i know you’re in the midst of the hardest year of your life thus far. it’s your first year of teaching…in the hood of south los angeles. you probably don’t have much time to spare, so let’s just get right down to it.
none of your friends or family, well meaning as they are, understand what you’re experiencing right now. i do. because i’m you 12 years later. your world is being turned upside down. you’ve come from a quiet asian american middle class life. and let’s be honest, nothing has really prepared you for this. you are experiencing the brokenness of what poverty does to young hearts and minds on a daily basis; poverty that you didn’t even acknowledge existed right in your backyard. you can’t escape it because it’s your job to face it and try to teach in the midst of it every day. you are being smacked in the face with the reality that public education in the u.s. is neither equal nor fair…and most of society has turned it’s back on this corner of l.a. because it’s easier to ignore than to deal with. you’ve never seen this sort of institutionalized dysfunction. you’ve never experienced so much hate thrown at you. you’ve never had to work to the point of exhaustion…not just physically but emotionally.
don’t escape. i know it’s hard. i know it’s hell. but don’t give up. these very years will be what builds in you a character of perseverance. these very youth will be the ones that break your heart in the best kind of way to get you to really consider what matters to the heart of God. but most of all these very experiences will be what opens your eyes to the fact that you desperately need God every day.
yes, some of these students will ignore you, some of them will curse at you, some of them will even push you. consider that it’s not so much that they hate you personally but that they will project upon you all the pain and confusion they have experienced at the hands of adults that were supposed to care for them. if you are going to follow your role model, Jesus, remember He loved those that didn’t love Him back well…and remember that is you, that is us.
yes, i know you’re lonely and REALLY wish you had a girlfriend. but think about it, is that really going to solve your problems? if anything you’re either gonna escape HARD into this girl or you’re gonna treat her like crap because you’ve got nothing left to give or both. no woman, no matter how awesome, is going to be in the classroom with you and give you what you need to stand in love and power in the midst of this. only an infinite God can do that. yes, a girlfriend’s nice (and yes she will come to you and you’ll marry her and she’ll be pretty rad) but now is not the time…there’s some inner growth in your relationship with Jesus that needs to happen before that or else you’re gonna wreck two people in the process. and Lord knows we don’t need any more brokenness.
the work you’re doing now will prepare you for the work i’m doing now (aka the work you will be doing in the future). this work you’re in now is going to lay the groundwork for and open doors that you’ve never even considered of God’s vision for justice; it will help you see the Word of God in a whole new light…even if i tried to explain it to you now i don’t think you’d understand or appreciate it without what you’re going to experience in the next couple of years. with that said, i think there are a couple of things you could understand at this time.
1) david, if you’re serious about disciple-making and leadership development you can’t do it remotely. at least not effectively. Jesus spent TIME with his disciples and you can’t expect to walk with those you are leading if you don’t even live in the same neighborhood with them. and that’s how leaders are developed…not just through teaching…it’s through living.
2) lastly, you need a mentor if you’re going to mentor. not just a mentor that reflects your experience. have some humility to recognize you don’t know it all and you can’t do it by yourself. you need a mentor who has experience loving and walking amongst the least of these, because that’s where you will find Jesus (Matthew 25:40). sadly, there aren’t that many asian american men that are doing this work, so it’s not like you have a lot of choice…you’re gonna have to be mentored cross-race. it’ll be awkward at first but don’t let your pride get in the way of your growth to learn from someone different than you.
press in. because Jesus did for you.