Parents Perspective

“I know they are safe,” said Antonia, when asked why she has kept her daughters enrolled in BCM’s programs throughout the years. Antonia found out about BCM six years ago when one of her children’s Brentwood Academy teachers mentioned that BCM offered summer programs. Fast forward to now, her children are in BCM’s LiT high school student program. “All of the summer programs were awesome!” said Antonia while reminiscing about her first experiences with BCM. As she discussed the lessons her children have learned through BCM, Antonia said that BCM “teaches them how to be respectful and care for each other.”

When Alejandra and her family first moved to East Palo Alto (EPA) around three years ago, she decided to start looking into after school programs for her son and daughter. “To be honest I was very hesitant at first” said Alejandra as she recalled how EPA’s reputation made her nervous about just sending her children out into the community, but she ended up choosing BCM because of the affordability and the fact that we are a Christian organization. “Everyone is super kind and nice and know you by name,” said Alejandra when the topic of program and non-program BCM staff came up. “You guys reinforce values that I already believe in and academics, so they don’t forget in the summer,” said Alejandra as she explained how BCM’s Create Academy and other middle school programs benefit her children.

Eight years ago, Laumanu became a BCM parent when she decided to enroll her two older children in BCM’s middle school program; now her two youngest children are in KidSmart. Laumanu highlighted the importance of homework help when she expressed her gratitude for how BCM “Helps them [her children] with homework because I cannot do it at home” which is a sentiment that is expressed by many BCM parents who at times find it difficult to keep up with their children’s homework.

“She is more sociable now, she is not as shy,” said Aisha as she spoke about how her daughter has grown since she started attending BCM’s StreetWorkz. Aisha found out about BCM from a faculty member of another Bay Area student geared program called SWAG that outreaches to and supports students in the Sequoia Union High School District. Two years ago, Aisha decided to become a part of the BCM family and her daughter seems to be thrilled with this decision. “My daughter likes the program, she is happy there.”

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Middle School Graduation

A parent attending BCM's middle school graduation party poses with her children for a photo.

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Girls Night

BCM invited mothers and daughters to engage in a bonding activity by making bracelets together.

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Create Academy Celebration

Students perform a dance routine as their parents snap photos at the Create Academy Celebration.

Retreat Reflections

The Volunteer Perspective

“Seeing how welcoming and friendly the students are gives me a little reminder to do the same” says Meryn, who traveled all the way from Michigan with the Hope College team to volunteer at BCM’s Teen Retreat. Meryn is junior majoring in Social Work at Hope and became familiar with BCM through Jordan Dennen, a current BCM staff member and Hope College alumna. Meryn also volunteered with BCM last year and was so happy with her experience that she not only decided to return as a leader but also bring some friends along. As Meryn reflected on her experience as a volunteer, she spoke about how many of the students were so willing to open up and be honest about the struggles they face.

 

The Middle School Student Perspective

“God sacrificed himself for us and now we have someone to talk to through prayer” said Cristina as she discussed what she learned through a ‘relationship with God’ themed session at the Teen Retreat. There was another session that explained the purpose of animal sacrifices in biblical times by giving each student toy animals and for every type of sin committed one toy animal was taken away or sacrificed. “I realized how many sins we have yet God came down to save us because he loves us” said Nathan as he explained what he learned through this exercise.

 

The High School Student Perspective

A student named Kassandra mentioned in small group conversation at the retreat “how God is there for you but shows himself in different forms.” She went on to discuss how the students were given the opportunity to write personal letters, paint and draw and how those are all types of worship which she said made her feel “more connected” to God. “In order to talk to God, he doesn’t have to physically respond, he can speak through people and art,” said V, as she recalled that significant realization she obtained from the retreat.

 

The Retreat Festivities

The Teen Retreat is full of fun and Bible-based activities. Each day of the weekend long retreat is packed with different team building activities, small groups and Biblical sessions. Students form teams with team names such as Pink Pomegranate Panthers and The Flash and compete head-to-head earning points in each activity in an effort to be the reigning champions. Students are also taken to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for a fun day of rides, carnival treats and a bonfire. It is very encouraging to hear such positive feedback from not only our students but also volunteers and staff because it validates BCM’s mission to share fun activities, community and God’s love with our students.

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Team Names!

Students break up into several teams and work on their team name and sign.

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Group Sessions

Students learn about the purpose of animal sacrifices in Biblical times.

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Santa Cruz

Students, volunteers and staff pose for a picture at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

BCM and King's Academy

 “Each spring we vacate our entire high school and send teams of students around the world to do service projects”, says Justin, who teaches Math and is a TKA water Polo and swimming coach at King’s Academy in Sunnyvale. ”The projects range anywhere from building homes in Tecate, Mexico, to post-hurricane clean up in Louisiana, to medical missions in Malawi, Africa, to supporting missionary training to indigenous people groups in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador,” he continued. This year there will be a new focus for service trips. “The ministry that has always been on my heart has been local suburban/urban missions, to the people right here at home” Justin recounts, and when the new principal at King’s asked the Spiritual Life Department to consider missions trips closer to home, Justin jumped at the chance.

Around 12 years ago Justin found out about BCM and a few other East Palo Alto non-profits through his church. When he volunteered with each, Justin saw first had the work that was being done in his own backyard. Fast forward to now, Justin is thrilled to be spearheading King’s first East Palo Alto Service Week. Discussing King’s plans to serve the community, Justin says “We are partnering with BCM, New Creation Home, Ravenswood Middle School and EPA Shop to introduce our students to a community of focus right up the road, where real people live real lives impacted by real policies and systems that we are largely immune from experiencing.  It's an opportunity for our students to realize that we can serve where we live.”

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Where It Started

This photo of Justin teaching students how to work on a bike was taken almost 12 years ago when he first volunteered at BCM

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Serving BCM

These BCM teen students are among those that will be served by King's Academy during EPA Service Week

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Team Photo

The entire King's Academy team pose for a photo

Create Art

This spring, BCM students are exploring ways in which to express their own identity through visual art. BCM’s art program entitled Create Art will be following EPACENTER’s Drawing 101: Six Elements of Art curriculum, which starts off with the basics such as drawing lines and shapes and ends with instruction in 3D and cartoon drawing. This class does not have a rigid structure and students are encouraged to be free and “outside the box” with the art they create. The curriculum allows BCM students to create art as a form of self-expression which frees them of any tight restrictions. Create Art students are currently working on collages and how to tie the many small elements of a collage together to make one unique work of art that communicates a part of their own identity.

For the past 2 years, EPACENTER and BCM have maintained a partnership to bring BCM students Create Art, which begins in spring and lasts until summer. The mission of EPACENTER is to help facilitate youth in the discovery of their own talents and capabilities through art. Create Art is run by Troy Davis, EPACENTER’s Music and Visual Arts Instructor. Troy studied painting, digital software, figure drawing and color theory at the Academy of Art University, where he graduated with a BA in Illustration. As a long-time resident of East Palo Alto, Troy not only finds it easier to relate to BCM students but has a deeper understanding of the ever changing culture of East Palo Alto. We at BCM look forward to a long a fruitful relationship with Troy and EPACENTER.

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Say Cheese!

Students take a moment to smile for a picture as they work on their projects.

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Art Time!

Using bright colors and varying shapes work on sketches to add to their collages.

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Digital Art

A student uses an ipad to assist in creating sketches.

Hope and Jordan

It was the spring break of her senior year at Hope College and instead of planning a trip with her friends, Jordan decided to apply to Hope’s spring immersion trips, where students volunteer across the country in different communities. On the application, Jordan did not list BCM as her first choice. To be quite frank, Jordan was not completely sold on going on a mission trip in the first place, so when she got her acceptance email she was somewhat surprised and started to question if she wanted to follow through with the trip. After some thought, Jordan decided not to let this opportunity pass her by, and boy was she happy she didn’t. Through Hope’s partnership with BCM, Jordan was able to tutor students in KidSmart and participate in a family event with Bible Club. She also visited East Palo Alto high schools and learned about the history and demographics of East Palo Alto, which she said helped her better understand BCM students. Impressed by her natural connection with the students, Jordan was approached by multiple BCM staff members who encouraged her to apply for BCM’s year-long college graduate fellowship which would start after graduation.  Jordan was flattered that multiple people felt she had the qualifications and temperament to be successful in student mentorship, but at the time, she did not give it too much thought.

On her first day back at Hope College, Jordan ran into one of the Chaplains, whom she was very close to, and when he asked her about her experience at BCM, she recalled the amazing time she had mentoring and learning alongside the students. Jordan also mentioned being encouraged to apply for BCM’s Fellowship as she casually asked her Chaplain for a reference, to which he agreed. The next day she received an email from her Chaplain stating that he had already sent the reference to BCM. Because Hope and BCM have been partners for just about 15 years, Jordan’s Chaplain was not shy about getting in contact with BCM staff; Jordan on the other hand was rather caught off guard. She did not expect him to be so prompt in churning out her recommendation letter, especially because she had not made her mind up about whether she would even apply. Now she had no choice! After applying and going through the interview process, Jordan was excited to be offered the Fellowship position, but soon enough apprehension set in. Jordan lived in Chicago and went to college in Michigan; BCM is in California. Jordan received her degree in Dance and Business; mentoring students at BCM did not seem like it would put her specific education to use. After a week of mental gymnastics, Jordan decided to commit to BCM and become a Fellow, and she has never regretted that decision for a moment. Now, Jordan is completing her second year as a Fellow with BCM and looking back on her journey she said “It is clear that God led me to BCM.” As her time as a Fellow comes to a close and Jordan considers transitioning to a BCM staff member, she plans on allowing the Lord to lead her footsteps.

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The Boardwalk!

Jordan and her students snap a picture at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

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Game Time!

Jordan playing an intense game of Jenga with one of her students. 

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Celebration!

Jordan and her students take goofy pictures during the middle school graduation celebration.

BCM Volunteers

     On the hunt for a volunteer position that interested her, Lorena decided to seek help from Job Train and was delighted when they directed her to BCM. BCM offers several volunteer opportunities but Lorena found that devoting her time to KidSmart students was the perfect fit for her. As a volunteer, Lorena serves as a classroom aide who works one-on-one with her students. She assists students with their homework, reading comprehension, and math skills. During recess, she goes outside with her students and plays right alongside them. In my interview with Lorena, she spoke about how she not only sees herself as a tutor but also a mentor. “It will be more difficult for them to learn if they don’t know who you are” said Lorena as she discussed the importance of building relationships with her students and getting to know their individual learning habits. Lorena’s dedication to her community shines not only through her volunteer work but also in her career goals. She is currently attending college full time in the hopes of earning her degree in social work and becoming a probation officer.

     The main goal of the KidSmart program is to ensure that students’ academic skills are in line with their grade level while also preparing the students for the next school year. Recently, KidSmart Manager Diana Liggs noticed that it was becoming increasingly difficult to find KidSmart interns, so when Lorena came on board Diana was thrilled. After seeing Lorena’s love and dedication to her students, Diana decided to offer Lorena a paid position as a KidSmart intern, which Lorena happily accepted and will be starting once her hours through Job Train are complete. BCM is blessed to have so many wonderful, patient and dedicated volunteers like Lorena who go above and beyond to ensure our students receive not only quality academic help but also emotional, mental and spiritual support.

 

*If you would like to learn more about volunteering with BCM contact Kim Shimazaki (Volunteer Coordinator) at kim@bayshore.org

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Cheese!

Lorena poses with her students for a picture.

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Homework Help

Lorena assists a student with her homework.

Recess

Lorena and her students play jump rope during recess.

Praise and Worship!

James* had already been through some tough experiences in his short life time. Because of a legal status issue, his father was deported, leaving his mother as the sole provider for him and his siblings. James was always pretty active, but when it came to participating in praise and worship he seemed inclined to shy away and would find his way to the back of the class to limit his participation. As time went on and James behavior persisted, Bible Club leaders never forced him to participate but instead, continued to pray for him and to share the Lord’s message with him and the rest of their students. One day, something changed. Instead of hanging in the back during praise and worship, Bible Club leaders were delightfully surprised to see James energetically join in, singing and praising with the other students. Maybe it was the song that inspired him or maybe it was Jesus who touched his heart.

     Each child absorbs and begins to understand the beauty of God’s love, kindness and mercy at his or her own rate, which is why our Bible Club instructors are sure to be attentive to each student’s individual pace in an effort to meet them where they are at. Rushing anyone’s spiritual journey, even a child’s, can be ineffectual so instead Bible Club leaders allow their student’s love, praise and curiosity for the word of God to manifest organically. Being able to support and facilitate a child’s walk with God is a gift that BCM is honored to receive.

                                                          *A different name was used to protect our student’s privacy

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Bible Club

Students raise their hands, ready to answer a question posed during the weekly lesson.

Robot Spartans win the Judges Award!

Three cheers for the Robot Spartans! After the first round of qualifying victories at Google HQ in November, our First Lego League (FLL) competed in FLL regionals in Morgan Hill and impressed the judges with their team collaboration, problem solving and attitude. A long day that started early in the morning ended with the team receiving the Judges Award in recognition of their modeling of core values in the area of teamwork. Head Coach (and super Volunteer) Greg Corsetto elaborated that the Robot Spartans “developed a sophisticated robot this year, using advanced mechanical and programming techniques. They also developed a first rate research project, which they were recognized for in the Regional competition.”

Robot Spartan team member, Austin, described the start of the day. “We woke up early before 7 a.m. to drive south. The competition was inside a gym like a science fair with a pit area and a place where people can watch what you’re doing.”

Another team member, Nathan, pointed out that it was a high school gym and when asked what it was like, responded with the positive assessment that, “It was fun.”

Cristina, another team member agreed. “It was good.”

Asked why she likes robotics, she shared that “It was fun to build things” and that she “liked building things”. She had accidentally received a gift of Legos four years ago (and now has quite a few sets of Lego sets) and had gotten into the robotics part because of her love for Legos.

Back to Austin, who continued to describe the day, “We competed in four rounds. Our team would get together and go over the plan for completing ‘missions’.”

What are “missions”?

“Missions are jobs that your robots have to do and complete on their own. They are programmed to do certain things on their own. Sometimes the Robot’s mission is to carry something, or to push certain buttons, to drop something off or to drive a set course called ‘line tracking’.” Austin paused, “the hardest tournament was definitely the 3rd one when our main mission didn’t work out.” What won them the Judges Award, Austin reported, was that their unsupervised team work to accomplish in the last mission clinched them high scores.

His time on the Robotics team has helped Austin confirm his passion for design—whether it’s computer design to fashion design. Asked if they learned anything from their experiences competing, Austin shared that he had grown in trusting both the adult volunteers as well as his peers. And Cristina provided a perfect summary sentence with a twinkle in her eye and a shy smirk,

“Anything is possible if you work hard for it!”

We are SO proud of the students’ achievements. At the same time we would like to shout out to our EIGHTEEN amazing volunteers who make the Robotics team happen. The preparation of the teams and performance in the FLL competitions would not be possible without their hard work.

 

Robots, Cooking and Thank You notes

Time moves quickly! With January behind us we’ve begun to wade into 2017 and already we’ve collected three moments of pride--pride at the maturity and growth in our youth. 

 Robot Spartans preparing their Lego robot!

Robot Spartans preparing their Lego robot!

We are always proud of our students, but recently several of them really outdid themselves. Robotics is one part of our middle school program where students learn how to work as a team to design, program and troubleshoot Lego robots. After competing this last fall in the First Lego League at Google’s Mountain View headquarters, one of our teams--The Robot Spartans—won both their Regionals and the “Judge’s Award” (for team conduct). The Robot Spartans will be competing this upcoming Saturday, February 4th at Sobrato High in Morgan Hill against 30 other Bay Area teams. You can read about their efforts in this Mercury News article [>here<].

Meanwhile our high school students in the LiT program havebeen engaging in their own kind of competition—specifically cooking. In the spirit of TV reality cooking shows, the two LiT cohort groups competed in preparibg candied sweet potatoes and salad versus mac ‘n cheese and pecan bars. In the chaos of chopping, stirring and talking the respective team leaders were able to exercise their skills in delegating and control while reflecting on their leadership style and strengths.  The results were mouthwatering with the male cohort group claiming victory. Stay tuned for future competitive cooking stories!

Finally, we would like to draw your attention to a letter written by one of our students who receives Bible lessons and tutoring from our volunteers. We don’t always get to see the impact that results from a real connection, but every now and then we do and it warms our hearts beyond words.

Please pray for our students, their families and our various programs! We love our work but there is much, much more to be done!

Out of the Bubble into the Bay (Part 2) by Alyssa Lorenzo

During a StreetWorkz night in the spring, we challenged our kids to pray big. God wanted to bless them. We had them write down their prayers, seal it in an envelope and place it in a pile on the stage. As we circled up to pray over this collection of prayers, a student who had been sitting quietly, not writing, suddenly motioned for me to return to her table.

"Remember that thing I told you about my family on Friday? Can I pray about that?" 

"Absolutely," I responded, "that's huge."

"So what do I say?"

"What do you want most?"

"Well, I don't want my grandma to be upset or have the family so divided. Can I ask for that?"

"Definitely, you can ask that God would love your family and help them heal as they forgive each other."

"Yea, I think I want to forgive too." I stared at her. I couldn't fathom that kind of forgiveness she was describing.

Later, as we split up for drop-offs, she walked up to me, gave me a hug and thanked me for helping her pray and letting her have more time to write. She planned to take her envelope home to pray some more. She said she was glad she told me about what had happened.

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I'm surprised by how far ahead our kids will plan. And how casually these seemingly demanding questions are thrown about. They're testing the waters. Just as often as the questions though, come the "threats."

"If you're not at my high school graduation, I'll haunt you in your sleep."

"If you don't take us there for our 8th grade outing too...boi." 

"It's been two weeks, you better visit me for lunch!"

My first reactions were something like, "Excuse me?!" Then it clicks. They've come to expect these things. I've set a precedent for being in their schools, at their celebrations, and part of their weekends. They want me around and they trust that I care enough to want to be there. They soak up the attention and affection, dubbing me "Street Mom," or "Street Auntie."

Driving back from an afternoon outing last Friday, I asked about their days. Rose-bud-thorn: something you really enjoyed, something you're looking forward to and something that wasn't so great about the day.

One sixth grader responded, "My rose was getting to hang with my squad today."

"Oh yea? Who's your squad?" I fully expected names of girls at school. 

Instead, she motioned to the other four students in the car. I was taken aback. Those five kids are my pilot group for a new middle school academic program. It hadn't occurred to me that this program could become their main community. We were only two weeks in. They had already come to enjoy each other's company, be friends and look forward to time spent together in tutoring, art workshops or just talking. God had been bonding them together even when I thought they hated it. He created a stable, safe, loving environment, allowing His grace to cover the rockiness of my struggle to form a burgeoning program.

I've realized I won't feel like I'm doing enough or doing things right. But it's because I love our kids a lot. That's why I stayed for year two. I want so much for them. We all want the best for our community and our kids’ futures. In the face of tragedy, hardship, frustration, apathy and injustice, I say, “Thank You, Jesus, for not expecting me to ‘do it all’ on my own.”

To our extended BCM family, I ask you to join us in prayer as we launch new and recurring fall programs. We need prayer for the Spirit to work through us (sometimes despite us), to love the kids, to guide them, to speak encouragement and truth to them in those vulnerable moments, to admit that we don’t know how to lift them up to dry land but together we’ll grasp the lifeline of hope to the solid ground that our Father provides. 

BCM Students go to Camp! by Stefie Dominguez, Middle School Program Manager

It all started 3 years ago as a far-off dream to take EPA students to Missouri. There’s this amazing urban sports camp there called Kids Across America (KAA) that I knew would change their lives. It’s a place where kids come from across the States for a week to learn about Jesus in a way that is relevant and fun. It’s also special to me because it changed me. This camp turned my faith upside down (in a good way). I was on staff for the summers of 2009 through 2015, working as a counselor my first few summers to the Women’s Director last year. Each season has had an incredible impact on my life full of joy, love and growth and that is what I wanted my students to experience.

I eventually found myself working full-time at BCM starting the Fall of 2015. Throughout that school year, I made it a goal to not forget about the “dream.” Then early on in the year I got word that I’d be presenting my summer journey proposal to our executive staff. Once that was approved and I got permission from parents, it was go time! The local financial support was unbelievable and in about a week all the money needed for the trip had been raised. It was an amazing display of God’s incredible grace. 

Our students were getting more and more excited as our date to leave was quickly approaching. Permission forms were signed, plane tickets were bought, a rental car was reserved and camp fees were paid. Honestly, it seemed surreal that this was all really coming together. The date kept approaching and I would have days where I was legitimately nervous. As their chaperone, I had four students’ parents trusting me to get their children to Missouri and back safely! 

The travel day started with picking up our students at 2:30 a.m. from their homes before heading to the airport in time for our 5:00 a.m. flight. Before we knew it, we were entering the camp gates and our students were having the time of their lives! Our students performed dances, they fellowshipped with students from other parts of the country, they made commitments regarding their faith, and overall were truly blessed by that week. Sometimes I would look at them having fun and joy would overwhelm me. They were experiencing the things that made me fall in love with those camp grounds throughout my college career. It was a transformative, life-changing week for them and it was exactly what I had prayed for. 

I remember when we got back in town and I dropped all the kids off at their houses. I just smiled and took a deep breath. “Thank you, Jesus!” were the only words going through my mind. I felt peace, relief and most of all, joy. 

 

Out of the Bubble and into the Bay (part I) by Alyssa Lorenzo

June 2016. It's been a year since I graduated. A year since I was busy celebrating with friends, finishing academic projects, packing up memories and looking to the next chapter. There weren't too many question marks in my immediate future. I'd go home to Texas for the summer, return to the Bay in August to begin my first "real" job and move into my first apartment with a good friend. I knew which church I'd attend and which Safeway I liked best. Foothill Expressway was my go-to route for driving just to think, and I knew a handful of places I could find a swing set should I wish to be particularly stress free.

Similarly to many students, I lived in a bubble, the Stanford bubble. I studied medical anthropology, basically how people and cultures perceive and experience health, disease and healing. I knew how deeply rooted systemic injustices were and I knew they existed within a mile radius. The advice at the end of the year brought warnings of the labors and dangers awaiting me beyond the Eucalyptus grove in the world of post-college life. I nodded and smiled. I'm just moving across the 101 highway. "I'll be fine." (My mom's favorite phrase.)


My first responsibility on the new job: plan a game day for the kick-off of StreetWorkz. Ooh-kay. I chose a series of minute-to-win-it activities and created a relay for two teams to compete. Every station was properly stocked with supplies, each student would only have to do one activity and I'd walk them through the seven stations before beginning. Middle school kids love competition and silly activities. How hard could it be? (Famous last words. You saw where this was going a mile ago.) I was hoarse before the first 15 minutes of that hour and a half. I was stuck in a stupor with an expression of utter denial on my tensed and worn features. I didn't get it. How did they not get it? I knew it wasn't impossible. I'd seen it done before. College did not prepare me for the peculiarity of children's moods, attitudes and thinking.

When I returned home, I told my roommate a play-by-play of the evening. Or, at least I tried. I couldn't explain what happened. Every description trailed off and left me muttering to myself (and the floor and ceiling in turn), "what just...I don't...I don't even know". It was outright mutiny. Defiance of logic. 90 minutes turned my belief in reasonable communication upside-down. And my belief in myself. "Jesus, I feel so lame," I thought. "Can I not even plan and play a game? Am I seriously preparing to pray over our next icebreaker? How am I supposed to get to deeper stuff and love them? They don't want me around, understandably; I'm not kid-friendly. I'm useless to your kingdom." (Yes, I'm melodramatic. Welcome to my the joys of my family.)

That was nine months ago. I've signed on for year two.

Serve BCM Students this Summer!

Create Academy

Our Create Academy program will serve 5th-8th grade students during the four weeks of July 5-29. Currently we are in need of volunteers to help with:

  1. Providing lunch by cooking or buying food for 40-50 students and summer staff.
  2. Serving lunch at 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
  3. Mentoring students in our afternoon STEAM electives from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
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Vacation Bible School

We will host two weeks of Vacation Bible School (VBS) this summer for local 1st-5th grade students. We will meet in the West Side neighborhood for August 1-5 at 12-3 p.m. and on our own campus for August 8-12 at 12-3 p.m.. Consider serving with this summer's VBS program through some of the following ways:

  1. Joining the Prep & Support team.
  2. Serving in the Lunch team.
  3. Co-leading a small group.
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Contact Holly at holly[at]bayshore[dot]org or (650) 327-9941 to serve!

Reflection on my EPA Fellowship year by Kris Smiley

Here at Bayshore Christian Ministries, we recently concluded the year's StreetWorkz program for our middle school students. While my stint as an EPA Fellow still has the summer portion left, I feel uniquely refreshed by my time spent with StreetWorkz. My time working with the junior high students also has me feeling very full—like I just came from a big, warm party feast.

This feeling of refreshment and contentment comes not from having grown and learned (although, I've learned so much I don't know where I would begin) nor does it come from anything I can take credit for; it comes from having witnessed the undeniable response and initiative God has claimed in the lives of 6, 7 and 8th graders.

God does not seem super interested in doing things my way. God's got His own style of taking care of business. I was not initially excited about working with junior highers but Jesus snuck into my heart one night while I was sleeping and turned those feelings upside down. Two months after starting this job and right before Christmas, I broke my ankle. While I don't think Jesus personally went out of His way to crack my tibia, I did get to see how He used it later to start conversations about real life issues beyond the surface level adult-child plateau. Interwoven among lessons and talks on relationships, romantic love, racism, and heaven I got to see God personally grab handful of moments with His children (they are first and foremost His after all) and encounter them in life-changing ways.  

I saw Him take one kid at the start of the year and over several months enlarge the young man's inner capacity for peace, confidence and prayer. I saw another young lady take ownership of her friend group and exercise leadership and self-aware maturity. Following that there are the testimonies of God moving in unusual and supernatural way. You know, the kind of stories that last a lifetime? When God undeniably meets you in a dream, or speaks to you for the first time, or you witness a healing—that stuff stays with you—and God moved among our youth in a way that has staying power.

Right now I find myself satisfied (re: my soul feels fat like in Psalm 63:5) and energized (re: refreshed), not because I did anything noteworthy, but because I have witnessed God's creative faithfulness.  The students of StreetWorkz are caught up in a hundred different cycles, systems and problems outside of their control, outside of my control and outside the control of just about every single person in their life. I cannot change their situations or even really meaningfully do anything for them—truly only God can be their source of help. God is for them more than the rest of humanity combined. In Psalm 18:19 the Psalmist writes, “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” By the end of this year, I've witnessed a merciful Father swoop down and sweep up His daughters and sons into that open, “spacious place”. 

Jesus and Marco Polo

Stumbling into the far corner under the bed I tripped on a soggy sock and knocked my head against the mattress. No time to waste, I silently scrambled to press myself against the wall.

“One...Zero...Marco” 
“Polo.” 
“POLO!” 
“...polo.” 
“Polo!” 
Pooooolo.” 

I heard the sound of giggling, yelling and the knocking of knees and elbows against bed frames and floors.  

Nothing like nine middle schoolers playing Marco Polo on dry land, in a pitch black dormitory. Well, technically five middle schoolers, but for about thirty minutes us four accompanying “men” were for all intents and purposes twelve year olds (albeit larger and hairier). It was late Saturday evening of the StreetWorkz annual retreat and it had been raining hard since we arrived the night before. We were entertaining ourselves before lights out--or more accurately "bedtime", since our Santa Cruz camp had lost electricity a few hours earlier. This meant that all afternoon, dinner and evening planned activities took place not only inside, but in the dark! 

Yet God is good, all the time. And all the time God is good, and faithful, and creative and always working on a whole other level. The redwoods were a little richer with the rain, the good food and laughter kept us warm, and the several dozen folks praying for us from around the country did something to the atmosphere. There were the twelve college adventurers from Grand Valley State University who executed and made the camp work, the thirteen StreetWorkz students at their best and brightest, and us three BCM staff members all rolling with the punches and having a fun, soul-building and memorable weekend. A trip to the boardwalk, multiple physically interactive Bible competitions, searching for the Kingdom of God/heaven with a concluding Sunday morning church service, unsurprisingly left us a little changed. 

We have Jesus ultimately to thank, who shows us the way. The Sunday morning after Marco Polo, three of the boys washed the hands of their fellow students. Another of their peers dried hands and another read the following out loud:

“In Heaven, in the Kingdom of God, the first is last and the last is first. In church we practice what we do in life—we serve others first. Jesus washed the feet of his friends and he taught that in order to be a leader in life, we must commit to serving others. This is why we wash each other's hands. To remind each other that to serve is to live like God.” 

we have an awesome video of the whole weekend. {CLICK HERE TO WATCH YOUTUBE}

"God-with-us"

Susan Hutchison Nop is a past Program Director at BCM who worked with Andrew Hartwell in the original BCM house. Below you can read her short report on her special visit.

Twenty-five years ago, fresh from college graduation, I walked into my new home at 2200 Oakwood Drive with a suitcase and plenty of hopes, fears and dreams. I had joined the community at Bayshore Christian Ministries full of ideas about the work I was so excited to do, yet not quite realizing that God would be teaching me about His kingdom and my place in it.

I saw parents who were barely hanging on to homes and jobs, kids who were hungry and struggling in school, determined mothers raising children to be resourceful, resilient, and kind. I met strong, interconnected families who welcomed me, a stranger, into their homes and lives. I prayed for teens who resisted the daily lure of drugs and violence, and those that did not. At the same time, I was surrounded by volunteers and staff that were committed to living out the good news of the Gospel every day. We don't worship a remote God that looks down from some faraway place – we serve a God that came as a human being to suffer, to laugh, to cry, to heal, to eat and drink, to walk the dusty roads with friends, to struggle in prayer in lonely places. And this “God-with-us” continues to work each day on the dusty roads of East Palo Alto, in a light-filled building on Beech Street.

It was a delight to walk into Bayshore Christian Ministries and see classrooms bursting with artwork and books, places for quiet study and reading, space for dancing, Lego building and creativity! Here is a place where the Gospel of Christ is fleshed out in real time – whether you are a student looking for help with homework, a staff member carrying the weight of program needs and direction, or a visitor from the past looking to reconnect. This is a place where children, volunteers and full time staff take the time for the “kingdom that might seem tiny as a mustard seed, but will prove to be the great branching tree in whose canopy we all find a place.

Though I was in East Palo Alto for only a few years, it was wonderful to come back after so long and see the changes in the neighborhood, visit with old friends, and marvel in the way that God has sustained and blessed this ministry over so many years. BCM is a place of hope and encouragement, for kids and families, volunteers and staff alike. Thank you all – and may God's blessing continue for the next twenty-five years!  

 Susan Nop in front of the BCM building

Susan Nop in front of the BCM building

BCM Staff Retreat

A group photo of the Retreat attendees. Smile everyone!

At Bayshore Christian Ministries we love our Board! We want to introduce and welcome the newest board member, Kathy Welsh.

Kathy is married to Justin and has two sons in college.  T
hey are long time members of Menlo Church where Kathy has served as both a Deacon and an Elder. In addition to time spent with her children and at schools in Mountain View and Sunnyvale, Kathy currently works at Stanford as a Outreach Coordinator in Global Studies. Her heart for youth ministry and her many connections to people who have been involved in BCM over the years has brought her to the BCM Board. She recently attended the BCM staff retreat and has shared some of her thoughts below: 

The staff retreat took place January 15th-17th at Redwood Christian Park, also known as the Ark Park. It was a rainy weekend in the beautiful redwood forest. I am a new board member, still getting to know most of the staff, and I arrived in the dark on Friday night after a long drive on wet, windy roads. I found the rest of the group in the dining room enjoying the first delicious meal of the weekend, where there was time for relaxed conversations and getting more acquainted. 

The focus of the retreat was on prayer. We learned about Petition: Asking God directly for something for myself, and about Intercession: Prayer for another person, place or situation. We prayed over the city of East Palo Alto, including leadership in business and government. The speaker came with his wife and son, a talented seventeen year old who led worship with vocals and guitar while our own Stefie played the drum. On Saturday afternoon, Amy led us all in a hilarious game of celebrity charades! 

The entire group of BCM staff and interns, along with a couple of board members, volunteers, staff alumni, spouses and children numbered to a total of twenty. I was struck by how well we represented many demographics and came together effortlessly in our love for and dedication to our Lord, Jesus. It was like a glimpse of Heaven. In said environment we finished on Sunday morning beginning with a worship service followed by a most fitting teaching on our Unity in Christ led by Pastor Marcus Givens. 

Impact Report 2015 and #GivingTuesday!

Thank you! What else can we say? #GivingTuesday was a met with a great wave of support as donors gave $6,250 towards helping us provide our youth with after-school academic tutoring. And there’s more—that amount has been matched by the Sanders Dickinson Foundation for a total raised of $12,500! We thank the Lord for you and your partnership!

This past month we also released our annual report, Impact Report 2015. Read it  to discover stories of Bayshore Christian Ministries’ work over the course of the year.