i know I talk a lot about my neighborhood on this blog. truly, a place of life for me, where i've blossomed into someone new. a few weeks ago, i started these posts called the "stepping-out dairies", hopefully capturing and documenting the incredible LIFE God gives us when we step out and take risks.
as I was pondering what God is going to do next, I realized that for many of you who read my blog, you may not know the story behind this lovely place Kevin and I call home. the story of how we got here is really one of stepping out...story time friends:
a few years ago, i came home from living and working abroad, and got a job in LA. it was and is the most incredible job ever, but each night after work i would go home, and a sense a feeling of disquiet in my spirit, an itch almost. i lived in suburbia orange county, and i was quickly becoming quite disillusioned to being a Jesus lover in the suburbs. i commuted to work, put in my 8 hours, came home, worked out, made dinner, checked my email, and then went to bed. repeat. each. and. every. day.
something was not right. it was too much about ME. i worked around MY schedule. i drove MY car to MY job, made MY dinner, and lived in MY own little Katie world. the american dream.
but Christ did not live the american dream. he wasn't a carpenter in order to buy a flashy house in newport beach or a range rover. he didn't just grace the halls of elaborate mega-churches to spectate on sunday and be entertained by a funny pastor or electric worship band.
NO, Jesus came to "bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners". there is nothing wrong with living in the suburbs or having a nice house or car, but i had to ask myself- if I am supposed to reflect Jesus, was I even DOING any of those epic things he did? did i resemble Him in any way?
and then i felt Abba ask me this, "Katie, why is it that you only chose to serve and know the poor when you travel abroad?"
bam. convicting, right? i'll admit, I didn't know anyone in southern california who fit this description. shane claiborne, one of my favorite authors says this:
“I asked participants who claimed to be "strong followers of Jesus" whether Jesus spent time with the poor. Nearly 80 percent said yes. Later in the survey, I sneaked in another question, I asked this same group of strong followers whether they spent time wit the poor, and less than 2 percent said they did. I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.”
that was me. i cared, but i didn't know. and i didn't know how the heck to know. i wasn't exactly raised hanging out with the people jesus hung out with.
so i prayed. that seemed like the right, or really the ONLY thing to do. you don't exactly just google "how to know the poor". i prayed. a. lot. and I cried out to Abba a lot- lots. of tears.
and then 5 months later, i was at a church and a man came to speak. to share about a neighborhood he lived and worked in that was cultivating a jesus movement. i stalked him after the service, and he told me i needed to fill out a form and go in for an interview to volunteer.
in my mind, i was strategizing that maybe i'd start out as a volunteer, and then after a while, maybe, just maybe they'd ask me to move into the neighborhood. so i went to my interview. the neighborhood scared me. it was so unknown. embarrassingly enough i worried my car would be stolen. isn't it so true that we are so fearful of the unknown? and then when we "know" it, that fear dissipates.
and you know what? despite my silly fears....
a girl i didn't know who worked at solidarity (the organization in the neighborhood), walked right up to me without meeting me, and point blanked asked if i was looking for housing. i'm not lying, my mouth just hung open in COMPLETE shock. DID I NEED HOUSING? for 5 months i had prayed for this.
i didn't even know what to say. "Come on over and look at the place" she said. and i did. and two weeks later, with massive amounts of fear and trembling, i moved to Garnet lane. my apartment was fully stocked with loads of cockroaches, and mold, and cracking cabinets, and did i mention cockroaches? i was so afraid, but you know what, i knew this was God's will.
and it changed my life. i started to know the people in my neighborhood, most of them immigrant families from central america. they became my best friends. they taught me what it looks like to live in community- to just BE.
and living there has made me desperate. because it shows me how real the battle is. my neighbors drug deal, so you better believe i'm on my knees for them. abuse is rampant, i can hear it. again, drives me to my knees. it forces me out of a MY bubble, and into the realms where the battle rages.
in the last 3 years, kevin and i have led workshops at the teen center, like basketball and cooking (which is kind of a laugh considering i'm so not a chef, despite my last name of Cook). i spent a few years co-leading a girls group on saturdays for elementary and teenage girls, and a year ago i started a girls group for college aged girls. each monday kevin and i lead a bible study for college students in the neighborhood. through these incredible contexts, i now know these beautiful and inspiring people.
and you know what i've learned? Jesus was right. his example of spending time with the marginalized in society isn't just for the super spiritual or the courageous. it's for all of us, ALL jesus followers.
as shane claiborne says so well...
“And I think that's what our world is desperately in need of - lovers, people who are building deep, genuine relationships with fellow strugglers along the way, and who actually know the faces of the people behind the issues they are concerned about.”
so my prayers for all of us is that we will be courageous and step out. that we will learn how to walk as Jesus walked, how to bring hope, how to live kingdom values. and i promise you, there is no better way to live life. i think we can take Jesus at his word.
excited to hear more of YOUR stepping out stories!
have a sweet week,