Dear BCM Friends and Family,
I trust your new year has been off to a great start and that the Lenten season finds you seeking stillness in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Bayshore Christian Ministries (BCM) is extremely grateful to have your continual and intentional prayers and financial gifts. Your unwavering support has not gone unnoticed, and on behalf of the entire BCM team, I would like to simply say, thank you.
Before delving into the impact BCM has made in the lives of youth in East Palo Alto (EPA) and eastern Menlo Park, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Sydney, and I am an EPA Fellow. I began working with BCM this past fall after graduating from college. The Lord led me here to do ministry. EPA, in some ways, reminds me of my hometown—in terms of the issues that plague the community as well as the felt needs. As a Fellow, I work alongside another woman named Margaret. Together we support middle school youth through spiritual development, mentorship, leadership training, and life skills coaching.
Recently we discovered many of our students need not just the weekly youth group we provide, but also academic assistance. So, we launched an evening of dinner and tutoring for the ones which need this kind of support most. We spend a lot of one-on-one time with our youth outside of program hours too, in order to establish deeper and more meaningful relationships. We intend to be positive influences in the lives of these youth as they continue to face the harsh realities of peer pressure, bullying, gangs and violence—just to name a few things. We realize in some instances we may be the closest examples these youth have to what it means to live out the Gospel, and we dutifully accept that responsibility. We continue to be intentional in their lives to ensure their optimal, holistic growth.
"Sometimes we are surprised by how many challenges the youth are up against. The simple luxuries and even basic necessities we take for granted can be absent from the lives of many of our youth."
Sometimes we are surprised by how many challenges the youth are up against. The simple luxuries, and even basic necessities, we take for granted can be absent from the lives of many of our youth. Some of them do not have hot water in their homes, or access to clean clothing, or sufficient food, even. It is not too far fetched to assume that the meals provided during program hours are the first hot meals our students eat that day.
Between our regular program night which offers fellowship and a meal, and the extra night which provides tutoring, we meet some of the felt needs of the youth. In addition we also have one-on-one meetings that offer youth mentorship and guidance during difficult days. In an effort to provide balance to the work we do, we also take youth on outings. We have gone to the skating rink, to a basketball game, and to a restaurant for a meal. This kind of exposure is crucial, as many of our students do not often leave the boundaries of East Palo Alto. Knowing what is beyond these city walls can open up endless possibilities for their future, even as problems at home feel overwhelming.
Last fall, Maria,* one of our students was tormented by the possible divorce of her parents, which ultimately led to episodes of depression and self-mutilation. After speaking with the academic dean at her school, it was no surprise for us to find she had been failing or barely passing every one of her classes. After learning that, another Fellow who knew Maria well began spending more one-on-one time with her outside of program, taking a special interest in her life. While we all have taken it upon ourselves to be intentional about forming relationships with students outside program hours, this tough season in the life of one child made the relational aspect of what we do much more critical. Though not all stories lead to a happy ending, this one did. By God’s unwavering grace Maria’s parents worked out their differences. As a result, she stopped self-mutilating. Praise God!
"During program, we laugh and play, learn about Jesus, and focus our attention mainly on being present. So sometimes it escapes us that those same jovial spirits are also subject to much anguish, pain and suffering."
It is easy at times to forget what our youth struggle with in their home lives. During program, we laugh and play, learn about Jesus, and focus our attention mainly on being present. So sometimes it escapes us that those same jovial spirits are also subject to much anguish, pain and suffering. Aside from funding, our deepest need is prayer. At BCM, we are firm believers that prayer changes things, and we have all been witnesses to His mercy.
On behalf of BCM, I would like to ask that you pray for our StreetWorkz youth. Pray for our new academic program and those who struggle to understand their homework. Pray for our youth (and their peers at school) who do not have basic needs met. Also, please pray for our youth who are experiencing troubles in their home lives as well as for those who do not have a healthy outlet for their stress. Pray that God continues to work through us as vessels and servant leaders. Pray for strength, confidence to lead, and direction by the Holy Spirit as we stand as examples of Christ’s love to youth as well as other members of our community.
As you continue on this journey with us and our students, please pray without ceasing. Keep us in your hearts and minds as we minister to the children of East Palo Alto.
With heartfelt thanks,