Sunday, October 28, 2007

My birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. Thanks so much for all the calls and the emails! It was definitely a little hard being so far away from family and friends. Especially when Brandon (dumbo) calls and starts telling me all the reasons why I should be home and that he was going to steal my resume and start sending it in to places. haha

So, it was a little bit of a boring birthday but I still enjoyed it. Wednesday my co-workers took me and Mariko, another coworker whose birthday was this week, out to lunch for our birthdays. Saturday I woke up late (mamaw almost got me hehe) and then eventually treated myself to lunch at Panera. After this I went to work from 1-3 (very boring) but was bombarded with phone calls and texts and emails from fam and friends. Even a couple of songs hehe. Anyways, I then went to Starbucks and spent some time on the phone with a WONDERFUL old friend Kimmiej. After that, I decided I was going to treat myself to a time out on the town in Oak Park, a more ritzy (aka white) neighborhood then my own. So I went down there and spent a good 2 hours browsing Borders bookstore (ended up buying 2 books haha), walked around the streets, and then ended up at Carbou Coffee for another cup of coffee. All in all although I didn't really "do" anything, it ended up being a very realxing day to a very stressful and rough past few days.

Saying that, I must say thanks for the continuing prayers. It was a horrible week! A week that has definitely took me to my knees a number of times! At the beginning of the week, a child at my work revealed to me some stuff she has been dealing with for quite awhile and it broke my heart, so I was reeling from that when on Thursday afternoon found out that a friend from KAA, a former counselor with me, was shot and killed Wednesday night. Needless to say, it was a shock. And, it definitely has been puting things in perspective for me.

So, to say all that I am very thankful for having prayer warriors in my life. I have no doubt that God has his hand in all these situations because of the countless people praying for me and the countless people praying for my ministry. I keep prayin His will be done in both of these situations. I can see His fingerprints on the situation with my child and I know that God will use J.O.'s death for His glory.

I will leave you with a great quote I just heard...maybe I should do a "quote" everytime a post...maybe I will:

"Lord, grant that I might not so much seek to be loved as to love." St. Francis Assisi

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Banquet last night

A couple of my kids at the banquet last night! You should have seen them on stage...I was like a proud mom!!! They looked so cute and actually did a really good job on the song!!!! Didn't get home till 11:30 but it was all worth it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


ughhhh...i was soooo mad today when i found out one of our boys was moved up yesterday to 8th grade....why? because he is "too" old for his grade...HOW STUPID IS THAT? academically he should probably be in 6th grade...what's wrong with the chicago public system? ha, no child left behind is a joke...

other story of the week: so one of our 4th grade girls walked up with her arm around one of our 10th grade boys. He is such a great kid and is really growing in his faith and learning how to be a godly man. so she walks up and says, "skasta (thats what she calls me), he is just way too nice, he's just too nice to all the little girls (they all have crushes on him!!)." i smiled and told her maybe it's because he is such a gentleman. i kid you not, she looked straight at me, laughed and said, "what? a gentleman? he's from the HOOD he can't be a gentleman." and the sad thing was, she was so serious. i just looked at her and said, it doesn't matter where he's from, he is a nice guy and a gentleman and you can live in the hood and be a gentleman. and she should expect that out of all guys. she just looked at me, smirked/laughed, and walked off. it made me sad. these girls don't expect or even believe there are good guys out there anymore. wow.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"The Importance of Being Foolish"

So, I'm reading this book by Brennan Manning called "The Importance of Being Foolish" how to think like Jesus did. It's amazing and this quote really "puts into words" my heart for these kids:

"To live and think as Jesus did is to discover the sincerity, goodness, and truth often hidden behind the gross, coarse exteriors of our fellow human beings. It is to see the good in others that they don’t see in themselves and to affirm this good in the face of powerful evidence to the contrary. It is not a blind optimism that ignores the reality of evil but a perspective that acknowledges the good so repeatedly and so insistently that the wayward must eventually respond in agreement."

Amazing huh? To discover the goodness often hidden behind the coarse exterior of my kids and to affirm it in the face of powerful evidence that says they aren't. I pray that I can see these kids everyday through Christ's eyes so even when they are at their worst and nothing of goodness shows in them...that I will see past it and affirm it so repeatedly and so insistently that eventually, they will being to agree!

Friday, October 19, 2007

My apartment!!!

Pictures of my apartment finally uploaded on my computer! the first is of our "living room", next of our plain bathroom, next is a pic of our messy bunk beds! hahaha...yes i'm almost 24 years old and i sleep on a bunk! the last one is of our kitchen...
yeah, it's small...but it's least for now!!!!!!

not sure... one ever comments on my blog...

is anyone out there reading this thing? :)
p.s. a picture of the amazing city i live in!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

2 Things....

Hello! It's been a great last few days for the kids. Last week, the kids did probably the best they've done so far and this week they have already been doing great.
So, after working with these wonderful kids for awhile, I see how blessed I was to grow up in a 2 parent, Christian home. I didn't realize that some of the things my parents taught me over the years wasn't a "given" and that a lot of parents don't teach their kids some very important but very basic things these children need to survive. Although I could probably think of a lot more than these 2, I just really wanted to write about 2 things I've noticed the most with our kids that I thought was something that all kids growing up learn, yet, after seeing them day in and day out-obviously they don't. Here they are:

1. No respect for women:
These boys do not respect our girls at all. They hit them, they talk mean to them, they disrespect them continually. Then when you tell them they are a girl so you need to respect them, they look at you like they are crazy. These boys are being taught by the men in their lives that women are to be used and that’s it. There’s no respect there. There’s no love and devotion there. Now I’m not saying that girls are totally innocent in all this but it just amazes me the total disregard to the fact that these girls aren’t supposed to be treated that way. I always see some boy walk by and just smack a girl on the head or just say something so totally rude to them in passing. And, it makes no matter to them what-so-ever that they are girls and they deserve the respect any man should give a woman. This is what our boys are learning from the men that come in and out of their lives. Our girls, they deserve so much more. For example, today, we had an 8th grade boy tell this 8th grade girl after she laughed at him for saying something, he told her he was going to knock that smile off her face, knock her out because he wasn’t talking to her and she shouldn’t be laughing. You know what her response was? She just laughed and shook her head…I really wanted to look at her and say, girl, no…don’t let him talk to you like that. You are so much better than that. You shouldn’t have to take that from any guy because you deserve more than that and you should demand and expect more from him. That’s the thing though, our girls, they don’t expect stuff like that from a man. They want a boyfriend to “love them” and “care for them” but seriously, most don’t even know what real love is. They sure don’t know what it looks like for a man to respect a woman, just for the plain and simple fact that she is a female and deserves it. I know, I know, there are cases where a girl doesn’t deserve it…but I’m talking about our beautiful girls just being in the program and guys just being so disrespectful to them because they can and because that’s all they know. So, we can’t necessarily fault them but we can educate them. But, how do you tell a boy who doesn’t have a father in his life, who sees every older man in his life treat women like dirt…how do I expect him to understand that he should respect this girl just because she is a female? And how do we teach our girls that they should expect more out of their men? When they don’t see their moms expecting more? When they see every man in their lives being disrespectful? How can we teach these girls that they are worth so much more and deserve so much more? Will teaching our young girls this help the ever increasing number of young, unmarried moms? Will this help with the very popular fad of lesbianism going around in our school systems these days? Yes, some will be surprised to hear that but it’s definitely a fad in our schools now. Why? One might have a case that these girls are looking for something more and they can’t find it in any boy because all these boys want is sex and power…our girls want to be loved and cared for. They see all the men in their lives as untrustworthy and unfaithful, so they turn to other things-like other girls. So sad and yet, it has become a norm. Why? Why can’t we look at these boys and say, be the men you are supposed to be. A real man respects women. A real man doesn’t see how many women he can “conquer” but a real man finds a women he can care for and love. Why can’t we look at these girls and tell them they are “pearls” and that they are so worthy of love, respect, and faithfulness. They should expect this and never settle for anything less. This is my desire, to teach our girls about how precious they are, how they are worth a lot more than what these boys say they are worth. And, that their real worth can only come from God. My desire is also to tell our boys how to be men, tell them they are worth more too. That God wants so much greater things for their lives than just to be some baby's daddy...

Sorry, got on my soapbox...haha....okay, here's the other thing i've heard...
2. No lead by example/older leader mentality:
This is the other thing that I notice is lacking with our kids. I always look at the older kids when they hit a younger kid or they mouth a younger kid back and say, you are how old? Why don’t you set an example and just ignore it. This is so foreign to them. They don’t understand the concept of setting an example. They don’t understand the concept that for the simple reason that they are older, they should be able to walk away without hitting back or without saying something back. They should be the more “mature” one. They don’t do this. So often, I see the older kids messing with the younger kids and their response is always, he hit me first or she said something first so I had to say something back. This concept of being a leader, leading by example, and “just because you are older” is so foreign to them because they don’t see it at home. They have no older sibling leading by example. They have no cousins or friends leading by example. All they see is if you get me, I get you or I’m older so I’ll do what I want. I tell them that these kids are looking up to them and modeling their every move. We do have the mayor program that the high schoolers (9th-12th) graders come in and are tutors for the kids and in some ways over the kids. And, they see them leading and we are trying to get them to lead by example. Most do, and of course occasionally they mess up and do something stupid, but they are doing it. They are leading these kids and hopefully showing them what it means to lead by example and be the more mature one just because they are older.

Anyways, despite these last two paragraphs, my kids are absolutely wonderful. I look at them and sometimes think, there is no way that in a year, I'll be able to leave this place. I'm sooo blessed to have a job I love. I think most of the world would look at these kids and say they won't be anything, they won't make it...but every single day, I see little improvements and I hope that everyday, through me and my co-workers, that these kids can see the love God has for them and that they can EXCEL, they can become the men and women God wants them to be!
I will continue to push them because I love them and I believe in them. And, hopefully, they will see this and begin to believe in themselves...because, isn't that what makes someone excel in life more than anything? To believe in yourself? May these kids everyday begin to believe in themselves and believe that with God, they can do anything with their lives and be whoever they want to be.

God bless you all. I miss everyone of you!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Small Victories

So, me and my friend Laura, techmission member also, were having dinner the other night and we were talking about the fact that americorps wants us to send in any "great stories" we have with working for the kids. Our question is, though, what constitutes a "great" story? The success stories we have are small, yet victories nonetheless. For example, the other day, M walks I wish you knew this girl. She's tough. The first 2 weeks I was there, she didn't know nor care what my name was. Yet, a small victory comes to mind. She walks in on Tuesday, with her confident attitude as always and walks over to sign in...looks up says, Hey Andrea, Hey Shasta. I was shocked! I mean, we definitely weren't the only two workers standing around, yet she selected us two out of the group. Not only that, but she said hi to me before I said hi to her. Small thing...yet a victory nonetheless. Go on to B. Another 8th grader who I get the *pleasure* of working with. Seriously, she is a cool kid but has the personality that she'll go off in a second. So, she is sitting in homework time this whole week....anytime she has trouble, she asks me for help. a.She asks for help, b.she's asking me. Small thing, yet a victory nonetheless. Or K, who's worst progress report grade this nine weeks-a C! Another victory? Noel (another worker) and I talked to a young 4th grade girl, Y, about how when she is with certain people, she acts different. They have a negative influence on her. So, I didn't know if it went in one ear and out the other until yesterday when her two friends were asking me where she was....I said I don't know and they were like, well she always with y'all now. I said, she's not with me now. And they were like, lately she's been going off hanging out with other people, not just us. I smiled, told them that's because she doesn't follow the crowd and silently prayed a thank you that maybe, just maybe, Y was listening and has began to understand that, "bad company corrupts good character." I could go on and on about the little victories I have seen since I started working here but I won't because I'm sure most are thinking, these are really small things. In these kids lives, though, we've got to celebrate the small things or they'll never realize how special and awesome they are. I am so blessed to get to work with these amazing kids. I'm sure most wouldn't agree they are amazing, but they are-if you just give 'em a chance, sit down with them and listen to 'em. They just want someone to care about 'em and push 'em. They hate to be pushed beyond their immediate capacity, yet when they finish a worksheet without using a calculator or finish that hard brain teaser, they have the biggest smile and a great sense of accomplishment. Then you can look at 'em and say, see I thought you couldnt do it? You did it! And slowly, but surely, they begin to believe in themselves and realize they can do more....they can be more.

It's Friday. The last class with my 3-5th grade group. Praise God! No, actually i'll miss them...a little....but I hope we can go out today with a bang! Have a great weekend all and I miss everyone!

Monday, October 8, 2007


you can't just say i love you. you have to live i love you.- ben harper

what is love? it's such a complicated word. it's such a simple word.

god is love. the greatest commandment? to love god and the second is like it, love your neighbor.

we are all called to love. yet love can look so different to all people. for some love is a fleeting act of kindness for others love is patience in their everyday life. although it looks so different and comes in many shapes, sizes, colors and is love is love.

nothing can separate you from the love of god made visible in christ our Lord. everything else will pass away but the love of christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. faith will become vision, hope will become possession, but the love of jesus christ endures forever. in the end, it is the one thing that i can hang onto.

love conquers all. i truly believe this statement. poverty, racism, discrimination-all of this could be conquered by one simple raw thing-love.

the nature of god’s love for me is outrageous. why doesn’t my god display some taste and discretion in dealing with me? why doesn’t he show more restraint? to be blunt about it, couldn’t god arrange to have a little more dignity? no, the love of my god isn’t dignified at all, and apparently that’s the way he expects my love to be for others.

one of my heros is the late mother teresa. now here is a woman who knew what true love meant. my favorite quote is by her; she says "the success of love is in the loving, not in the result of loving. of course, it's natural in love to want the best for the person, but rather it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done."

i am learning that what i do with my life is not nearly as important as who i am. i can "do" youth ministry but what kind of youth minister am i? we can be doctors or lawyers or teachers but what kind of doctors or lawyers or teachers are we?

shane claiborne writes in my favorite book, irresistible revolution, "It’s a beautiful thing when folks in poverty are no longer just a missions project but become genuine friends and family with whom we laugh, cry, dream, and struggle with. Servant hood is a fine place to begin but gradually we move toward mutual love, genuine relationships.”

love does not have to be some great thing. some extraordinary or splendid activity. love just has to be genuine.

i am beginning to see god's image in everyone i meet. i am choosing people, not issues. i am choosing love, not charity. i am choosing to look through christ eyes not my plank filled judging eyes. i am choosing to believe the impossible and to do the unreasonable. to speak truth where there is nothing but lies. to speak love where hate fills hearts. to speak hope where there is dispair. to speak faithfulness not success. to speak servanthood not power. to speak love in actions not words.

may i spend my life living the jesus way of life. may i spend my life loving others because he first loved us. may i live a life of love.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Creativity isn't flowing...

This week has been relatively uneventful at work because of tutor training. The kids left after homework time Tues, Wed, and Thurs but I still managed to log 9 hours all three days because of "tutor training." To tell you the truth, though, I enjoyed it to an extent because it gave me more time to get to know the "mayors" (who are the 9-12th graders who help out the younger kids in the program) and so that was cool.
Personally, though, this week has kinda been a roller coaster of emotions. It's amazing how the things that used to seem so important to me seem so trivial now. Another crazy thing is this: I got up like every normal day, put on some coffee and sat down to briefly watch the news...and I came to the realization that I am an adult. It kinda snuck up on me...not that it happened over night but that I didn't even notice that I was "grown up" now.
Another thing that has been on my mind lately is the racism and discrimination that stares me in the face everyday. Things I've always heard about but really never knew existed. *I am deleted this part because it seemed to irritate and bother some people...i guess a lot of people don't want to know what the world is really like.*

If these kids didn't have enough things pulling them down, lets just add on the fact that no one actually believes in them. You can see that by the buisnesses around our community and the interest the city actually takes in up-keeping our neighborhoods. These kids have so many factors that say they won't make it...a lot more factors than us pushing them and telling them they can and will. Somedays I look at this heavy burden and think it's impossible. Holistically speaking, these kids need so much yet what can we really give them? They need Jesus first and foremost but they also need so much more. The number one thing that brings people out of poverty is not money...I know most think that, or they wouldn't just dump some money into the "charity bank" and go on with their merry lives never thinking about the poor again...but no, the most important thing that brings people out of poverty is relationships. Yes, relationships. Role models, people who are stable in their lives and who BELIEVE in them and push them beyond what they thought was possible. Everyday, I do this. Everyday, I go home and wonder, am I making a difference? Most days it doesn't feel like it. Then I think about the fact that God has called me to love, and that is it. To love these kids...there is so much involved in loving these kids yet, he doesn't call me to change them...He does that. Love does that. I can't change one kid here. I can't do matter the time you spend with them or amount of money or whatever it is you give can't change one kid's life...only Jesus Christ our lord and Savior can. And He will...I may never see the fruit of my labor, but I've got to believe that He is and will do some amazing things in these kids lives. That is the only thing that keeps me sane at the end of the day.