Friday, April 27, 2012

Decatur Young Life (Rest Easy, Loving Shareholders)

Here's a big update on a big thing. Young Life has been a part of my life and my ministry for the last five years. I love the way its done; the model, the heart, the pursuit of kids. In imitating Christ's approach to us, we reach kids in the most effective way possible, I believe. And, I've seen Him change lives through it again and again. So, a year and a half or so ago, my friend Troy and I began a conversation. Troy is the Area Director for East Atlanta Young Life and has had his sights set on Decatur High School for quite some time. The planning began, and it quickly gained a lot of steam. I had previously held off of getting involved with kids in YL to that point, as I wanted to make sure that my involvement wasn't motivated by my desire for community over my desire to love on High School students. But, when Troy first mentioned Young Life in Decatur, I was all in. Interest grew quickly and before we knew it, there were churches and parents and school administrators that were fired up and inviting us into the community. A team began to form and the right people all began to fall into place perfectly. So, when we first began to meet, we began to set our sights onto moving into the school slowly and carefully. It's a hard thing to do, as a 26 year-old white dude, to just go and hang out around a High School and not be seen as a threat. So, we drew up strategy and started to assimilate, meeting and building relationships with kids at the most natural pace possible. I remember distinctly being "that guy" in some of our meetings. Troy is one of my favorite people in the world. But, if you know Troy, he's also one of the most ambitious people in the world (slight exaggeration.) So, with the momentum that we were gaining, members of the team and parents involved were expecting that club was a nearly-arrived thing; that it was in the immediate future (this is Spring 2011 that we're talking about.) I was always advocating a "slow and steady" approach; that it was essential to lay the groundwork, build up the base, and make strong, assertive and calculated moves as they became appropriate. Jumping on a bandwagon and letting ourselves be a flash-in-the-pan was not the most effective way to reach High School kids, as exciting as it might have been. But, we began to have events with kids in March, after meeting weekly to grow together as a team and to plan out our approach. These events began to draw unexpected numbers of HS kids. And the numbers grew. We soon realized that we were a part of something huge. We were thinking about what kind of big kick-off event that we could host to introduce kids to Young Life Decatur and generate hype and excitement that would give us opportunity to meet and pursue relationships with kids. Then, someone (Fran, I believe) said, "why don't we do club?" Club is the weekly Young Life event where kids come and sing their songs and get crazy and have a good time in an awesome and loving environment. The argument to have club was that we were capable of doing it really well. Three of us have been with YL for a long time, and we know how to do club. I was initially resistant to having club before the Fall 2012 semester, because if it failed to bring out kids, we'd be a pariah and a social liability and wouldn't have a shot to generate interest in the future like what we have now. But, after some convincing, it was decided that we would have club. On Monday, April 23rd, Young Life Decatur had its very first club ever. 39 kids showed up (which is a ton.) It was awesome. Everything went well, kids got an idea of what club is, and we met a lot of new kids. It was incredible. It's been obvious that the Lord has big plans for Decatur High School and it's so exciting to be a part of it. We're taking 11 Decatur kids to Crooked Creek YL Camp with us this summer, and pushing to get more to come. Be praying for camp sign-ups, for relationship development, and for the breaking down of walls. God is doing big, big things. It's awesome.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Oppression, or "Researchers Need Hobbies," or "Academia is a Joke, I'm slowly coming to realize,"

For my Language in Society class today, we were asked to read a chapter that was written by someone named Wood. It was about the oppressive nature of our language system in the United States, and how women in particular are marginalized by the way that we speak. I didn't like this article. I shouldn't have given my full opinion on this topic, as it is one that is never held by the majority of college professors and researchers. But, I did. Here it is.

I think that there is an inherent problem with a society in which every single person has something to claim martyrdom over. Whether its racial minority, religious affiliation, gender, age, political positions, hair color, music preference or any other of a million distinctions that we find and swear ourselves to, everyone has some specific and horrific understanding of the way that they themselves are treated and viewed by a society that is "out to get them." I will not for a second argue that oppression and hatred and persecution on any of these grounds is not real or terrible. I will, however, ask this question: who is really at fault for the polarization of our society on these frivolous grounds? I would argue that Dr. Wood is. I would argue that Reggie Jackson is. I would argue that Pat Robertson is. I would argue that Joe the Plumber, Barack Obama, Rick Santorum, Ann Coulter, Bill Maher, Rush Limbaugh, etc. are. This asinine back-and-fourth about who is the most oppressed only serves to divide us further. We can write articles and editorials and books and epic poems all day long about how one phrase is an attack on our rights, or how the wording of some document is oppressive toward our heritage. But, there is no sense in that. There is no solution in that.

There is solution, however, when we make the decision to stand by what we believe; to own our struggles, our heritage, our faiths, and therefore be free from all of this "oppression." Because, when it comes down to it, as an unemployed, Jewish-American that is in a bi-racial relationship and holds some very non-moderate political beliefs, as well as some offensive (to some) religious beliefs, I can honestly say that there is nothing that any one could say that would make me write an article about how oppressed I am. If a woman feels like our language system is oppressive and male-centric, then it is. As soon as she decides not to be affected by it and to be bigger than it, she is free from that oppression. It comes down to that individual woman. "Taking a stand" is not fighting against a system that is deemed "oppressive." "Taking a stand" is realizing that all systems are oppressive and then deciding not to be affected by them. And, I've been attending this University long enough to know what the reaction to this opinion will be. But, I stand wholeheartedly by my statement. Oppression of this kind has no power once we decide not to believe it. I am free from anti-semitism or the marginalizing of Christians in the media because I choose to be. Hatred is ignorance, which leads me to pity those that hate because there is a better way to see the world than through ignorant eyes. Dr. Wood has written a piece highlighting all of the grave injustices against females in our everyday language. I say to Dr. Wood; by calling attention to these injustices, you are giving them power that they don't rightfully possess. It's a theme in our society that discourages me greatly. I support women and equality for every single person. I fight for it in my daily life with my volunteer efforts and my free time and my money. I am working toward career goals of working with marginalized and oppressed peoples. But, "marginalized and oppressed peoples" do not include wealthy middle class Americans that find reasons to complain. Those people need to stop reading articles by Dr. Wood.