if you want to come visit us during the day, too!! We’d love to show you around town and our sites 🙂

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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

Education

I didn’t realize how much I was cheated of my education until I got to college

-Waiting for Superman

Yesterday’s Program day was centered around the topic of education.  We discussed the not-so-obvious racism that occurs in the Oakland region when under-privileged, low-income schools filled primarily with students of color lack the access of books, good teachers, and other resources.  In contrast, the piedmont region that borders Oakland to the East is a different world in its own.  Filled with state-of-the-art classrooms, nicely-cut fields,  and entire buildings dedicated to a particular subject, these schools boast high test scores and very few students of color on-site.  It wasn’t news to me that the white schools were more well-off.  My question is, “why do the ‘colored’ schools get the short end of the stick?  Why do so few of them make it to high school graduation, let alone to college?  

I come from a family where college is not the norm, but it felt weird sharing that with the rest of the group yesterday because I felt as if I were the only one, even when I considered the fact that most people in our BayUp class came from migrant families.  I was shocked to hear, too, that a college degree at minimum is a primary indicator that a person has achieved middle class in society.  Well then what does that say about me and my family?  In addition, I was taken aback by a comment said by a student in response the to the question: “What class are you and your family in?”  The student mentioned that his family was in the upper-middle class, and that even though at the moment he felt broke in the sense that he drove a not-so-good car and lived in a tiny room in an apartment, he was assured that he would one day be at upper middle class  as he would receive the help of the wealth of his parents.  I have nothing against that.  It’s just a paradox to me that student who hasn’t been working (in my opinion) as long as my parents would automatically find and identify himself with a social class higher than that of my parents.  I never really thought of that before. Still, it didn’t really sit well with me.  

After watching “Waiting for Superman” I shard with the group a little about my educational journey in terms of schools I went to.  Not really news to me, the middle school I went to, “Thomas R. Pollicita”, was, in Davis Guggenheim’s words, a “dropout factory.”  There truly were bad teachers, gangs who ran around, and people who just didn’t take class seriously.  Fights were apparent, and there even was a shooting while I was there.  There was a lack of resources everywhere, and some of my friends didn’t even finish 8th grade because they got pregnant.  

As a kid you think it’s all fun and games because school was so easy and care-free.  In retrospect, however, I’ve realized that out of my 8th grade class, not many finished high school, and even fewer graduated from college. I was lucky enough to go to the high school on the other side of town rather than the one right by my house that everyone went to.  That decision made by my parents, I believe, has made all the difference.  Unfortunately, not everyone had the same choice.  Most kids in my neighborhood went to the “dropout high school”, and most of them pretty much did that.  It’s hard coming to terms that you were the exception to make it through college, and not the rule.  It was difficult seeing that. 

So now what do I do about this?  I feel a sense of sorrow for those who started my education journey with me, but have since fallen and been left behind.  At the same time, though, I feel a sense of gratitude for those who have been involved in my journey, from teachers to my parents who have put everything they had and even didn’t have into my basket in order to see me succeed.  It makes me realize that even though everyone should deserve to have a college education, that harsh reality is that not everyone will have that opportunity.  I shared with the group that I didn’t even know what college was until high school, and I think it was more because my family didn’t really understand the concept too well themselves.  I pray that this will not be the case for everyone else coming from my community, and that college will be the norm.

As we closed out in prayer, Yu-Shuan asked me and another Latina girl in our Bay-Up class to to stand in the middle as a placeholder for those who did not make it through the education system in both our families and communities.  It felt powerful to intercede on behalf of them, knowing that it was not a mistake that we made it through college, and that whatever hinders people in our community to get through school–family, finances, or self-doubt, would no longer be a hindrance to them. At the same time, that we would continue to advocate and believe in people from where we come from, instilling in them that they can make it, too.  

Please pray for

  • public education system in the United States, and that children would receive it no matter what color or socio-economic status they are
  • finances would not hinder people from going or even staying in college
  • that students of color would not experience guilt or some sense that it is a mistake that they are the only ones from their communities to go to college
  • that people of color would rise up in academia, inspiring students of color to go for their dreams
  • that strongholds and legislation preventing schools from improving would be broken down. 
  • that creative, innovative ways of teaching would be utilized
  • that college would be the norm for EVERYBODY, not just for the privileged few

Freedom at Last?!?!

Written by Samuel Garcia

7/1/12

“We’re not recovering from alcohol (and drugs), we’re recovering from sin.”

-Corey, CityTeam Graduate

Paul, one of CityTeam’s graduates this week. I found out he was also a Cal graduate.

I’m starting to feel the cabin fever of our little room now.  I’ve seen one too many mice scurrying around our little room.  I wouldn’t mind usually, but since we are practically sleeping on the ground, I just pretend I don’t see them anymore and try not to think of the possibility of them climbing all over me in my sleep.

I’ve also been struggling with the lack of privacy around here.  All day, every day, there are people either around you or talking around you.  Every room of the building is always occupied, from 5am until midnight.  I guess privacy is a privilege here I have taken for granted before coming.

On another note, Corrie, Jordan, and Mike won 2nd place for their street basketball tournament yesterday.  Shout out to them, and the rest of their street basketball endeavors in Oakland!

Yesterday marked the graduation day of two of the clients at CityTeam from their one year program of rehab.  It surely was the highlight of the week.  Paul and Corey, the graduates, seemed really proud of their accomplishment, and they have every right to be.  The rest of the guys were really proud of them, too.  They all clean up real well!  Past graduates, family, and old friends were present at the ceremony.  Even last year’s Stanford Bayup team was in attendance.  Although the spirit of the morning seemed high in hopes for me, something that struck me was a statistic that Paul, one of the graduating seniors, shared with us all.

In their first year of sobriety, 90% of all rehab clients will relapse.  For those who make it to their 5th year of sobriety, 90% of those individuals will never relapse again in their life. 

Now that got me both scared, but excited as well, because these men are up against some serious odds.  Once they leave this program, it’s going to be difficult trying to get a job with backgrounds like these.  I pray that they do find hope, and not get discouraged when they face ridicule and rejection that in the end might cause them to relapse.  Yet, I am hopeful because I want to see these men make it up to their 5th year.  Heck, I want them to live the rest of their lives drug and alcohol free.  When I look and talk to them, these men have goals, ambitions, and dreams even bigger than my own.  I want them to succeed and find peace in their lives, to put their past behind them, and to have a fresh start.

Just because these men have such apparent struggles, the truth is that we all are struggling with something deep-down inside, even if it’s not so obvious as substance abuse.  We’ve all got our dirty little secrets, those bad habits we just can’t seem to kick to the curb, but we are well aware that they hurt us and others.  That’s the evidence of sin in our lives, an endless gap that is evidence of ways which we have fallen hopelessly short of God’s intentions for our lives.  It affects us all on some level, but as the first step in the A.A. program tells clients, the first step is “honesty”.  And most of these men get that.  They have lost everything, severed their relationships, and, in some ways, have lost their freedom.  Unlike most of us who feel like we’ve got it “all together”, they are able to admit that they have fallen infinitely short of what things out to be.  Unlike most of us, they have quit trying to work their way out on their own accord.  Unlike most of us, they have recognized and acknowledged their need for a Savior.

last year’s BayUp team from Stanford

Written by Corr…

Written by Corrie Emmons

Hello all!

So as I write this entry, I am sitting on the second floor of the City Team building here in Downtown Oakland. I just got back from Church in Berkeley at a place called The Way Christian Center. That is the church we attended last week with the fellows from the program. It’s fun being able to get out with the guys here, because they normally aren’t allowed to without special permission.

I have been reflecting on my first full week at City Team and have come to the conclusion that I love it even more now than I did when I wrote my last entry. I tell you this so that you may know that new stuff is always happening in this place. People are being changed and formed each day through this program, because every day is one more day sober, and one more day closer to recovery. I am starting to realize how much of a process healing from addiction is. Just yesterday, we got to celebrate the graduation of two men from the program, Cory and Paul. The graduation was a beautiful time, as the families of the men were present as well as mentors, church members, current members of the program, and alumni of the program. It was a privilege to hear how these men had come to give their entire lives to Christ, and are on a path to be clean in sober for the rest of their lives. What really struck me was what Cory said in his speech upon receiving his diploma. He said that this whole program is not simply about getting sober, and abstaining from whatever you are addicted to, rather it is about having your life completely transformed as a follower of Christ, and a doer of his word. He said that there is never recovery or healing without God. I still can’t get over how remarkable it is to see the redeeming power of Christ working right in front of my eyes. Being a part of City Team has humbled me greatly. Our God is so good.

A lot of you may be wondering what I actually do here besides listen to peoples stories and live life with them. That is a valid question, because I am here to do some work right? Well the answer is that our team here has done a lot! This past week we have been serving in the form of administrative support. This basically means that we are helping the staff with stuff around the office. Currently City Team Oakland is very understaffed as they just were forced to let go a lot of employees to save money, and cut down on finances. So this means that the remaining staff is super busy! On top of being super busy with the normal demands of running a non-profit organization , they are in the middle of fundraising season. On July 19th, they are putting on their annual fundraising banquet. So Jordan, Samuel and I have been busy making copies of donation forms, addressing letters, stuffing letters, and making lists. Other stuff we have done was clean out the walk in refrigerator (which really needed it), organize the basement which is where clothing donations come in, and other miscellaneous jobs. Every day holds something new for us!

After being in Oakland for two weeks now, I have found it to be quite a fun and charming city despite all the problems that manifest here. Contrary to the city across the Bay, Oakland has a slower, more relaxed pace. People here are very friendly, and there is a strong sense of community. On Friday night, the whole BayUp tem met up at Jack London Square down by the water for Dancing Under The Stars.  Every Friday night at 8:30 during the summer, free dance lessons are offered at the square, as well as a couple hours of dancing! The night we went was merengue night. So now, I know how to merengue! The whole night was just an absolute hoot. Then yesterday, I got to participate in a 3 on 3 basketball tournament at a local park in East Oakland. The tourney was put on by a church to get people together, and preach non-violence in the communities. There was all kinds of stuff going on, like dance groups, Christian rappers, preachers, gospel artists, etc. As for the tourney, my team, which consisted of Jordan, our fellow BayUper Mike, and I took second place. We got to play against some really good local ball players, and got some respect around the area. I am so blessed to have been given the gift to play basketball.  The sport has opened many doors to create relationships with people that if I hadn’t played would have never happened. It’s a universal language.

A rather interesting truth I have stumbled upon in Oakland that has changed my perspective on this place entirely is the through the encounters I have had with people and events outside of BayUp that relate back to God. The basketball tournament was something we found on our own, and the entire event was saturated in Jesus! I have met many homeless and afflicted people who have tremendous faith in spite of their own dire situations. I even had the privilege to sit in on a bible study in the shelter one night, and I was blown away once again by how much people trusted in God. Being homeless does not mean you don’t know God, and being an active member of a church does not mean you know God either. It is ALL about your heart.  In the midst of all its problems, Oakland is a town where God is moving very strongly.

 

Thank you to all who are praying for me and the rest of the BayUp crew, and please continue to do so. Please also pray for the men involved in the program here, that they may find themselves and God, and become healed from their disease of addiction.

 

I love you all, and God Bless!

Corrie

random reflection


Where can I go from your spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the CityTeam rooftop, you are there; if I make my bed in the streets you are there; If I rise at 5am every morning, if I work downstairs in the basement, even there your hand will direct me, your right hand will help me feel secure.

If I say, “surely my life is crazy, too crazy for me, the crazinss doesn’t even phase you.  You are not stifled by the complexities of my life; Oakland’s craziness is still bearable for you.  This city and all its problems are in your hands.

Psalms 136:7-12 (revised)

 

Starting to Feel a Little Like Home…

Written by Samuel Garcia

June 28

You know that feeling when you feel like you’ve just begun to feel situated to your new surroundings?  Well, surprisingly, Oakland is starting to feel like home to me, Corrie, and Jordan.  It’s kind of weird, too. When we first came, I was pretty repelled by the residents.  Our space was cramped in what was an already antiquated building, early-morning breakfast at 5am was unthinkable, let alone hard to swallow, the rough attitudes and abrasive guys were hard to deal with, the homeless people were difficult to serve and love, but I’m starting to get used to it all, to the routine and the stories of hope that I hear from the men here at CityTeam.  After Corrie, Jordan and I came back from Jack London Square today, we felt at-home coming back to our tiny, mouse-infested room. haha.

Today there was a bomb threat around the corner from CityTeam.  There was a bomb squad and everything that came to detonate whatever was sitting right in front of Salvation Army.  Just another day in the neighborhood.  Also, there was an apparent fight right outside the kitchen where the homeless folks  were lined up before dinner. Only at CityTeam.

Yesterday as I walked out to check a store right in front of CityTeam, I was confronted by a man that that was telling me “Don’t look at me, cuz I ain’t got no cigarettes…I know that look when I see it”.

It was funny, not just because I wasn’t even looking for cigarettes, but because just for coming out the front door of the complex I was tagged as something unlikeable to society.  I can admit, I used to think that way about the guys who live here–low-lives, hopeless cases, abrasive personalities.  Now, I am marked as one of them, not just because we cook, clean, eat, do bible study, and work with them, but just for the mere fact that we walk out of the same building.  Now I’ve got to think twice before I judge anyone, because these guys are actually pretty nice to us.  We joke around, they look out for us, they’re open to sharing their stories, and even ask us about how we’re doing.  That’s crazy!!Image

June 27

So there were some church “volunteers” in the soup kitchen today, and it was humbling walking through the same line as the homeless people, extending out our trays, and getting a big slop of mystery meat, corn, and a piece of bread. I wonder if they think I’m another homeless individual, or even just another addict in the program.  I wonder what they’re thinking of me, what stereotypes, reflections, attitudes they have towards these people I now live with.  Man, it’s different seeing things from the other side of the line.  It was truly hard swallowing some humble pie tonight.

We also got put to work again in the basement today, which is now in the process of being converted into a closet for folks without clothes. The conditions are pretty bad down there, cuz there’s no ventilation, so it gets hot and humid, and, now that I think of it, it really smells like mold.  I feel mucus building up in my throat if I stay there too long. I hope they don’t put me down there too much more this summer.  It’s starting to look good, though!

Please pray for…

*the guys that live here, as they overcome their addictions

*new eyes to see people

*team dynamics

*CityTeam funding for new equipment and supplies

Hope for the City

Written by Samuel Garcia

6/24

Last night we got a chance to hear the stories and learn a little more about life in CityTeam, Oakland.  I learned that this place is not only a rehab/recovery center, but that it’s a homeless shelter as well! The recovering addicts who live here as residents are the ones who run this place.  They are the cooks, the cleaners, the teachers, the bible study leaders, the janitors, etc.  You would think that these people would have a hard time organizing themselves.  Surprisingly, this place is a well-oiled machine.  Everyone knows the duties and responsibilities entrusted to them, and they carry it out with pride.  I guess this program not only focuses on helping get a band-aid over people’s problems, but also helps people get back on their feet with job skills and social skills they have lost along the way.

Yesterday we met a man named Jerry who’s a 62-year-old resident living here on the same floor as us.   He has the far-too-typical story of having a life that has been wasted on drugs and street life.  He’s gone through life in jail and in violence on the streets.  He showed us 3 bullet holes in his stomach as evidence of a life filled with danger.  He can barely speak because cancer has disrupted the functions of his throat.  He has lost everything, including finances and family.  Still, as one of the oldest residents, Jerry is proud to be making a change for the better, even if it does seem like he has wasted his life.  He shared with us a sad tale of a life shattered with addictions, but he said that he felt as if God put him through those circumstances so that he could tell people like us to stay away from the drug world and all its empty promises.

We also met two middle-aged men named Steve and Dave who had very different stories than we hear of men suffering from drug addictions.  These two were men who actually worked in education; one was a teacher, while another helped out in a school system around the Bay Area.  Both are college graduates, held stable jobs at one point, but are now fighting the same battle as many other men at CityTeam.  It just goes to show that no matter how smart you are, the grasp of drugs knows no bounds.  We also hear that there’s a British chemistry professor in the program who’s also the House Manager.  He graduated from Oxford.  They call him “Professor” and I hear that he’s quite the character.  I can’t wait to meet him!!

This morning we got to go to church with a bunch of the CityTeam residents at “The Way” in Berkeley, CA.  Only once you get past your 30-day mark here do you get a chance to go to the church of your choice.  In total, there are only 3 CityTeam churches in the city, 2 of which meet on Sundays.  Only 6/24 residents came with us this morning.  That means most people living here are not past their 30-day mark and are just beginning their rehab journey, in the hopes that in a year they will graduate and remain drug-free.

 Jordan- 6/26/…

 Written by Jordan Williams

Hey peeps! First off hope summer is going well for you all and you are getting a much needed rest from school/work. As you know we have spent our first week and a half in Oakland at BayUp and it has already been even more of an amazing experience than I could have imagined. The mission statement for Bay Area Urban Project was “restoring Shalom (things as they ought to be, or how they were intended to be in the beginning) in the inner-city” and it is amazing how every single issue we have addressed so far has addressed either the problem of broken Shalom, or how it can be restored and what our roles are in accomplishing that. For our first week, we all met as a group for orientation at Regeneration Church and discussed injustice issues we would be seeing at our work sites, or just in the city and personal goals such as: violence in the inner city, God in politics, racial reconciliation, Earth ethics in light of scripture, the criminal justice system, the education system, and human trafficking (all huge issues either mainly in Oakland, or the world at large).

So much happened during orientation week that there is no possible way to include everything in a brief summary, but the highlights included: not having technology (which has been very refreshing), talking to people and asking them what Oakland means the them on International Blvd (the main street in East Oakland), spending a day as a low-income full time laborer (some of us were day workers, custodians, contracted laborers, or house cleaners ), spending a night sleeping on the streets, listening to numerous talks that were very impactful, getting to know all the other awesome BayUp’ers and developing lifelong relationships, and, most importantly, seeing where God fits into this crazy world (that seems to move 100mph all the time) and into our lives as Children of God pursuing his kingdom the way he intended us to.

After orientation, we left ReGeneration Church to all go to our worksites. Me, Samuel, and Corrie were assigned to work for a faith-based non-profit organization called CityTeam, where we get the unique opportunity of working with men coming out of substance abuse, hearing their stories, serving the organization through labor, and essentially just developing relationships with the guys and seeing Christ revealed as their lives get transformed. Unlike all the other BayUp groups (that will be working for different non-profits around Oakland), we are living on site with the men, eating with them, and just doing life with them. It has only been three days and it has already been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Once again, too much has happened for me to include all of the highlights in one post, but the best way I can sum it up is expressing the wonderful surprise of receiving relational wealth from the men we are doing life with, seeing the power of Christ play out in each of their lives, and witnessing what Christ can do for people that have seen everything they had ripped from them due to drug and alcohol abuse.

The general plan for us is to update our blog twice a week, so I hope to get another entry out in the next few days, but until then, God bless all of you and I very much appreciate all of your prayers! I’ll leave ya’ll with this verse “John 3 v.30” Peace!

Written by Corr…

Written by Corrie Emmons

To all my family and friends out there following this, I hope your summer is going splendidly! I love and miss you all. To my family who may be worried, I am not dead or injured and I have not taken any unnecessary risks. J

My time here in Oakland has reached a week, and what a week it has been. I arrived last Monday at ReGeneration Church  which is situated at the edge of East Oakland ,for our week of BayUp orientation. The orientation week was packed full of so many different ideas, sermons, activities, and testimonies that it is hard to tell them all, but I will try and do I some justice in hopes that you can have a better idea of what my experience has been like.

Speaking of justice…….. That is really why I am here in Oakland. God is a just God, and he wants justice for his people. What he wants is for things to be the way they ought to be. If you were to take a look around the world today, it doesn’t take very long to find something that isn’t the way it should be. The biblical term used to describe the way things ought to be is shalom. Throughout orientation week, we have been discussing shalom, and where we see it being broken or restored. It has sort of become the theme of our time here in Oakland, to seek shalom in the midst of this crazy city. Along with my 20 other fellow BayUper’s, I have been able to participate in a wide variety of activities that have given me a completely new perspective on issues of social and environmental injustice in Oakland and the entire world. Some of the things we have done included talking to people on the street in poor, crime ridden areas of East Oakland, hearing from various activists and Christian leaders on the injustices occurring in the city, experiencing a day in the shoes of the working poor (we actually worked for an entire day as either day laborers, janitors, or house cleaners. I was a day laborer) sleeping outside, and having many discussions on the topics of sex trafficking, poverty, immigration, and environmental ethics. To try and sum it up, orientation was AWESOME. I have learned so much already, and it is truly life changing stuff. God cares so much about what happens here in Oakland, and there are some very good people making a huge difference in this town. It has brought up a lot of questions for me, one in particular being does God actually do things in the midst of violence, despair and poverty of the big city?

That question has been answered about 5 times a day for me now. On Saturday, I finally moved into where I will be living and staying for the next week: City Team Oakland. Before I came to BayUp, I really didn’t know what to expect with City Team. What City Team does is remarkable. Currently they are housing about 20ish guys, who are all at different stages of their yearlong commitment to becoming sober, and graduating the program. The men in this program have already given me so much. Their stories of how they are coming out of addiction and into a real, living relationship with God have impacted me greatly. The faith that these men have is incredible. I have been honored and blessed to have their wisdom imparted upon me. I am feeling so welcome. It is truly a house of God. One of the highlights so far is being able to eat with the men, and help serve the people that City Team feeds everyday. Each day, City Team provides two meals to the homeless and afflicted people of Oakland, breakfast and lunch. This is consistent everyday! What is also consistent is that breakfast starts at 5:15 for the guests, and 6:00 for the members of the house…. So needless to say, I am currently trying to adjust to a radical new sleep schedule. It has been nothing but great though. I am loving my time here in Oakland, and every day God is changing my heart to love this City and its people more and more. Praise God for every thing he is doing here! I am blessed to be learning so much. I wish I could communicate more clearly how much God has changed me since I arrived here, but I can say that there is so much more to being a Christian than I ever thought there was before.

I will blog again soon, but for now please pray for Jordan, Samuel and I as we continue to dive into what God has for us this summer. The power of prayer is real!  Thank you so much for supporting and loving me. I am so grateful to be blessed by such amazing people.

I love you all, and God Bless!!

Corrie

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