In the past eight months I have been privileged to work with people/children (children are people too I guess) from the following countries.  Who says cross-cultural ministry has to be overseas?

Puerto Rico
El Salvador

I love my job! :)


More Than a Dream

A reflection on this new stage in my life.

I have been writing about living my dream of settling in the Phillips neighborhood in Minneapolis almost since I started this blog.  Before I graduated college I made plans to move into this multicultural area of town, and I had great plans for changing the world.  And then God put me in a fifth grade classroom in Bolivia for a year.  And I learned things about the world that I never would have known if I had jumped headfirst into inner-city life in the US.  Bolivia was harder than I  could have imagined, and I dreamed of the day that I would live in Minneapolis

 After a year volunteering in South America and a few months of commuting to a barista position from the suburbs, I landed a job and house in Phillips.  The acquisitions came within a month of each other, and life since then has been one new experience after another.
 I wore dress pants and a bright coral short sleeve dress shirt my first day working at the school in Phillips.  Office staff, teachers, and principals all wore jeans.  I thought I was quick because I caught a boy calling another girl a crybaby in Spanish, but failed to realize in my first months that the students I work with often go home to empty houses, parents working late at minimum wage jobs to provide for their families. 
 And my new house?  It took me several weeks to adjust to the beauty of my remodeled room and the convenience of our fancy kitchen.  How could I live here while our neighbors struggled to pay heating bills and cooked on barely-functional stoves?  I still don't know how I feel about the relative opulence of my place in comparison to the houses in my neighborhood.

But I do know how my students react when they find out that I live in the neighborhood.  Joyful incredulousness.  "Miss Kayleen, you are my neighbor!  You live here too?"  And my coworkers, although they don't seem to understand why, think it's cool that I am experiencing some of what the students do, and I think it creates a respect that I hope will open doors for sharing why I live how I live.  

So, overall, Phillips is a dream for so many reasons, but now, more than anything else, it is home.

Photos from: tcdailyplanet.net, http://www.youtube.com/user/MainStreetProjectphillipswhittier365.blogspot.com


Back for Good

Nearly six months of sixty hour work weeks, Greek class, and an intense small group led to a major gap in what used to be my super-consistent blogging.  Sure, there were plenty of times that I pulled up my blog, looked at it, and decided that I didn't have energy to start something I couldn't keep up with.  Sure, I felt guilty about it sometimes.  But it would have been unrealistic for me to keep track of my experiences on here with soooooo much going on in the world around me.  My prayer journal became my blog for a time.

So, for the four of you who actually keep up with my blog and enjoy updates, I am sorry.  And I am back.

This summer I will be working with the cool kids on the block.  Kids ages 5-12 will come to a summer arts camp to learn great art skills, rise above their situations, and learn valuable skills for the real world.  

I am so excited about my role (Group Lead) at this camp for a bajillion reasons.  I get experience with a non-profit.  I am learning about art.  I am helping kids from my school and neighborhood.  I am meeting cool new people every day.  This week I have been training for working with them (don't worry, I'm not teaching art), and next week they come!  Pray for me and keep reading (next post WILL be before the end of the weekend) to learn how the summer is going.


In a small room...

Today I had the pleasure of sitting with two friends who are becoming very dear to me in the translation booth at church.  I listened and watched them work together as they simultaneously translated the entire sermon into Spanish, one speaking and the other quickly pulling up Bible passages in Spanish and typing words that needed to be clarified.  It was wonderful just to be getting that kind of experience in interpreting.

But the highlight of that time, and maybe my whole week, was when the sermon was over and we had a few minutes without the microphone while the worship songs were being sung.  Sitting there with this couple, singing songs of praise together in a small room in the basement of the church, knowing that we were joined upstairs by a thousand other believers, made my heart fill with joy.  I felt closer to God there than I have in church in a dozen Sundays.  



Some people are called to voluntary poverty, no doubt about it.  And they live it beautifully, and they are confident of their calling, and they might want nice things, but they follow God's leading and live on less than most of us.

I live in poverty.  Just barely, and only according to a number set by the US government.  Really, I have plenty of money for all I need and some left over.  So my issue lately hasn't been "Am I called to voluntary poverty (not really a relevant question)?" but "What do I do with the "wiggle room" in my budget?"  

Nice things are nice.  Soooo nice.  Like cognac-colored boots.  Want them!  And a nice new bicycle to ride around the metro area.  Would be so nice!  And I want to backpack Europe.  So that would mean a nice framepack as well.  And a good-quality new sleeping bag.  So the list goes on.

But there are so many ways that I can use my money.  A missionary living in a tiny village in Bolivia has to raise money in case she needs to airlift one of the townspeople out.  A family is moving and needs some extra cash.  Close friends have birthdays.  A friend goes on a short-term trip.  Kids in my neighborhood need clothes for school.

My tendency is to swing from one extreme to the other. One month of big spending, feel guilt, one month of more giving, ignore things that I need, repeat cycle.  I think what I need at this point in my life is some balance.  I need to follow God's leading when He is telling me to be generous, but I also have to be able to look professional at work, which might mean new shoes or a cardigan.

This is something I've been thinking about for several years, and I've even blogged about it before:
- Simplicity vs Christmas Spirit
-The Weak and Fatherless
- Urbana Thoughts: Working in Poverty

I don't claim to have the answers, but I'll keep writing about this as I live in Phillips and make ends meet.


Life, always interrupted

It turns out that despite my best intentions I am not a great blogger in the United States.  Life here is so fast-paced that I enjoy the few moments of quiet that I get too much to open my computer, even when blog post ideas are swimming around in my head.  Checking Facebook isn't even fun anymore.  We'll see if blogging returns to a therapeutic activity again when life slows down again (like life will ever slow down).

What has my life been full of lately?  Well, exciting things.  Things that have grown me in my spiritual walk and made me feel like I have community here.  Things like:
- Hosting my older sister and friends now that I have a house to live in.
- Joining a new small group that has challenged me to live in community and to live for Christ
- Barely staying up to snuff in my Greek class
- Working extra hours at the coffee shop so I can go visit my grandma in Maryland over spring break
- Taking part in a weekly community meal with my wonderful housemates
- Listening to sermons on Hebrews, which we are studying for small group

So, maybe that's why I haven't been writing, but that's not an excuse to not document in some form the joys and sorrows of life with Christ.  Here's my hope that the next time a great post idea comes into my brain I'll take the time to type it out.


Exposure, Part 2

The transition from my rural Wisconsin upbringing to life in the big city has been incredibly eye opening for me, and in part one of this post I described what I've been learning.   At the end of my last post I left with questions that I vowed to think about in writing here.

What do I do with this new knowledge?  How do I fit in this life?  Was it even a good idea for me to move here and get this job?  Where does the gospel come in?

I've been thinking about these questions since way before I ever moved into the Phillips neighborhood, and I've been learning all I can from the wise people around me at school and in my house.  However, at this point in the game, I feel about as qualified to answer questions about ending poverty as a snail trying to win the 100 meter dash.  So, instead I will recommend to you the books I am reading or that are on my list.

Cultural Anthropology by Paul Hiebert

This book was what first opened my eyes to my desire to understand where people were coming from and address social issues in light of culture and background.  I read it for a class in college, but it was interesting enough that I would have easily read it on my own as well.

White Man's Burden by William Easterly

This is the first book that directly, practically addresses the issue of global poverty that I've ever read.  Although I have a ways to go before I finish it, so far I have to say that Easterly does a good job of making the financial side of poverty understandable to a mathematically-challenged person like me while keeping my interest with interesting stories of aid working around the world.

Awaiting a Savior by Aaron Armstrong

I won this book on Noel Piper's blog, and I cannot wait to read it!  To truly understand poverty, it's not sufficient to only study it from a financial and cultural perspective.  Unless I also know what the root of poverty is and how to address it from a gospel-centered standpoint, I will merely be putting salve on a gaping wound.  This book looks wonderful!

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

My dear friend Ellen gave me this book for Christmas, and there are few people who know me better than she does.  It takes a look into different kinds of ways used to help alleviate poverty and what takes a stab at what is really worthwhile in the end.  Another one I can't wait to read.

So, if you were looking for some great answers, I'm sorry.  All I have now is resources.  Someday in the future I plan to write a post about good ways that I've seen people, particularly people in the church, helping to alleviate poverty, but let's face it, these posts can't get any longer.  

Now go read some books!