Hello friends & friends-to-be!
I hope you’re all having a lovely July! I’m really excited to share with you a little of what I’m experiencing at BayUP. Despite the fact that we are attempting to simplify our lives by living on a tight budget and fasting from media, the predominant theme from my experience so far has been Abundance. Each and every day our household sees God’s grace and goodness in myriad ways, one of which is through food. Groups such as OBUGs and People’s Grocery are founded on a principle of giving back to the community, and that generosity spills over into everything they’re involved with, including our BayUP team. Thus, we are routinely blessed with treats from the garden to supplement our meals, delicacies such as collard greens, Swiss chard, basil, chives, garlic, strawberries, chili peppers, mint, lemon verbena, lavender, carrots, potatoes, and zucchini. Our household also benefits from the incredible kindness of the church we’re attending this summer, New Hope Covenant Church. The first Sunday after we moved into our apartment was the monthly after-church community lunch, and they warmly invited us to join them even though we are quite a large group of very hungry young people. And just last night, a few BayUP alumni who attend New Hope invited us over for a delicious dinner and a hearty portion of encouragement. God is good.
BayUP is also a time of an abundance of learning. Every week we study a different system that is broken in the United States. From the environment, to education, to immigration, to the criminal justice system – we are exploring what the Bible says about these issues, how God’s heart breaks for the dehumanization and exploitation of His precious creations, and what we can do to restore justice to systems that seem irreparably broken. The prevalence and severity of these problems often feel overwhelming, but we find hope in the reminder that God is sovereign. Although we may not know how to fix the world, He calls us to be informed about the ways we contribute to its brokenness and to use our privilege to bring justice. God is good.
Another way I see abundance during BayUP is in the unbelievable amount of joy in our household. God has made our team feel like a pseudo-family in just three weeks, allowing us to bond and develop trust despite the newness of our relationship. Our life here is filled with laughter, runs around the lake, songs, board games, letters, story time, Psalms, and countless awkward moments, many of which have become immortalized on our Quote Board. Although the issues we’re studying are serious and, quite often, heartbreaking, God graces us every day with the opportunity to see Him at work in the darkness, to feel His presence through the love and care of the people around us.
This joy is felt at our work sites as well, which are oases of sorts in the food desert that is West Oakland. Due to the scarcity of grocery stores in the area, it is difficult for residents to purchase affordable, healthy food, and they often suffer from poor health as a result. The sites we work with not only provide access to better nutrition, they also create spaces for people to experience and express joy. This was evident in the beautiful mural at People’s Grocery that Megan mentioned last week, and I see it all the time with the kids at OBUGs. Last week, as I was working on an art project with some neighborhood kids, they asked me if I knew any Michael Jackson songs, so I started singing “I Want You Back” by The Jackson Five. The kids immediately started singing with me, and one even got up and did some Jackson-esque dance moves. As we continued singing and working on crafts, I felt an amazing sense of contentment from the kids. They had just finished their snack, and they were so joyful to be out in nature without any stressors or responsibilities. As a volunteer at OBUGs, I am so blessed to get to see and contribute to an abundance of these kinds of life-giving experiences, small as they may be. God is indeed good.
He feeds me when I am hungry, He teaches me when I am ignorant, and He replaces my sorrow with joy. Although I haven’t yet figured out how I am going to practically apply everything I’m learning at BayUP, I am confident that this reminder of God’s goodness will give me hope about the lives of all of the people I’m interacting with, as well as my ability to one day make a difference in the lives of my fellow creations.