Thursday, July 30, 2009

A sad goodbye

Today, my very good friend and coworker, Mariko, said goodbye to Breakthrough. This wonderful friend of mine will be sorely missed. For the past four years, she has poured her heart and soul into our kids. And, it showed in their faces as she told them last week that she was leaving. Mariko is someone that has made an impact that will last a lifetime. Just ask Atiya. Today, when the kids were talking about the most "influential" person in their lives, she said "Mariko."

I know that Mariko is moving onto great things. Actually, she is going to grad school in Philly to continue her learning so someday, beyond working with kids, she can work with the parents and communities. Yet, I still mourn for the kids. I mourn because I know that positive role models are not the norm in their neighborhood. I also mourn because I know that next week I will be letting them know my bad news as well. Which means they aren't just losing one role model, but two. Two people that have poured their hearts into them. My heart aches just thinking about it.

Mariko is a great friend. She has taught me so much about ministry, about God, and about how to serve. I praise God for friends/co-workers like her.

Good bye Mariko!
Keep praying for me, these last few days have been very up and down. One last week of program and then camp.
God bless you all.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I was wanting to write a post about the 7 people whom were shot a block away from my house last night, but after reading Arloa's blog, I decided that it would be best coming from her. Please read her post:

God bless you all.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Its Over!

Softball is officially over! Today we had the all-star game. 3 of our girls were picked to play on the team and we were super excited to see them get their "all-star" debut. Well, after 10 long innings, we finally ended with a tie, 7-7.

It was are the girls after the game:

Way to go ladies!

Although its been a forever long season (3months) i'm very sad for it to be ending. I love each and ever player on this team!

God bless you all!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mixture of Feelings

This past week has been extremely hard for me and I can only imagine that the next few will be equally as hard. The reason it has been so hard is realizing that before I know it, it will be my last day. Before I know it, I will be moving away from the people I have spent the last two years pouring into, loving, and sharing my life with. I have had many fitful nights of sleep, weird, upsetting dreams, and just realizing the big impact Breakthrough and the people of Chicago have really made on my life.

Of course, I cannot wait to spend some quality time with my nieces. To actually be able to go see them whenever brings joy to my heart. I also can't wait to spend day in and out with Jeremy, learning more about him and our relationship. And of course, spending real time with my family is also very exciting.

Yet, as I sit here, planning for tomorrow's activities, I cannot wait to see my kids' smiling faces again. It literally breaks my heart to know that before long, I will not see them for a really extended period of time. I wonder, how will I tell them? I feel as though I am letting them down. I feel as though I am almost forsaking them. Is that weird? I know that it is time, I know that Chicago is not "home" for me, yet it is so difficult to think about leaving the children whom I have invested so much of my time in.

Just yesterday, we had our final softball game of the season (WE WON YAY) and as the game ended and we were packing up to leave, I looked into the eyes of one of my children and broke down. She was like why are you so upset? I just said its the end of the season, I just can't believe its already here. She was satisfied with that but I thought to myself, its more than just the end of the season for me.

Of course, change is always difficult. Leaving a place is always super hard and I know that God will lead me in a new direction and eventually I will find a new organization to pour my heart into. Yet, again, it is extremely difficult for me to think about that right now. I am trying so hard to stay "present" and really value every moment I have with the kids for I know before long it'll come to an end.

Please pray for me as this time is coming to an end. Please pray that I will spend the next 5 weeks truly enjoying my time with my kids and friends here. Please pray that this transition will go smoothly, God will give me complete peace about leaving, and that I will be able to find a job as soon as possible. With making as little as I have, my savings is practically drained so I'm not sure how long I can live without a job.

God is good. I know this. I know this as I say hi to my neighbors and we talk about the weather. I know this as I walk down the street and watch the kids playing in the fire hydrants. I know this as I splash in the water, laughing as the kids try to show me how they can "swim." I know this as I laugh and tease Kanika for being a granny. I know this as Andrea and I go to the beach on Sundays and get some real rest from a long week. I know this as I watch the determination on the faces of our girls as they get up to bat. I know this because every single day I wake up and realize that my life is NOT my own, that I have been crucified with Christ and I know longer live but He in me. I know this because He called me to a purpose greater than my own. I know this because I am fully aware that He is in complete control of my future and that wherever I go next, I will go with the desire to share His love and teach His word.

Sadness. Joy. Fear. Love. Excitement. Worried...A mixture of feelings as I go throughout my days.

Be present. This is all I desire the next few weeks. Please pray for me!

God bless you all.

Friday, July 17, 2009


So tonight I was feeling super defeated. My kids' softball team has lost the last two games by 1 run each. I have felt so defeated because I know that they have improved, yet they continue to lose practically every single game. I was super upset when two games ago, up by 5 in the last inning, they ended up getting beat. It was a moment where I felt totally helpless and just really sad for the girls as the game slipped away right in front of their eyes.

Tuesday night they worked hard, super hard to be honest and came away with a tie. Because there were no lights at the field we had to reschedule the final inning for tonight (Friday night). I seriously was super excited and thinking that we would definitely pull out the win. And yet, tonight, they scored one run and then we didn't score any. Game over. Lost by one again. So yeah, I was just feeling so disappointed and upset for the girls. I know that they work hard and have great attitudes (for the most part) and so I just don't understand how they keep getting beat in the end. I felt like a failure as a coach. Anyways, as I was talking to my roommate tonight, I was just telling her how sad and defeated I was feeling. How I was just hoping that tomorrow (our final game) we could finally pull out a victory. I told her how defeated I felt knowing that we had lost much more than we had won this season.

Crazy how God works though. A little while later that night, as I walked out of the room where my roommate was, I noticed that my blackberry was flashing. I had a new email....

The email was from Bob. Bob is the coach of the team we played tonight. I was suprised to see that he had emailed me, so I decided to read it right then and there. And what he wrote brought tears to my eyes, here's what the email said:

"Shasta and Andrea,

I appreciate that you had to wait as our team showed up late for the game, and you were magnanimous in giving us just the 1 out for the lack of players.

But what I really wanted to thank you for is the work you are doing with those young girls. They are by far the most polite team we have faced all season and my suspicion is that is because of their coaches.

My guess is you are disappointed in the outcome of the game and possibly the season, but you are clearly having a much bigger impact on these girls than just their hitting and fielding skills.

Thanks for the work that you do. Bob."

Wow. I seriously just teared up as I read these words of encouragement. Often, I forget that more important than wins and losses is the impact we are making on this team. Although, of course, I am super competititve and would love to see our girls be the best, more importantly is their character. More importantly is how they are learning to become young women of God and young women whom respect themselves and others.

I am forever grateful for Bob for this little reminder. And tomorrow, as our final game comes upon us, I am hopeful that maybe, just maybe our hard work and positive attitudes will pull off a win...but if not, I will be reminded that as long as the girls had fun, played their best, and treated each other, the coaches, their opponents, and the ump with respect...then that to me is so much more important than a win.

Much more....

Wow. What a great reminder and teachable moment.

God bless you all!

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Breakthrough Kid

Wanted to share a story about something one of our junior high girls said to my co-worker a few days ago. There have been a few teenage girls in our neighborhood who have recently gotten pregnant. Although this breaks our hearts every time, we realize that unfortunately, this "phenomena" is often more the norm than not.

Anyways, my co-worker and this 13 year old girl were having a conversation about something and it turned to having babies. The 13 year old girl made some off-hand comment about the girls in the neighborhood being pregnant and how she thought it was crazy and totally not a good idea. My co-worker told her yeah, you need to wait till you're at least 30, no teenage pregnancies for you. The girl looked at her, surprised and said...okay. You know I wouldn't do that, i'm a Breakthrough Kid.

Wow. Breakthrough is setting a standard of behavior. If you are a part of Breakthrough, you stay away from that mess. Praise God for places like Breakthrough. Praise God that Breakthrough is so much more than just an afterschool program. Praise God that He is using this place to CHANGE.

A Breakthrough Kid. I really like that. These "breakthrough kids" are the best in the world, no doubt about it. Praise God for them. Praise God that I have the opportunity everyday to teach them the "other way." The way that leads to Christ.

I'm a Breakthrough Kid. :) LOVE IT!

God bless you all!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Whew! Done for a month!

Well, I am finally done with my class, Multicultural Issues in Human Services! Yay! Last post I mentioned that my final paper was to be on Gentrification. Well, I wasn't expecting it to be as difficult as it was but I am glad that I learned a lot more about it.

Anyways, a couple of you mentioned that you would like to know more about it. I can't paste my complete paper on here...15 typed pages would be a little too much, but I would like to share some of the major thoughts of the paper.

The biggest thing I learned is that gentrification and displacement are almost always synonymous. Unfortunately although good that it is rebuilding impoverished neighborhoods, those that have lived in the neighborhoods all their lives can't afford to stay and reap the benefits of these improvements. Here is a quote by Dywer:

“Transformation does not simply entail renovating and rebuilding, the issues at play are much more complicated than the simple progression from destruction to construction. New and refurbished buildings in urban areas do not arise in a vacuum. They are built on parcels of land where older buildings once stood, or they are remodeled for new and richer tenants. Most of the time the people who lived, worked, played and worshipped in those buildings are displaced.”

I believe that change is inevitable. Obviously, there definitely needs to be some changes made in poor communities. As with the case of my community, there are many old abandoned builidings and poor infrastructure. Yet, I believe that restoration of the community must not push out those that live here. Instead, it must be done in a way that dignifies and perserves the culture and history of this community. And any urban community for that matter.

Finally, most importantly I believe that God calls us to take care of and serve the poor. In fact, I think he mentions the poor over 300 times in the bible. John M. Perkins, the founder of Christian community development (if you haven't heard of him...look him up) had this to say about restoring at-risk communities:

The biblical vision for Christian community development is for people to be in loving fellowship with God and with one another as they toil in fruitful labor, which benefits their community of need. The family as a unit must be reinforced. Leadership for their needed common efforts comes from within their own community.

Here's the bottom line, do I think that gentrification needs to happen? Yes. But do I believe that it is happening in the right way? No. Yet, I do believe that it could be done in a way that dignifies and a way that does not displace people. And, I believe that it takes the church stepping up and realizing their part in community development and doing it together with their community.

Doing it together and doing it right.

What do you think?

God bless you all!