Directors Blog

THE KINGDOM BREAKING INTO THIS WORLD

THE KINGDOM BREAKING INTO THIS WORLD

 

What are some typical reasons that people help the poor? Because it’s our Christian duty, to meet a need, “Volunteerism” or “Community Service.”

There’s so much more happening in our encounters with those who are in need of food, shelter, and love, then just a need being met.  Let’s explore what’s actually happening when we reach out beyond ourselves into the lives of the strangers we encounter.

The Kingdom is breaking into this world! When we live “on earth as it is in Heaven,” the Kingdom of God is alive and real in our lives and the lives of those we aim to love and serve.  The Kingdom isn’t a separate other place we are going, but it is here and now.  If I give a stranger a piece of bread, they may be hungry again an hour later.  I may not cure their hunger, but I am witnessing to a world where there is no hunger, no poverty, no loneliness, no division.  When I approach every person as a sister or brother...as someone who I am deeply connected to... I affirm the reality of the Kingdom of God.  I live as a citizen of the Kingdom, where all people are equally loved and valued by the Lord, therefore loved and valued by me.

And so often our idea of a “good life” in this world looks the way it does because of fear of actually needing God.  We want to secure ourselves as much as possible so we have insurance when the tragedy comes.  If we have money, house, car, health insurance, etc., we’ll be safe from death.  It’s a delusion we create as a coping mechanism.  We push God out instead of letting Him in and letting everything else go.

Life in the Kingdom is not rooted in fear, but love.  When our life looks like the Kingdom, what a “good life” actually is will be based in God’s idea of good and not our own.  We will taste life in the Kingdom when we come together with others in love and service.

So we must go out and witness to the Kingdom!  Where no one is your enemy, no one is divided from anyone else, and poverty does not exist! We must be citizens of the Kingdom of God and not the Kingdom of the world.


 



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YES LA SKID ROW- February 17-19, 2012

REFLECTION ON SKID ROW IN LOS ANGELES

Lauren Ajalat

la_sky_line

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles always looked like just a famous city

Hollywood sign and big buildings is what you see with your eyes

But go down further and you’ll find a surpriseskid_row_picture

People with no home, sleeping on the street

Desperate faces look at me, they’re so incomplete

How could my home, the place I grew up, be so dreary?

The city keeps secrets and people pretend to act cheery

We put the people with no home, no money, surviving off a dollar all in one place

So Los Angeles can look so surreal

But that’s not the case

 


skid_row_pic_giving_toiletries

 

TESTIMONY FROM YES LA SKID ROW STUDENT

Christopher Ajalat

I've been told all of my life that we don't need material things to be
happy, and I thought that I believed it.  Now that I have seen people with
much less than me who are way happier than me, I really understand what
that means.  We often see people on the streets and say, "I can help them"
and don't realize that they can help us just as much.  I've also realized
how much we learn in church that we don't use, but how easy it is to put it
to use.  We tend to think that there is no one in need near us, that to use
what we've learned in church we must travel to distant countries- but in
reality all we need to do is walk down the street.  We should never miss
out on a chance to meet a new person.  They have much to give us and we
them, so why do we ever avoid strangers?  American culture has taught us
that all strangers are dangerous, but more often than not you will walk
away a better person and having bettered them.


 




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Say YES to a New Perspective

Say YES to a New Perspective

New PerspectiveOur life experience forms our minds and informs our decisions.  There are behaviors we have and mindsets we have that originate in our childhood, in formative times in our life, and in key situations.  In some cases, to even begin to discover why we think and act the way we do would take years of discecting.

Most of these formative experiences happen without plans, but we should also look for opportunities to gain new knowledge and to grow in our awareness of the world around us.  We should actively look for new ways to participate in Christ's work in the world and be open, through these experiences, to living in the world and viewing our role differently.

It often happens on YES trips that by simply experiencing life with people that have a completely different reality, students are brought to see the reality of life in Christ in a whole new way.  They not only come to see Christ in all people, but their own poverty is revealed to them as well. Miryam from Worcestor gave this testimony after her YES experience:

"As Orthodox Christians we are called upon to do the work of the faith. My day trip with the YES program gave me the opportunity to do so. Spending the time with the children in the shelter allowed me to become more self-aware, to be thankful of everything God has blessed me with. As participants, YES taught us how to be a kind human being, but more importantly how to be a better Orthodox Christian."

On YES trips, one of the things we all committ to is to be F.A.T: Flexible, Available, and Teachable.  By completely emptying ourselves for the sake of who God presents to us, we are able to give of ourselves wholely and completely, and gain, if we are open, a NEW PERSPECTIVE. Search out opportunities to participate in Christ's healing power in the world.  As you work for others, He will work in you in surprising ways.

In Christ,
katrina-sig
Katrina Bitar



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Say YES to a Perfect Intention

Say YES to a Perfect Intention

yes-pict

The Lord puts tasks in front of us.  Some of them are small and some are huge.  If you decide that something is yours to do, based on your gifts, your desires, and your abilities, you need to make sure that the "why" of the task stays clear and present.

Why are you doing what you are doing?  And for whose glory?  The "why" can get lost when we get lost in the many anxieties and fears that come with responsibilities.  Who is watching?  Who sees me?  Who am I pleasing?  If the "who" is anyone other than God, then you need to check yourself and remember "why" the task is important to begin with.

St. Ephraim the Syrian's words here give us the assurance of what the Lord asks of us when we desire to approach Him and follow the direction He is leading us:

"These are the things which befall someone who approaches God: first temptation, then tribulation, then toil, despondency, nakedness, sufferings, anguish, contempt; in these the endurance and testing of believers is manifested; and in all these the person who gives himself wholeheartedly to God’s direction, and submits to his will, triumphs completely.

For God only asks of us a perfect intention, and he himself will give us the strength and grant us the victory; as it is written, He is the champion of all who hope in him. And again he says, The Lord is near to all who call upon him in truth. He will do the will of those who fear him and will listen to their supplication and will save them." -St Ephraim the Syrian

If your intention is truly perfect, God will bless your work.  Serve Him and others through all that you do. This will bring true joy and peace that will overcome anxiety and fear. Be careful to be self-aware and don't get lost in serving yourself and your desire to succeed.  As Mother Teresa said, "I do not pray for success.  I ask for faithfulness."

In Christ,

katrina-sig






Katrina Bitar



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SAY YES TO SOLITUDE

SAY YES TO SOLITUDE

prayerOne very important part of being able to be in community is being able to be alone.  As Christ took his time away from the crowds for time alone with the Father, we must do the same to know His will for us and to know ourselves.  This quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer says it all:

"Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when He called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called..."

If we are to truly find community with the poor, we must take time away in silence as a means to a necessary end:  to be strengthened in Christ in order to share His love and healing with others.  Start with 15 minutes a day in a quiet place that you consistently visit at a planned time.  Ask the Lord to bless that time, being with you as you allow the reality of your thoughts and feelings to surface and helping you to be open to His will.

Time alone with the Father will center you and help you to feel comfortable in your own skin.  It is through being alone that you will find yourself better equipped for community.

katrina-sig

Katrina Bitar
YES North America Program Director



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Say YES to fellowship

article-imageAs we approach the great feast of the Nativity of our Lord, it is likely that we will be feasting in various ways with various people.  It is a time to see each of these opportunities as a blessing to connect with family and friends... but also to connect your family with your needy brothers and sisters in Christ who will not be celebrating as you will.

article-image2There are some that won't have the warmth of a fireplace or the company of loved ones.  As you look around your dinner table and laugh with numerous family members that have come together for this feast, consider giving thanks to God for the love of the people around you by taking it to the streets!

-We all love leftovers.  That is true!  However, there will likely be a greater enjoyment in making your leftovers someone's first meal.

-Also consider the gifts you receive that you are likely to put away in a closet and never look at again, or toys that the children in your family don't get super excited about. Those gifts would do much better in the hands of someone who will find it to be such a treasure.

Bring your family and meet your extended family in a homeless kitchen or on the street.  It is not the amount of food or the quality of the gifts that will matter most, but the love and fellowship that you extend to your extended family- our most needy neighbors.  Give thanks for your family by being family for someone else.

Merry Christmas!

 



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Say YES to... putting first things first.

Say YES to... putting first things first.

Reflecting on our priorties and how we spend our time can become very overwhelming.  Before taking on the task of restructuring your entire life, think about just one day.  Decide that from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, that you will be present and mindful of the needs of others in every situation that God presents to you.  Keep your eyes open and stay on your toes.  Someone might have a task to accomplish and may just need one more set of hands to get it done.  As long as you are not neglecting something that is necessary for you to do, be the first to help them!

Whether it be your mother, sister, friend, or someone at school or work that you don't know at all... if you can help with what they need, step up! So often we wait for others to do what we can easily do ourselves because we don't want to exert the extra energy or take a break from something that can probably be put off for a few minutes. If you make the choice to be the first to help, you are choosing to set aside yourself and your comforts and let Christ work through you for someone else's sake.  This is being truly human.  The simple decision to put the other person first is not always easy, but it is simply being true to who God created you to be.  You will then soon discover the difference between comfort and joy.

Have goals and plan ahead, but don't forget to be present in the moment with the people you are surrounded by.  Bloom where God plants you!  The people around you RIGHT NOW are the ones to put first.

With love in Christ,

katrina-sig


Katrina Bitar
YES Program Director
FOCUS North America

 

 



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