Tag Archives: family

an interview of the kitanis in the inner city

it has been over two years now since ji and i decided to move into an inner city neighborhood of los angeles.  our friend, lauren, interviewed us about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and what we’ve been learning.   check out the interview here.

check out lauren’s blog with a mission to reach people with God’s mission: http://www.aloveformissions.com/

the kitanis at a mini-birthday party for lil' amos at church.
the kitanis at a mini-birthday party for lil’ amos at church.

Amos Jun Kitani

Dear Amos,

Hello son. I would have written sooner, but we were pretty tired by the end of the day that you arrived so now it is the day after. Your mother and I had been waiting for you. You came a little bit sooner than we expected but right on time nevertheless. You were born on Monday, March 12th, 2012 at 9:43am weighing in at 7lbs. 8oz., and 21 inches long. Mom had to push to exhaustion for 3 hours for you to come out of your first home so hope you won’t give her a hard time.

I don’t think parents are ever ready to be parents when they have children…believe it or not we weren’t always parents. Although I will try, words are not enough to describe how it feels to become parents for the first time. Honestly, we weren’t sure how much we’d like you when you came…we heard children completely change people’s lives, and we got a little comfortable with the lives that we had. But now that you’re here we, inexplicably, can’t seem to get enough of you. We never thought we’d be so engaged just staring at your face…which we thought would look like a monkey and an alien…thankfully you don’t look like a monkey (haha). We never thought such dread would fill our hearts if we found out you were ill and couldn’t be with us. We never thought we’d actually be overjoyed when you fed from mom for the first time. I never thought the thought of you would fill my entire body with wonder, thankfulness, awe, fear, joy, hope, and love all at the same time.

There’s a lot more I could write to you but right now I wanted to take the time to tell you why we named you as we did.

Amos: I know you probably hate it that people may make fun of your name because it sounds like a certain body part in the behind, but trust your father when he says there is a good reason for why we gave you this name first. Around the time we first found out you were coming, your dad was doing a study in the book of Luke with a group of Servant Partner interns after making a pretty momentous move to the inner city with your mom. I noticed God gave a name to His Son as well as to his Son’s cousin. So your dad asked God to give us a name for you.

At first, God gave me a sense of the idea of an offering. I didn’t really know what that meant so your mother and I, who were both reading through the prophets in the bible around this time, started naming off some prophets, people who were used by and for God. Then your mom said your name, and we were both immediately drawn to it. You see, your namesake wasn’t even a prophet by trade, just a shepherd, but he was angry about the things that made God angry…he spoke up for people that couldn’t speak up for themselves and he stood up for justice and righteousness. This seemed to fit your strong personality that I think you exhibited from the womb in the way you would poke out of mom and refuse to move back in as well as when you looked straight at us in your first ultrasound.

Then I looked up the meaning of your name. It’s a Hebrew word that means “carried”, as in “he carried” or “carried by God.” This seemed to fit with the idea of an offering to me. It’s a heavy name, I know, so I asked God if this was the name I should give you. I felt He said back to me “Are you sure?” as in “Are you sure you want me to name your son?” for what God desires for us is not always easy for us. But I trust that what He desires is good and better than anything I could dream up. And if carrying the burdens of others becomes too much, remember He carries you. So I said, “Yes.”

Jun: Your middle name was tricky. Your mom wanted to name you Kunta after Kunta Kinte from Roots so you would be Kunta Kitani…because she thought that sounded funny. But I thought that was kind of a messed up reason (haha…plus I could find no meaning to the name) so I vetoed that one for you. I wanted you to have a Korean name since your mother is of Korean heritage, and you would already have a Japanese name through your last name. Your mom also wanted a name that could work in Japanese too.

So at first I thought of you having a name, preferably with the meaning of “light” (so that you would be a light of God to those around you), with Chinese characters that way you could read it in Korean or in Japanese. But according to your mom’s dad (grandpa) the Korean names that resulted sounded old fashioned and way too lofty. So then your mom and I tried to brainstorm words that were the same in Korean and Japanese…but most of them ended up being names of very particular things…like washing machine and newspaper. So we asked your grandpa to give us the Korean names he liked. He wanted a one syllable name and the middle name you were given, meaning “brightness”, was one of them. Through a a friend, we were reminded that it turns out your middle name also is a name in Japanese, as well as having in common the first letter of your mom’s name and the first syllable of my mom’s name!

Kitani: We didn’t have much choice about this one because this was the Japanese family name I also inherited. Yet, I’ve come to embrace it, not only as my heritage, but as part of who I am and hope you do too. It means “tree valley” – “tree” which makes me think of what our Savior was hung on to die for us, and “valley” which makes me think of the low times and places in our lives that are hard but we learn so much from. Plus people like to say this name for some reason.


I’ll end this letter with a verse that Martin Luther King Jr. (another gifted “prophet” of more recent times that also spoke out about injustice) quoted, from the book that bears your name, in his “I Have a Dream” speech…a truth that is also a dream of your parents and a reality of our God’s heart.

“But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” – Amos 5:24

2011 Reflections and 2012 Directions

2011 was a year of many transitions: work, church, home, community, family, and calling.  I resigned from my post as a teacher at Locke High School in South LA, a post that I’ve been in for 8 years, to currently substitute teaching.  We were commissioned out from West Los Angeles Holiness, a church that I attended since my freshman year of college nearly 14 years ago, to Epicentre Community Church in Lincoln Heights.  We moved from our honeymoon apt. in Monterey Park, which we lived in since Ji and I were married 2 and half years ago, to a rented home in Lincoln Heights.  We’re recalibrating from our familiar networks of support to a new network of support in the Servant Partners Intern Team and the Epicentre church family.  We’re getting ready to receive a new addition to our KitanJi family and grow into our new role as parents.  Last but not least, I sense the Lord leading me from lay ministry to full time ministry.

treevalleys on a mission in Lincoln Heights


Gustavo and I getting the room ready for little Amos

These past several months of starting into the internship can be summarized into three phrases: bewildering displacement, actual obedience, and providential provision.

bewildering displacement:  There were a number of things that were clear in making this big move into the city…but there were many things that weren’t.  I knew that God wanted us to make this integrated move into Lincoln Heights and enough of God’s values for loving the city to do it.  However there were many unknowns that we would and still have to navigate now that we’re here:  How do we reach out to our neighbors? What is our role in the church here as people from the outside?  How do I connect with my intern team – half of which live in another city and all of which are many years younger than me and from unfamiliar backgrounds to me?   What is the work that God wants me to do and the career he wants me to be in?  How will we raise a child in all of this uncertainty?  That last question is the scariest of all to me right now.  Yet, through all the unanswered questions, periods of unemployment, and my sinful escapism…God is still faithful and still challenges me with His heart.  This points to the next theme of this past quarter…

xmas presentation at the community church


actual obedience:  A major part of our first quarter in the internship has been an inductive study of the book of Luke.  It has been rocking my world.  We’re trying to study what Jesus was actually saying, how he actually ministered, how he actually lived, and how his priorities actually played out.  Jesus actually really loves the poor and broken…the marginalized.  How did I miss this in all my years as a “Christian” (follower of Christ)?  I have been unable to shake Luke ch. 6 (Jesus’ sermon on the plain expressing His values) and ch. 9 (Jesus’ identity revealed to the disciples and what it would cost to follow Him) from my life.  Specifically, the following verses have been really cutting and challenging to me:

 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” – Luke 6:32

“And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” – Luke 9:23

Will I actually obey?  I hope to, with God’s encouragement and power…which leads to the last theme…

some of the church family in Lincoln Heights


providential provision: God has given Ji and I so much assurance in making these moves, despite our shortcomings.  He has provided us with an amazing find of a home for ministry, He has provided us a great team with godly priorities to work with, He has provided us with a wonderful church family to embrace us (and thoughtful timing to the coming of our son), and He has provided so much of his wonderful promises for us to hold onto.  His commitment to care for the “nobodies” and to shepherd His people through His Body, a Body that He will never leave or forsake, gives us courage into the new year.

prayer requests:
1. that Ji and I will fight for and guard our times with the Lord for the empowering we need to follow Him, especially as we get ready to receive Amos into the world
2. that I will receive wisdom, direction, and confirmation from the Lord concerning full time ministry to the marginalized
3. that God will provide me a meaningful part time job until, God willing, I raise full time support
4. that Amos will grow well and strong in the fear and love of the Lord
5. that the church family of Lincoln Heights would step up to the challenges facing the community on their knees and with the rest of their bodies!