Tag Archives: servant partners

what does it really mean to use your resources wisely?

maybe you’ve heard something like this before: “i want to give, but i want to make sure i give wisely.”  so what do we actually mean by that?  what does it look like to live and give of our resources wisely?  i’ve been exploring questions like this, especially brought to a head with the book that i read called toxic charity.  yet, something didn’t quite sit right with the answers i was given.

then, in the GUTS training that im currently in the midst of, we studied this passage about the “shrewd manager” (Luke 16:1-13) that has always puzzled me.   at first glance it seems that Jesus is essentially praising this really shady character who rips off his master through some underhanded dealings.  the interpretations that i’ve had before were fuzzy ideas along the lines of Jesus is telling us not to be dishonest but to be shrewd like people of the world.  now this is essentially true but what Jesus meant by being “shrewd” was still largely unclear to me.  it seems most people that i’ve come across use shrewdness or wisdom with money/resources to mainly mean not to waste it or to find better ways to amass it.  upon my study of this passage i actually found the opposite to be true!  let me explain.

Jesus is not uplifting some value of dishonesty as Jesus is clear to call the manager (v.9) as well as wealth of this world (v.9, 10, & 11) “unrighteous”  (that is the actual greek word used in every instance that is sometimes translated as “dishonest”).  what then did the manager do that was so shrewd or praiseworthy?  the heart of what the manager did was to use the resources at his disposal  (which actually belonged to his rich master) not to save wealth for himself but to use it for relational leverage.   in verse 9 Jesus elaborates an application of the manager’s wisdom in saying to “make friends for yourself by means of unrighteous wealth.”   Jesus expresses that money/resources are not in end itself (and thus foolish to amass since it “fails”) but a means to exercise faithfulness.   and who are these people in the story that the manager made “friends” with?  it was people who did not have the means to pay the debts they owed…and if we look in the next parable Jesus tells in the same breath (v.19-31) the one in eternal dwellings is the one who scarcely has any material resources in this world.  those who are “devoted” to wealth (in v. 13 the word means to “cling to” or “hold back”) end up losing out on the “true riches” (v.11) for eternity.

here in the philipines portion of GUTS training i made a friend named Jio.  the mother of his child left him and he’s now living in a one room house with one bathroom with only a curtain as separation for himself, his daughter, his aging mother, and four other children belonging to his siblings.  he does not have much to offer in terms of a dwelling.  he hasn’t been going to church recently and so some of us decided to go over and invite him out to eat.  he said he didn’t have money to come with us.  so we offered to treat him and his daughter.  it was a blessed time we had together to reconnect.  it was a joy to give and i wish i gave more.  i believe Jio will one day welcome me into eternal dwellings.

View from roof of BBCF church in Botocan.
View from roof of BBCF church in Botocan.
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What I Learned from the Servant Partners Internship

This past month marked two years since my family moved to Lincoln Heights and the end of my internship with Servant Partners.  This month also marks the beginning of my role as a fundraised Full-time Staff with Servant Partners in Lincoln Heights as a Youth Pastor at Epicentre Community Church.

A lot has happened in the past two years…new home, new neighborhood, new church, new friends, a new family member, and new work to name a few.  The internship was an important part of this transition that really helped me to process the changes and some major paradigm shifts that are occurring in my life.  Here are a few of the things I have learned in the past two years with the internship.

1. God REALLY loves the poor.

I sort of knew this casually in my Christian upbringing but at best it was a minor chord…something for some Christians.  Through the in-depth inductive study of the Gospel of Luke in the first year, I began to see that God’s love for the poor was a major aspect of the mission of Jesus and the Kingdom He is bringing upon the earth.  Jesus was born into a poor family (Luke 2:24, Lev. 12:8), He affirmed that his ministry was to proclaim good news to the poor, (Luke 4:18, Isa 61:1) He preached a radical worldview in which the poor are blessed and the rich are distressed (Luke 6:20-26), He taught parables on the surprising destiny of the have and have nots (Luke 12:13-21, 14:15-24, 16:19-31), He challenged His followers constantly to be people who give ridiculously to those in need (Luke 6:30, 9:13, 10:25-37, 12:33, 14:13-14, 18:18-30), and He modeled the giving of everything…even his own life.

It is simply shocking if we actually consider applying what Jesus taught.  If we call ourselves followers of Jesus, loving the poor is not an option; it is a sign of our discipleship.  This sparked an examination of the rest of the scriptures for what God has to say about the poor and sure enough the centrality of God’s love for the marginalized is found in the law, the poetry, the wisdom literature, the prophets, the history of the early church, and even in the epistles of the church fathers.  The gospel is indeed the good news that God became poor so that we would experience the riches of Him.  My world is still being rocked by these revelations and, to be honest, I am still a little disturbed that I grew up in the church and this vein of God’s word had either been largely ignored or explained away.  I am in the process of being redeemed to His heart.

2. A Spirit-filled life is essential for work in the inner city…or any work of witness for that matter.

After eight years of working as a high school teacher in the inner city I was already reaching the limits of my ability.  The testimony of the life of Jesus and the early disciples affirmed what I was already experiencing for myself…any long term or lasting work amongst the needy must involve the Spirit of God.  John the Baptist was filled with the spirit from the womb, Jesus was filled with the Spirit before embarking upon his ministry years, and the apostles could not be his emboldened witnesses without being empowered by the Spirit.   In the second year of the internship we focused our inductive study upon the Book of Acts.  There is no escaping the fact that things happened when His people were filled with the Spirit…and when I say filled with the Spirit I don’t simply mean when someone has accepted the message of Jesus (i.e. all believers) as the testimonies make a distinction between a state of being a believer and that of being a believer filled with the Spirit (Acts 4:31, 6:3, 8:11-17, 13:9).

I know that as a believer I have the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9-10) but I also know that I need to be filled with His Spirit (Galatians 5:16,25, 1 Thes. 5:19) .  There is a difference.   As I minister in the inner city I am coming up against issues and powers so much bigger than what I can handle (poverty, prostitution, addiction, disease, joblessness, gangs, violence, learning disabilities, academic failure, broken families, systemic injustice).  I need, we need, a power greater than ourselves for strength to persevere, for deliverance, and for true transformation in the face of what the world says is impossible.  “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

3. White people do things differently…and that’s okay.

Okay, obviously there are some generalizations here but knowledge of cultural patterns are helpful…some we can learn from and some need redeeming.  So moving into the inner city I was prepping myself for the culture shock of entering into the inner city…what I wasn’t prepared for was the culture shock of entering into my Servant Partners team.  Out of 8 of us in the original team God brought me to, 5 are Caucasian-American (as for the other three, there was me, a Japanese-American, 1 Nigeran-American, and 1 half Caucasian and half Chinese-American).  I didn’t realize how steeped my experience was in the Asian-American experience, and even minority experience (working and living amongst Blacks and Latinos) until I was faced with spending more time sharing life with White Americans then I ever had up to this point in my life (I know it’s strange for most of the U.S. but this is possible living in Los Angeles).

It was challenging to work through the differences racially and culturally (probably the two biggest differences were the ways younger people interact with older people and how decisions are made).  In most Asian cultures there is more of an emphasis on respect for elders and those in positions of authority.   In the white culture, at least in the group I was a part of, there is more of an emphasis on equal treatment regardless of age or position.  In the Asian culture, of how I was raised, decision are made more by the people who are in roles of authority.  In the white culture of our group decisions are made more by everyone weighing in on the decision no matter their role.  This is not to say that one way of life is better than the other but that there is a difference of approach culturally and one must learn to work together with those who may not share the same background as yourself.  I learned to roll with the group and the group learned to be flexible to my needs.  Racial reconciliation is tough but sharing life together helps to break down barriers and, in God, we can learn from one another’s perspectives.  We need each other to have a fuller picture of the Kingdom of God.

I’m sure there may be more lessons but those are the main ones that have surfaced thus far.  Thank you Servant Partners Internship Team Class of 2013 and a special thanks to Papa B-Rad and DGrootie.  And thank you God for leading me thus far.

SP team

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!

yet another reason why the bible is just freakin’ rad!

so part of what this internship, that i have joined in la, does is an inductive study of the book of luke. i have been learning so much with my team of 8 (from pomona and lincoln heights) and two leaders…again each time i go into the book of luke it hits me right where i am at in life…the very issues/questions i am struggling with…to the day.

yesterday, amongst many other wonderful things, we came across an intricate chiastic structure in the passage we were reading (btw, the bible is full of them). basically a chiastic structure is taken from the concept of the greek letter “chi”, which is an “X” shape, in which two stories or concepts cross each other at a point and each part of the story/concept mirrors each other as you go outward.

i don’t know if its because i am a literature major or something but i just totally geeked out!

the passage is Luke 8:40-56 where Jesus heals a bleeding woman and the daughter of a man named jarius. i’ve commented before on another account of this story found in the book of matthew, but this time around we couldn’t help but notice many more of the parallels in the pair of stories: both are females, both are called “daughter” – the first recorded instance in the book of Luke where Jesus calls someone this, both have 12 years in common, and both are ceremonially unclean (as in unclean to touch – a bleeding woman and girl who has died)…to name a few similarities. then we saw that verse 48 and 50 seem to mirror each other pretty well. something was fishy (in a good way!)…so here’s how i broke it down…CHECK IT!:

Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house,

A: v. 40-41 – in the context of word spreading, a strong request (jarius implored Jesus)

for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians,[she could not be healed by anyone.

B: v. 42-43 – daughter(s) in trouble

She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.

C: v. 44 – a female touches Jesus (the “wings” of his garment – “the Sun will rise with healing in his wings”)

And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!”

D: v. 45 – people do not perceive (Peter doesn’t get why Jesus is making a deal about one person touching him in a whole crowd)

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.”

E: v. 46 – Jesus calls it out (the woman who is trying to hide after being healed)

And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.

F: v. 47 – revelation (Jesus wants everyone to know, through the woman, what God has done)

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

G: v. 48 – faith connected to healing/salvation

While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.”

X (intersection): v. 49 – literal and figurative intersection of the dying girl and bleeding woman where someone delivers the message not to bother Jesus with impossible situations/lost causes.

But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.”

G’: v. 50 – faith connected to healing/salvation

And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child.

F’: v. 51 – hiding (Jesus allows only a few to see what God will do)

And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.”

E’: v. 52 – Jesus calls it out (people are weeping when Jesus says the girl is not dead)

And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.

D’: v. 53 – people do not perceive (mourners laugh at Jesus who says the girl is only asleep)

But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.”

C’: v. 54 – Jesus touches a female

And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat.

B’: v. 55 – daughter restored

And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.

A’: v. 56 – in the context of word spreading, a strong request (Jesus charges jarius’ family)

a pair of seven parts crossing too! the number of perfection!

in this brilliant text we see parallel stories of two females in which the latter seems to be an inversion of the former. a leader pointed out to us that the story of the bleeding woman moves from private to public (awesome how Jesus not only heals the woman but insists on validating and restoring her holistically – to society and most of all to God) whereas the story of jarius’ daughter moves from public to private (my current theory is because jarius was connected to the religious authorities at the time, who were uncomfortable with Jesus).

the chiastic structure in this passage points to the importance of the part at the center that seems to match each other most closely (v. 48-51) emphasizing the theme of faith, esp. the central verse (v. 50) pointing out that people think Jesus shouldn’t be bothered with the impossible, something people with faith in Him are bold enough to do.

***

so, is my (your/our) faith willing to hold onto the good that seems impossible – to travel through the scorn and ridicule of others?

how do i/you think Jesus would complete this sentence (from v. 51) if it was directed to me/you?: “Do not fear; only believe, and ________.”

what i can learn from those who have less

to see poverty is one thing; it is a whole other thing to live in it.  its been more than a week since i returned from a 3 week trip, living in a squatter community in the philippines.  it was dubbed a “slum retreat”, kicking off the two-year urban poor internship i am now a part of, as a way to find out more about ourselves, the urban poor outside of the u.s., and ultimately about God.  it was intense but also a paradoxically rich experience (in the non-monetary sense of course).

FIRST IMPRESSIONS (mostly taken from journal entry 8-25-11):

view of botocan

Botocan is a little barrio rectangle about 32 acres housing about 8000 people

poverty living conditions pretty surprising in its “slumness” like a flavela (of Brazil)

with makeshift looking houses very closely packed together

dogs, cats, (and) chickens in the streets

trash thrown about with no visible trashcans

pathways within community to get to our various homes like cutting through

alleyways and backyards but are public walkways

lots of children running around

air pollution from myriads of motorbike taxis, trash burning

lots of mini home-store-front shops

clothes hanging from windows over walls

tiny living areas visible from street, many packed w/ people

occasional animal feces on the ground

(roaches and rats scurrying about, even in the homes)

mostly concrete and sheet metal

8pm can hear people singing karaoke like its in the next room

random people trying to say hello, children touching, reaching out hands to you…

(*to think that there are many more in countries around the world that live in even more intense circumstances…with much less…it blows my mind.)

 

WHAT I LEARNED ABOUT MYSELF:

–    if modern distractions are taken away (internet, facebook, movies, mp3s, etc.), I am more likely to spend time with God

–    i realize i’ve come to feel entitled to respect (especially since for the past several years i’ve been in the position of a leader more than primarily a learner)…this is arrogance.

–    i learn, understand, and care more about people by hearing their stories

–    i like to talk a lot and I really do not need to do it so often, esp. when it takes away from allowing others to talk

–    i do not take the time to actually get down to the root of the problem, especially if I know it makes others uncomfortable…so I am satisfied with surface compromise

–    i am afraid of letting the people i lead make mistakes (which are such valuable opportunities to learn and grow).  in leadership development / disciple-making i need to relinquish my control and create spaces for opportunities for others to lead, whether everything is all put together or not.

 

WHAT I LEARNED FROM THE POOR (where i stayed):

–    they value people over productivity

–    they are much more generous then those who have a lot to give

–    they realize they are in need of God, without the distractions and delusions of having lots of stuff

–    they do not have the luxury to hide their brokenness or joys so both are shared with great impact

(an example of the latter: less than two years ago Reymon’s life was transformed by God and is now a leader with vision -> Jio, a gang member, saw this and surrendered himself to God, leading his first bible study a couple weeks ago -> Allen saw Jio’s transformation and is now hungering for God, sensing God calling him to step up)

reymon (red) -> jio (green) -> allen (blue)

in essence they taught me the potential of what a community in Christ can share

“Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” – James 2:5

 

WHAT  I LEARNED FROM/ABOUT GOD :

– he hears our prayers and would open the doors if we just asked

– he loves the poor (scripture, circumstances, and prayer walk reminders)

– he has woven together such unique stories in our lives on our journey with him

 

INCARNATION IS… a commitment to bring the life of God to an area of need by living amongst it

where my wife and i will be for the next two years (or more)…

So, I have been working in the inner city of LA for 8 years now, as a high school teacher. What has brought me here and kept me here for this long is the conviction to serve the under-served in life – that there are unjust things in this world and as far as I am given the grace to do so, it is my duty as a human being to do something about that. It has been quite a journey…it has not been easy. In fact it has been consuming.

Nevertheless, especially this year, I have felt the limits of my work. There are still too many students who are fighting me and cursing me out as I try to help them in the classroom. I have talked with my co-workers about it too. We are pouring out so much of our time and lives, but are we really making a difference…an impact in the inner city? Of course people can say we are doing something (my school has undergone major transformation and has made great gains in test scores) and that the fruit of a teacher’s work is not seen until years later. But we are still so far behind. We are still losing students to the cycle of despair, drugs, violence, and the life of the streets.  Our young dads are still making children and leaving them unfathered. Our young students are still getting in trouble with the law. Our students’ families are still experiencing such brokenness and instabilty. I feel like we’re just putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. Our young students need so much more. I want to do more. Yet, I still live in a different community and I still go to church in yet another community. About two years ago I also got married.  I want to start a family…which will have its own set of needs.

With all this brewing in my mind and heart I was seeking out something different, I just didn’t know what. Then a friend of ours studying educational leadership laid out a crazy idea: for inner-city schools to be changed, the middle class needs to move back into the inner city (not to gentrify but to share resources).  Sounded good…but insane. Would we send our own children to an inner-city school?  What is most important?  We started sharing this idea to our other friends.  It got us thinking.

Before we knew it, we were actually considering it, and praying about it. But we felt alone…and totally unprepared. Around February a friend of ours, who knew we were interested in urban service, invited us out to spot in LA’s Eastside where some one would be sharing about the work that he was a part of in that community.

We went. We saw. We heard. There was a team of people living, working, and serving…all in the same neighborhood. People in the community were being empowered and stepping up to make a difference…in ways that were not someone else’s agenda but were their very own convictions. Everything we were talking about was coming together right in front of us.

Now several months later, we have already found a new place to live in this community, we have let our church know that we are moving to a different church in this community, I have already put in my notice that I will not be returning next year to my school, and must now look for a new job near this community.

Here’s where we’re headed and why:

WHAT: I will begin a two-year unpaid internship which will basically be like a 2 year mission trip where my wife and I will have jobs in the community. The internship starts with a 3 week trip to an urban slum in the Philippines.

WHO: Servant Partners – a mission ministry with a focus on the urban poor of the world

WHERE: Lincoln Heights, in LA’s Eastside

– near where the 10 and 5 freeways meet, right behind the LA County / USC hospital

– it is among the lowest in median household incomes in LA city and county ($31,000)

– it is among the lowest in % of residents with a 4 yr degree in LA city and county (6%)

HOW:

1) we will be living in Lincoln Heights, with a team of at least 3 other interns

2) we will be attending a church in Lincoln Heights (a church plant of Servant Partners and Epicentre Pasadena called Epicentre Community Church *New Life Community Church as of fall of 2014)

3) we will be working in LA’s Eastside  (my wife will continue to work at Cal State LA as a professor / I need to find a job, one with a little less hours <would appreciate prayers, in this regard especially>, as I will also be taking classes twice a week to learn about urban poor ministry)

WHEN: Starting August 19th, 2011 (Philippines from 8/24-9/12) to Summer 2013

WHY (for the 2 years): We are hoping through this process, amongst many things, to

a) see if urban poor ministry is something for us

b) see if full time ministry is something for me

WHY (what God has been laying on our hearts through His Word):

1) Christ has led us to love the city: Loving Los Angeles (Jer 29:4-7)

2) Christ has led us to care for those in need: Social Justice (Isaiah 58, James 2:5-8)

3) Christ has led us to share our lives: Incarnation for understanding and discipleship (Heb 13:11-14)

HOW WE CAN PARTNER TOGETHER:

– my wife and I need to raise about $5600 (for the 3 week mission trip to the Philippines for my wife and I, as well as for my ministry education for the next 2 years)

if you’re led to give financially please make checks payable to “Servant Partners” with “Intern: Kitani” written in the memo line and send the check to: Servant Partners P.O. Box 3144, Pomona, CA 91769

– We need your prayers!! Also let us know how to pray for you!!

– Let’s keep in touch (updates, encouragements, and prayer requests)!

Email: dkitani at gmail dot com

Blog: (subscribe to this one!)

*updated 16.12.07