Guest Blog Post: Three Truths of Mentoring


Editor’s Note: Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to guest post for the New Rhythm Project as part of Foster Care Month. The New Rhythm Project is an organization that works to educate, communicate and facilitate local communities to care for orphaned and abused children across the globe. Read the full post

“EveryONE can do ONE thing.”

It was a phrase that had echoed over and over in my head the past year. The first time I heard it was through a church small group led by New Rhythm founders Jason and Shelly Yost in fall 2011. The focus of the group was to learn about the magnitude of the orphan issue—there are an estimated 167 million orphans in the world—and learn how, as Christians, we can be part of the solution.

Through the book and discussion, I was initially overwhelmed. What could I, a young single professional, do to be part of the solution?

That’s when I remembered the phrase that kept coming back to me from small group: every ONE can do ONE thing. Since I don’t have the capacity to adopt, I knew one thing I did have was time, time to invest in someone else’s life. As it turned out, the “Orphanology” small group was the catalyst for me to become a mentor.

Together with three friends, I formed a girls mentoring club through a DC community center. Once a month, we gather together with middle school girls with one simple goal: have fun together.

It’s been a humbling process, and I’m certainly not an expert. But over the past year, I’ve realized a few basic things:

Mentoring requires flexibility and patience. Sometimes mentees don’t show up to an event on time. Sometimes an activity doesn’t go as planned. That’s where flexibility is absolutely key.

Mentoring takes time. My mentoring program asks for a one-year commitment. Why? Because one of the goals of mentoring is to build into a child’s life, consistently, over a period of time. With consistency comes deep relationship, trust, and friendship with the child.

Most of all, mentoring is fun. I have opportunities to be a kid again. Crafting? Yes! Silly sleepovers? I’m in. In its purest form, mentoring is about building a relationship with a child that is fun, supportive, and encouraging.

My hope and prayer is that the thousands of young people who live and work in DC, attend networking happy hours, and maybe walk through halls of power, would consider investing in the life of a child.

EveryONE can do ONE thing, however small. Maybe for you, mentoring is that thing.

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The Slave Next Door


Slaves Next DoorYesterday the news broke about Amanda Berry and several other young women trapped inside their captor’s home in Cleveland for nearly a decade. Thankfully, theirs is a happy ending in that they survived.

A story like this makes us ask: How did we not know? How could something so atrocious occur right under our noses?

I’m currently reading “The Slave Next Door” as I prepare for a stateside mission trip that will focus on the issue of human trafficking. The book, rich with anecdotes and backed up by research, is busting all kinds of myths I believed.

Here are just a few nuggets that have rocked my world:

Human trafficking is complicated. It encompasses a range of sub-issues, and it does not discriminate by age, gender, race or religion. There are housekeepers, migrant workers, immigrants, children, and teenagers who have been exploited and victimized.

Human trafficking happens here. It happens in the United States. In happens in Washington, D.C. In northern Virginia just last week, officials raided the home of a diplomat believed to be holding two women captive as unpaid housekeepers.

The way we prosecute human trafficking offenders is broken. We need to hold so many more people accountable — we need to bring the offenders to justice, instead of the victims. We need to provide better after-care for those who have been through the traumatic experience that is enslavement. We need to hold multinational corporations accountable for fair labor practices.

We need to change the way we talk about trafficking. And the change begins with us. We can be mindful of our rhetoric, cutting out words like “whore” and “pimp” from our dictionary. We can speak with our wallets, not bowing down to cheap products just because it saves us a few pennies. As Wendy McMahan wrote recently, “ignoring worker injustice won’t make it go away.”  These small actions, together, can create greater awareness of trafficking and expose the shameful behavior of those who engage in it.

The bottom line is this: Human trafficking is about exerting control over another human being for profit, pleasure or power (and sometimes all three). It is another manifestation of our brokenness, and the broken world we live in. But God wants to restore that — if we are willing to work alongside him.

Check back here over the next month as I blog about trip preparations, how you can help, and further reflections on this devastating issue that I hope to shed some light on.

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Life not an action flick, cautions IJM’s president


VOICES: Gary Haugen from The Justice Conference on Vimeo.

The book of love is long and boring, said Gary Haugen at The Justice Conference last month.

His message was refreshing – in a time when our generation wants a quick hit, be it a one-day service project or one night stand. We. want. it. now.

I was recently at a meeting to discuss the rec center in my neighborhood, the site of which is being proposed as a joint location for a new rec center and a new middle school. The room was tense: Parents wanted to ensure a good, safe school, and community members wanted a space they could still use without being hindered by school security issues. One gentleman in the room noted that he had fought for the original rec center over twenty years ago. He could have easily decided not to attend the meeting, knowing that he’d fought long and hard for the first community center. But he was there – despite the rain and the cold. He was there because it mattered. Because he wasn’t going down without a fight. Because he is a stakeholder.

When we have a stake in something, we are in it for the long haul.

Take the International Justice Mission, for example, which works to rescue people out of trafficking and bring justice to their captors. Haugen recounted the number of people it took to bring one trafficker to justice. He described long hours filled with lengthy legal paperwork, postage stamps and car rides. I wonder if this does not look so different from any given moment in my typical day.

If life is dotted with milestones, are there not also patient, enduring lines to connect those exciting dots?

If we are to be truly engaged in our church, our community, with our neighbors we must (a) be willing to commit the time to it, and (b) be okay with the long and boring parts. And, John Wesley warns, we must avoid burnout:

Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing!

Serving is not sexy. It’s not always easy – not if you want to get into the weeds. Haugen’s message was a reminder that God is writing a story, and not every page will be an action scene.

 

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[PHOTOS] My First Presidential Inauguration


If you get an opportunity to do something that only happens every four years, guess what: YOU DO IT.

It was my distinct joy to be part of the 2013 presidential inauguration – and not only just to stand in the crowds, but to witness it from the Capitol lawn. You couldn’t get any closer unless you were Katy Perry and John Mayer (who we DID see  walk past our section en route to their seats).

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My spot in the green section on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

It was the ideal scenario: A friend offered me an extra ticket to the green section on Sunday. I spent the night at her place on Capitol Hill (this was key!) so we could wake up early and brave the crowds on foot.

Afterwards, we celebrated at Good Stuff Eatery. Of course, I had to order the Prez Obama Burger. It was only fitting.

Cold? Yes. Exhausting? Yes. Crazies? Bound to be at least one.

Worth it? Absolutely.

Monday reminded me why I cherish this city so much:

to walk where great leaders have walked.

to enjoy America’s front yard at book festivals, displays of human creativity, and film screenings.

and on Monday, to be a witness to history.

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Related Links:

Explore the scene outside the Capitol — and tag yourself in the crowd (The Washington Post)

Inauguration a long day, but worth it to those who went (DCist)

How to pray for a president (Relevant)

Psalm 72: An inaugural prayer for President Obama (Urban Faith)

Posted in DCist, For Tourists, politics | 2 Comments

Life Lessons: It’s Not About Me


I started to make a list of the things I’ve learned this year. Many of them are quite practical: how to sew a button, how to unclog a toilet and how to swim (well, I re-learned that). But sometimes its harder to think about the life lessons that aren’t so easily put into words — things learned over longer periods of time, in moments of haste, and nuanced in between the work day, coffee dates, “real” dates and bus rides.

A few of these lessons came into rather clear focus lately. I’m so grateful for the clarity of mind, and for the people in my life to help me to see the bigger picture.

Manage your expectations; not everyone operates the same way you do. A few months ago I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (I’m an ENFJ in case you’re wondering). The assessment sorts people into one of sixteen personality combinations, which means that not everyone is an ENFJ — and thank goodness for that! Even though I have a way I prefer to do things, my house and workplace are so much more rich for the diversity of leadership, communication style and attitude. It also means I shouldn’t assume that everyone will approach things the same way that I do.

Life is a test of how well you can grapple with change. Some days, I feel like the Job of the Bible — bombarded with every piece of bad news possible, and then some. And like Job, it’s all too easy to become sarcastic, impatient and afraid. I still remember the bold, motivational poster seen often in grade school classrooms: “Life is 10% circumstance and 90% attitude.”

The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.” – Charles Swindoll

I am encouraged when I realize that what I need in these instances in an attitude change in my heart. It’s a reminder that God is the one in control when everything in my life seem so chaotic.

Think before you speak; you’ll be grateful you did. The tongue is a double-edged sword; from it speaks words of death or of life, the Proverbs quip. A friend recently counseled to me: “You’re not required to give someone an immediate answer.” And yet I do. We do. It’s tempting to shoot off an email, hit “enter” into the G-chat box or blurt out a comment in person. But just because our culture and technology reward quick replies and instantaneous communication, it’s okay to pause. In some cases, it can mean the difference between a fight and cool-headed conversation. At the beginning of 2012, I decided that my word of the year would be “listen.” I originally thought that meant simply listening to others, but I think it also means thinking about my words before I speak them.

When you are sick, let others take care of you. I kicked off December with a nasty virus that kept me in bed for nearly a week. Being sick is no fun, but it’s a reminder of the value of friends. For stubborn folks, this can be a hard thing to accept – to rely on friends to shuttle you around, or re-stock your supply of chicken noodle soup. We are not meant to struggle through this life alone, and pride can get in the way. And let’s be honest, it’s nice to “have a little help from my friends,” especially if it means a temporary chauffeur, nurse and chef!

Bottom line: My ways are not always best. God is faithful in all circumstances. Words are powerful. Friends are friends for a reason.

What lessons have you learned lately? How have the people in your life helped give you clarity?

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Social Stories at CCDA


Last week I attended one of the most diverse gathering of Evangelicals, the annual CCDA conference — the Christian Community Development Association. I met dozens of people working in communities across the United States to bring reconciliation and peace to their neighborhoods. I also got learn during several workshops, like “Building church- and school-based partnerships” and “Toxic Charity.” It was encouraging to hear about what these community developers are doing “on the ground.” I especially appreciated the sound advice from the social media workshop.

In their presentation “What’s Tweeter?” Andrew Hoffman and Sarah Quezada didn’t just talk about shiny social media tools, but rather, they framed social media within the larger context of communications philosophies.

Andrew and Sarah are both part of the CCDA Emerging Leaders Cohort. Andrew is the one-man show at NeighborLink and Sarah handles operations (and the blog) for Mission Year.  Both have found a way to maximize social media with limited resources, and to mobilize neighbors and interns near and far.

Their anecdotes explained how they have practically implemented core communications philosophies into their social strategy:

Relationships matter. Social media doesn’t replace traditional media; it’s a way to extend relationships, a way to dialogue until the next time you meet face to face. Ironically, Andrew and I met earlier in the day when one of our mutual friends (@monifree!) saw that we both posted photos from the CCDA conference onto Instagram. Andrew tweeted me, stopped by my booth, and then I attended his workshop. Voila!

What is my goal and purpose? Sarah has used social media for recruiting candidates into the Mission Year program — primarily because audience (young adults aged 18 – 29) are heavy social media users. She also leveraged a conversation with one of her blog readers to encourage her to apply to the Mission Year program.

What about development and fundraising?  Andrew explained that he is using crowdfunding websites, like Kickstarter to hire employee #2, a Digital Storyteller.  (In another CCDA social media workshop, Rev. Andy Bales explained how Union Rescue Mission raised a ton of money and leveraged the voice of a celebrity to keep Hope Gardens open).

Education and training via video. Content is not just sales all the time. What ELSE does your audience care about? Link to related your broader topic. Build yourself as a hub. Social media is about inviting people into it, and sharing content in unique ways that aren’t “sales-y.” (See above comment about the importance of video for fundraising!)

While this is not a comprehensive outline of their presentation, I found the above a good reminder that social media is not just an “extra” but rather, a core part of a communications strategy when implemented properly.

Read the tweet-by-tweet of the conference from @RedeemedRachel’s Storify account.

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For Singles: Loving One Another In Community


I know a lot of young, single people in DC who live alone. It’s not something I would choose, even if my paycheck allowed for it (no signs of that anytime soon).

Our generation continues to figure out what living out the twenties means (prolonged singleness, more travel, job exploration, etc.). But it shouldn’t be a lonely road. God doesn’t call us to solitude; he calls us to community. I believe we are called to explore our twenties in the context of friendship – leaning on one another for love, truth and support.

In DC, where so many people travel to live and work in the nation’s capital, friendship becomes paramount. It’s why Thanksgiving is so often referred to here as “Friendsgiving.” Friends truly become extended family.

We just wrapped up a series at church called “One Another.” I started asking myself, “In a circle of friends, what does it mean to biblically love one another?”

1. Friends extend grace to one another. Friendships – like family relationships – aren’t always a walk in the park. Sometimes I am cranky, and sometimes I forget to unload the dishwasher. For my own imperfections, I am reminded of the need to extend grace to others.  I thank God that I have friends and roommates who show grace to me when I am frustrated or overwhelmed (Love your neighbor as yourself – Mark 12:31).

2. Friends honor and encourage one another. Pastor Mark suggests that encouragement is the very foundation of a relationship. Whether an extra smile, or a “thank you,” sometimes it’s the little things. Last week, my roommate left a pack of earplugs on my desk because she knows I’m easily awakened. It totally made my day.

A special note here on encouraging the opposite gender: I believe men have a responsibility to women (and vice versa) to encourage one other with honorable actions and behavior. It’s really another post for another time, but in word or in deed, we should never tear down, and always build up (Encourage one another, and build each other up. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11 ).

I loved this thoughtful note from my roommate.

 3. Friends hold one another to a higher standard. It’s easy to gloss over the tough stuff and pretend that everything is peachy-keen. But we also need to speak truth into one another’s lives – even if it is a truth that someone doesn’t want to hear. In fact, it is a sign of spiritual growth (Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is  the head, that is, Christ. – Ephesians 4:15).

I am so thankful everyday for the friends who love and support me, for the friends who speak hard truths I may not want to hear, for friends who expect my very best — and then some — because that’s what God calls us to. For all the inconvenience and mess of community, it is also a picture of the Gospel.

PS: I encourage you – no pun intended – to listen to “The Art of Encouragement” sermon from National Community Church. 

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The New Union Market DC — One Week Later


Union Market DC

Union Market is part of the Capital City Market (also known as Florida Avenue Market). It’s located on Neal place, between 4th and 6th Streets NE.

The NoMa-Trinidad neighborhood isn’t one of my regular hangouts, but on Saturday I was determined to investigate Union Market DC, just one week after it’s grand opening on August 8. I’d heard good things. Tasty things.

Union Market is just a portion of the area known as the Florida Avenue Market, or Capital City Market. Union Market was redeveloped as an attempt to bring in more than just wholesale buyers, but everyday folks (and foodies) — like me.

The Market creates a fresh, open feel with brightly-lit displays of fresh flowers, breads and produce. Patrons enjoy artisan coffee and wine tastings (I sipped a tasty huckleberry Italian soda at Rogue‘s stand).

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More coverage at:

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Beyond DC: The Simple Way (Philadelphia)


There are so many approaches to community building and restoration. I got to see a few different methods in action when I visited Philadelphia earlier this month.

I can’t easily talk about what I actually did; it’s hard to put into words (you can also just skip down to the slideshow). The weekend trip was the idea of someone in my church small group, Steve. He had connected with the staff at an urban ministry called The Simple Way, started by Shane Claiborne. I first learned about Claiborne after reading his book The Irresistible Revolution which I highly recommend.

The staff at The Simple Way was wonderfully hospitable to us. It was phenomenal to see the ways they have engaged their neighbors, and created some beautiful things, such as a aquaponics systems [video: The Greening of Philadelphia’s Concrete Jungle], a shared garden, a community park and after-school programs. Gardens, by the way, are one method of fighting crime, as The American City pointed out in their recent article which highlight s a study on how urban gardens are connected to crime reduction.

While we did some work with The Simple Way staff, we also spent time with a few different churches and ministries in the neighborhood:

  • Bethel Temple Community Baptist Church, a community church in the Kensington neighborhood
  • Broad Street Ministry, a church in the downtown Philadelphia arts district
  • New Jerusalem Now, an addiction recovery ministry in North Philly West

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Photo Credits: Helene Scalliet, Ashley Bakelmun, Meg Biallas

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Christians in the Capital


This month I had the opportunity to contribute to Seedbed, the publishing arm of Asbury Theological Seminary. I was given the prompt, “What is like to live as a Christian in the nation’s capital?” Here are my thoughts. 

Washington, D.C. is a city of paradoxes:

  • A city that has been named one of the 10 most-educated (it’s No. 3, in case you’re wondering), is also burdened with a 50 percent graduation rate among high schoolers.
  • The population named for the phrase “Chocolate City” is now in the minority, ever slowly being pushed to the edges of the District by new condo developments and posh dining.
  • A city where more than three percent of its residents is infected with HIV, a rate that health experts deem an “epidemic”, is comparable to the infection rate of some developing countries.

It baffles me that one can live in a city so diverse, so rich with history and opportunities, and yet so many live a one-sided existence. Danny Harris is a perfect example of someone who realized this and decided to do something about it. Like many, he moved to DC for a government job and found himself in the organic grocery aisle, headphones in, yoga mat slung over his shoulder. An existential crisis set in: everyone in the store was doing the exact same thing. This lonely realization propelled him out of isolation and into his neighborhood. He started The People’s District, a blog dedicated to telling the stories of Washingtonians.

Like many, he moved to DC for a government job and found himself in the organic grocery aisle, headphones in, yoga mat slung over his shoulder. An existential crisis set in: everyone in the store was doing the exact same thing.

I see Harris’ blog as part of the toolkit of peacemaking, of bridging difference, of learning from and loving neighbors.

While I speak from the perspective of a young professional in Washington, D.C., these two thoughts can apply to Christians living in community anywhere.

Continue Reading…

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