i realize a lot of my posts on this blog have been theological in nature, especially as of late. I do see the great need for more holistic theology but i also realize there is a need for more concrete examples of what that theology looks like played out in the lives of real people around me. in my study of the Kingdom of God, i see that in scripture there is not only a proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom of God but a demonstration of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. the world is hungry not for more people who “talk the talk” but for more of those who “walk the walk.”
one thing i have learned by living amongst the urban poor in LA is the power of stories to draw people into an experience of a truth. it is something that those of us who are “educated” or from a middle or upper class background can come to underestimate when we are too much in our own heads, experiences, and theories. with this in mind, moving forward and as i am able, i hope to share more stories of God working in and through the “least of these.” or, if you will, for these truths of God’s kingdom to “take on flesh” (adapted some from the monthly updates i send to my supporters. feel free to email me at david dot kitani at servantpartners dot org if you’d like to receive these monthly updates). with that said, i’d like to share with you a story of a sister in Jesus from “the hood” that i’ve gotten the pleasure to get to know more through the discipleship school that i help run at our church. she inspires and challenges me in fresh way.
irene* was basically raised by the streets of los angeles. she was a hardcore “chola” gangster that has been notorious in our neighborhood. she has been in and out of prison and has had multiple near death experiences. she swears like a sailor, she’s straight up, and she is known to instill fear in people (and strangely enough she’s found my wife to be a kindred spirit ;). but God’s hand is on her life. she’s been wanting to join our discipleship school for a while. we had our reservations but it was clear God was directing her this way.
and it’s been amazing.
she’s talked about Jesus to friends and family a lot before but now she is starting to submit her life to Jesus’ Lordship. people are noticing. in the middle of a family birthday party her hardened adult niece, struggling with leukemia, challenged irene to pray her. irene reluctantly did. then irene “got touched” (her word for crying when she feels the presence of God, because she rarely allows herself tenderness) and her niece was moved. so moved that she dragged irene to pray for her mom too.
irene was baptized this past april along with her daughter who has been moved by the change she sees in mom. irene, me, the rest of the d-school, and some of our children are going to head to the dominican republic to our sister church there (the same one we went to last year) to see and participate in His Kingdom come across the sea in a couple weeks from 6/16-6/23/17. we need to raise $31,000 as a team of 21 people.
once irene heard the challenge for us to fundraise for the mission trip (and in her case not just for her but for two of her own children she is bringing along), this former gang member stepped out with incredible faith. she randomly asks folks that she comes across to “sponsor” her mission trip…she’s gotten donations from her husband’s supervisor, the pest control man in her building, and even a random person from georgia that she emailed through craigslist (please, i didn’t tell students to do this)! last week she asked her insurance agent to support the mission trip and he broke down and asked for prayer for his twin brother (who was standing right next to him) who is going through health issues. she prayed for them right there in the office.
this past tuesday we went out in the neighborhood to offer to pray for folks at a local park. she challenged me with her boldness to offer to pray for people and even reminded me to “go for it” when i was hesitant in approaching some. through our time praying for people together a women felt the “warmth” of God as irene prayed for her breathing issues and another woman was completely healed of knee pain from her chemotherapy (from pain level 8 to 0!). this woman was so shocked and full of joy as she was moving her leg back and forth. irene found herself hugging these strangers, something she would never have done before!
irene’s faith, and folks such as these in our working class community, puts me to shame. irene not only knows the King but is now submitting herself to His Kingdom…and its awe-inspiring!
*name changed to protect privacy