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.

 

 

3 New Staff Members

We are pleased to introduce our three newest staff members who we welcomed into the BCM family this Fall!  Cassie Tundag has joined us as our Director of Ministries and we have two new EPA Fellows, Alyssa Lorenzo and Kristofer Smiley, who will be serving within our middle school programs.  We hope you enjoy learning a little about each of them and we look forward to a new year of ministry together.

Cassie Tundag

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Cassie is excited to join the staff of BCM as the new Director of Ministries.  Cassie has spent 10 years in vocational ministry in various capacities, the most recent being an associate pastor at a church in Dublin, CA.  She is also a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God.

Cassie left her hometown in rural Southern Idaho to attend Northwest University in Kirkland, WA, and graduated with a BA in Psychology. She has had the opportunity to travel and serve people in various places and stages of life. She has worked with teenagers, college students, and adults of all ages. She has traveled to New Orleans, Mexico, Israel, El Salvador, Philippines and Hollywood on mission trips. Cassie is engaged to be married in December to a wonderful man who is a middle school music teacher. She looks forward to serving the community of East Palo Alto and our families.

Alyssa Lorenzo

Alyssa is originally from Austin, Texas, but going on 5 years now, the Bay Area has become a new home. In June 2015, Alyssa graduated with a Bachelors in Medical Anthropology from Stanford University, which fuels her interest in and heart for relational work and holistic healing. She first heard about BCM through a Christian fellowship on campus and was encouraged by BCM's community oriented vision and Christ-centered work. Alyssa loves working and growing as part of the genuine and joyful BCM family and is looking forward to what's to come.  Alyssa is serving as an EPA Fellow in our middle school programs. 

 

 

Kris Smiley

Kris was born in California and raised in the Middle East. Having accrued a significant amount of personal experience in healthcare and missional settings he completed high school in Sunnyvale in 2006, and a BA in politics from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, in 2010. Post-graduation, Kris first volunteered at BCM through through an internship with his church, Highway Community. His experiences and time spent at BCM as well as a number of other non-profit ministries in East Palo Alto led him to begin his seminary degree at Fuller Theological Seminary (which continues to this day!). His heart for BCM is intimately rooted in a passionate, near obsessive, curiosity for what the Lord is doing among the youth in the Bay Area. Kris loves to read, drink tea, pray, sing and make good company laugh.

A Glimpse into Summer Programs

BCM will provide three distinct summer programs for community youth this year. Read on to find out about KidSmart Bridge, CREATE Academy and Summer Bible Club Outreach.

KidSmart Bridge

Photo by Alex Vakulin

Photo by Alex Vakulin

KidSmart Summer Bridge is a three-week extension of KidSmart for a select group of 10-15 students to help them engage in academics and hone skills needed for the next grade level. This program is running June 8-25 this year.

CREATE Academy

Photo by Steve Joh

Photo by Steve Joh

CREATE Academy will run from June 29 through July 24. Each day 6th-8th graders will be exposed to mathematics, technology and art instruction in order to strengthen their critical thinking and mathematics skills as well as grow their confidence in preparation for future opportunities in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics) programs and careers. Morning mathematics courses will give way to hands-on afternoon art, robotics and game-design workshops. Book-ending this program, partner organization RYAA will provide morning and afternoon character-building and sports sessions.

We serve the students a nutritious lunch every day. If you would like to contribute snacks or lunch, or help serve it to the students, email Holly Meyer at holly@bayshore.org. Check the lunch schedule here to see what dates are still available.

Summer Bible Club Outreach

Photo by Steve Joh

Photo by Steve Joh

Summer Bible Club Outreach (SBCO) is a vacation bible school-like program held throughout the local community for six weeks. We hire local interns to bring the Gospel to students throughout the community, under the supervision of Program Manager, Tammy. During SBCO children learn Bible lessons, eat healthy lunches, sing songs, and play sports. Ultimately, students learn what it means to follow Christ. 

Ways to get involved:

-Come for a visit and see the programs for yourself! 
-Make a lunch, sponsor a lunch, or donate snacks like fruit or crackers.
-Assist in a math classroom 10 am-12 pm or a tech or art classroom 1-4 pm daily or weekly.
-Demonstrate a cool technology gadget or science experiment for our students during lunch one day.
-Sponsor a child to attend CREATE Academy.

Email holly@bayshore.org to lend a hand.

Inspiring Incarnational Ministry

An Interview with Selina Cardoza Martinez


Selina has been volunteering in East Palo Alto since she graduated from Stanford with a master's in engineering. She has been at BCM, working with high school youth in the LEAD program for the past several years. As she prepares to move out of state, we celebrate her journey with us and the many contributions she has made. Read on to discover her story and how the youth in East Palo Alto have become an intricate part of her life here.

After graduating from Stanford University, why did you decide to move into East Palo Alto?

I was a part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Stanford University, where I really discovered God’s heart for justice. I became aware of the juxtaposition of a wealthy, highly educated city and its neglected, looked-down-upon neighbor. After college, a group of us decided we wanted to partner with an organization doing incarnational ministry – living in the same place as the people we were serving so that we might gain an intimate knowledge of the issues they are facing. We joined an organization called the Family Center on O’Keefe Street where we lead after school programs. I fell in love with the community.
 

Selina facilitates a group discussion among high school students during LEAD, a BCM youth program.          Photo by: JT Faraji

Selina facilitates a group discussion among high school students during LEAD, a BCM youth program.          Photo by: JT Faraji

How long have you been at BCM and how did you first get involved?

I had always heard great things about Bayshore Christian Ministries. In 2011, founders of the Family Center had to leave East Palo Alto for personal reasons. They worked with BCM to ensure the youth in the area would continue to have a place to go for tutoring and bible club. BCM kindly took us under their wings. I had a passion for high school ministry and we had some youth that were just getting into high school, so I decided to volunteer with the LEAD Program at BCM.

 

What programs have you worked with in your time at BCM?  Is there a story that sticks out? 

I have volunteered with LEAD and the Technovation Challenge. One thing that broke my heart was when Jesse shared a story about a woman he saw late at night waiting at a bus stop. He talked to her and discovered she needed to get to San Francisco to stay at a safe house, protecting her from domestic violence. Jesse asked the group if anyone had seen or experienced it themselves and just about every single kid raised their hands. I remember grieving that night. Moments like that can be overwhelming. However, God used it to open my heart. It’s something I go to whenever we’re having a rough day; when the kids at LEAD aren’t paying attention or are acting out. It has humbled me to realize I have no idea what they’re going through, but I can choose to love them where they are. Sometimes, this means I need to give them boundaries and make sure they follow rules. Other times, I am called to teach them about God’s grace.  

 

You've been mentoring a young woman named Vanessa. Tell us about that relationship--from when you first met until now, going on a college tour with her.

It felt like a sense of closure taking Vanessa on a college tour as I am getting ready to move away. Vanessa is this bright young woman. She is silly, funny and smart. I worked with her as part of the Technovation Challenge – a twelve week program where a group of four girls worked on developing a phone app that helps the community. The team placed top five in the Bay Area and top twenty worldwide. They wanted to continue to learn more about programming, so Sarah, their tech mentor, and I worked with them the past couple of years. This summer, they are going to be web programming interns at LinkedIn!

Selina with one of the young women she mentors.

Selina with one of the young women she mentors.

What's something you've learned or experienced in your time at BCM that you'll always take with you?

I think the biggest thing I am going to take away is how fulfilling volunteering has been. You think you’re going to come in and change people’s lives, but it was my own life that changed. Each week, I was reminded of the realities and struggles that people face, and of what really matters in life. Every person left a lasting impression on me, and to be able to see the growth of many of these youth was really something special. It was a privilege to be a part of God’s work in East Palo Alto.

 

As you move out of EPA and away from BCM, what is on your heart to pray for the most?

I hope that the students will continue to turn to God and to not let the struggles and disappointments that they face lead them away from him. I pray that they would realize how beautifully and wonderfully they are made, and that they would discover and use their gifts to further God’s kingdom. My biggest hope is that in 10 to 20 years they will be leaders in their communities, sharing the same messages about love, grace, and hope for the future that I tried to share with them.

BCM, and the LEAD program in particular, are going through a transition right now. I pray for the students who are currently in the program; that they would not be tempted or revert to the lives they were living before being a part of LEAD. I pray for the volunteers who are trying to bridge the gap and operating the program on their own. May they seek wisdom in discerning whether to continue with the program, and if so that they may not burn out or become overwhelmed with leading.

Stories from After School

A Reflection by Diana Liggs, KidSmart Program Manager

KidSmart is BCM’s afterschool program which helps students develop a positive attitude toward school and learning.  KidSmart also provides an opportunity for students to experience academic success.  This is accomplished by providing an environment in which students develop more positive self-esteem through consistent encouragement.  When we think back on KidSmart this past year, a couple of students stick out.

Photo by Emily Scott

Photo by Emily Scott

Owen

Owen* is a third grader who attends Brentwood Academy.  The areas Owen needed to work on when he started attending KidSmart were reading comprehension and memorizing multiplication tables.  At the beginning of the year Owen struggled to stay focused and motivated. We spoke to his teacher who informed us that he was having the same problems at school.  We also spoke to Owen's mother about his KidSmart attendance—which was dwindling—and informed her that if his attendance didn't improve we'd have to drop him from the program. After all, how could we help Owen if he didn’t attend, especially when there were other kids on a waiting list who needed help too?

After that check-in Owen's attendance improved, but he still did not want to do homework, read or practice math facts.  He actually fell asleep a couple of times while reading.  Again, we contacted Owen's parents. This time we talked about the importance of getting him to bed early.  Since then, he hasn't fallen asleep!  Around the same time, we also checked in with Owen’s teacher.  The teacher decided to set daily goals for Owen and asked that we check in with him too.  This partnership between us and his teacher helps keep Owen accountable, and ultimately it helps him be a successful student.      

Since February Owen's attitude has improved and he's doing much better.  He is much more focused and motivated, and he has a desire to learn.  When he encounters a new concept, Owen asks questions until he understands what is being taught.  His teacher said that he has moved up a few levels in reading and agrees that he is much more focused. During KidSmart, Owen reads every day for 30 minutes (without falling asleep!) and answers questions based on what he read. His reading comprehension has improved and he actually enjoys reading especially with his tutors.  His math skills are improving too.  He practices his multiplication facts daily and is currently working on his 8's.  At the rate he's going he should know his facts up to 12 by the end of the school year. 

Owen is enthusiastic about learning and is proud to share his scores on tests and grades with his KidSmart classroom intern and the KidSmart manager.  Most recently, Owen was excited to tell us he received a school award for "Most Effort."  We’re so proud of Owen!

 

Photo by Dwayne Johnson Photography

Photo by Dwayne Johnson Photography

Danny

Danny* is a 6th grader.  His biggest issues at the beginning of the year were attitude and organization.  He just didn't want to be at KidSmart, and on top of that, he didn't think he needed the help.  He was unorganized, forgetting to complete and turn in assignments, and generally had a negative attitude toward school and learning.  Sometimes he outright refused to do his homework. 

Now, his attitude is much better and he gets his homework done without too much complaint. (Do 6th grade boys ever do much of anything without complaining!?!).  He seems genuinely pleased when he completes his homework and gets it correct.  Danny's grades have improved and he brings in his test scores and shows them off with pride. 

There are several things that helped create this attitude shift.  By mid-year he was doing poorly in all his classes.  He and his parents were called in to a meeting with the school counselor.  For a short time he attended the school study hall, but said that they really didn't help him with his homework.  He did not want to attend study hall.  So, the KidSmart Manager and the Director of Ministries met with Danny.  They told him if his attitude didn't improve he would have to attend his school study hall instead of KidSmart.  During Danny’s renewed attempt at KidSmart, his tutors also became more familiar with him, learning how to help him—when to challenge him and when to back off.  Maybe the most important thing is that this process was surrounded by a healthy dose of prayer.

Most of Danny's teachers give him a list of assignments for the week.  His tutors help him plan out his studies and complete his assignments, as well as study for upcoming tests.  He usually completes most of his homework.  It was so rewarding to see this turn around in Danny’s life.

KidSmart student successes are due to the consistent encouragement of our dedicated team of interns and volunteers.  The learning experience for each student is enhanced by maintaining an ongoing dialogue with each student's teacher and parent(s).

*Name changed.    

A Farewell Letter from Pastor Bennett

Dear BCM Family,

Over the past few years, we have enjoyed a fruitful season at BCM serving hundreds of children and youth from our community. It has been a pleasure to work alongside many dedicated and faithful colleagues. I would like to take this opportunity to share about an important transition for one of those colleagues. Pastor Bennett, our Director of Ministries, will be leaving BCM at the end of the school year to focus on a new ministerial direction. Below, you will find a letter in which he shares his vision for this future work as he continues to build God’s Kingdom in the East Bay.

Join us in celebrating his leadership and contributions to our work at a Farewell BBQ on May 21st. The event will be at BCM from 5pm to 7pm; dinner will be provided.  

Please lift BCM in your prayers as we interview candidates for this position and as God prepares our ministry for a new, creative and productive season!

Blessings,

Rolando Zeledon
Executive Director

 

A Letter from Pastor Bennett

Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
Proverbs 30: 7-9

To my BCM Family,

It has been a great pleasure and privilege to work with and alongside you all for the past five and a half years. I truly believe that we have impacted the lives of many students and families together as we served this community for God’s Kingdom. Over the past two years I have been sensing and feeling a shift in my ministerial calling toward the adult community. I have served at-risk youth and young adults for the past twenty five years, and through my service I could not help but notice the lack of programs that cater to the whole family. I realized in order to reunite and strengthen broken families, the parent community must be aided through exposure to the Gospel as well as professional opportunities.

In my past thirty years of ministry I have noticed an alarming amount of men and women struggling to get re-established in society because of mistakes made in their past. While serving those in low-income, urban communities, I have learned that poverty and a lack of resources contributes to the bad choices some adults make. Namely drug use, drug sales and criminal acts are primary temptations. Proverbs 30:7-9 has truly opened my eyes to the course that nature will take if divine intervention does not steer us away from evil and lead us into righteousness. When we* first began this journey of urban ministry the great earthly proverb was fervently planted in me: “If you give a man a fish he can only eat for the day, but if you teach a man how to fish he can eat for a lifetime.”

Well the honorable Dr. Perkins, who established the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), visited East Palo Alto and shared that every man cannot fish in the same pond. He encouraged many urban workers to strive to become “Pond Owners” so that we could make a greater impact within the urban communities we serve. With that said, the time has come for me to become a “Pond Owner” so that while I am fervently preaching the Gospel I can also provide more employment opportunities for adults whose lives have been drastically affected by poverty and a lack of resources. Please pray for us as we launch JPS Café—Just Potato Salad Café—and much, much more. We will also continue work on our CRADIL Program. Our goal is to establish a chain of JPS Café’s across many urban communities as well as the CRADIL Program after our first year. We endeavor to hire 100 men besides women and teenagers in the next 5 years. As always our thoughts, prayers, and support will forever continue with Bayshore Christian Ministries.

Blessings,

Pastor Bennett

Editor's Note: At times, Pastor Bennett uses the words “we,” "us" and “our” to refer to he and God—seeing his ministry as co-work with God. 

 

Thank you, Pastor Bennett, for your many years of service to our community!

A Parent's Perspective

A reflection by Angela Luke.

Over the last few years, Bayshore Christian Ministries (BCM),  has been much like a family to my twin daughters Nia and Jordyn, and it truly has been a blessing. From attending KidSmart, an after-school program, four days a week, my daughters have improved academically, especially in math. BCM has thoughtful, caring tutors to help assist them with their homework.

During another program, StreetWorkz, they have learned to be more outspoken and independent young people. My family and I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child, and I am thankful my daughters have had the opportunity to be a part of the BCM family and community. 

Rays_of_Hope.jpg
My family and I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child, and I am thankful my daughters have had the opportunity to be a part of the BCM family and community.

The skills they have learned have definitely made an enormous impact on my daughters' lives. I remember the year 2012 when they attended the summer program, SAIL, and how excited they were. At the end of the summer program they had a celebration like a banquet. All the kids showed their talents. They sang songs they learned, performed step routines, and shared spoken word poetry. My daughters faces were filled with joy over what they had accomplished. And, at that moment I noticed how important BCM is to the children on the East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park community. 

I want to personally say thank you for all you do. I am truly grateful. 

Let's Get Uncomfortable

A blog by Stefie Dominguez, EPA Fellow

In this day and age, being an EPA Fellow for two years in a row seems like a crazy idea. Societal norms usually dictate that I should be squirreling away money or climbing up some corporate ladder while I’m still in my 20’s. Apparently choosing to spend my first two years out of college working at a place like Bayshore Christian Ministries with the kids we serve is an anomaly. It’s not something that leads to a life of comfort. I didn’t know that when I signed up, but I know that now. The number one thing I have learned while living in East Palo Alto and serving as an EPA Fellow, is that fear and stigma have paralyzed some of us Christians from actually making a difference in the world. It is easy to love justice and compassion—until there’s a personal cost.

Stefie joins another staff member's children outside of BCM as together they celebrate BCM programs coming to a close.

Stefie joins another staff member's children outside of BCM as together they celebrate BCM programs coming to a close.

"It is easy to love justice and compassion--until there's a personal cost."

The streets of East Palo Alto (EPA) were once known for violence, the memory of which can keep many people away. Through the EPA Fellows program, I have intentionally stepped out of my comfort zone to live and work in EPA. Here, my eyes have been opened to many systemic injustices. I’ve learned about how badly broken our education system is. I’ve learned about immigration policies that directly affect the families I interact with. And, I’ve learned about the issue of mass incarceration—a problem that doesn’t seem to be going away in America. These injustices are an astonishingly real part of daily life for our residents. Even so, confronting these topics is not always comfortable. But, where in Scripture does God call us to live in comfort? If we claim to be Jesus followers, then we need to look at how He lived His life and follow what He was about. When I look at stories of Jesus in Scripture, I see someone who spent his young adult years radically reaching out to, and walking alongside, people who were different than Him. I see someone who stood up and advocated for the marginalized. I see a social anomaly.

"When I look at stories of Jesus in Scripture, I see someone who spent his young adult years radically reaching out to, and walking alongside, people who were different than Him. "

Stefie, filling the role of Camp Director, stands alongside two interns from the Tech & Arts Camp during summer 2014.

Stefie, filling the role of Camp Director, stands alongside two interns from the Tech & Arts Camp during summer 2014.

In spite of fear and stigma that we may face as we enter into communities so affected by injustice, Jesus calls us to a life of service. He is our Protector after all!

Reflecting back on these past two years as an EPA Fellow, I realize that my life goals have changed from what they once were. I learned how to live with my eyes more open. I now recognize the value of confronting the wrong in our nation, and doing something about it. Comfortable Christianity seems to be an epidemic spreading through some American churches, and it is my (new) goal in life to never be infected by it. Will you join me in this mission, even if we have to get a little uncomfortable?

Editors Note: We are proud to announce Stefie's time in East Palo Alto with Bayshore Christian Ministries is not over. She will return this fall in the staff position of Middle School Program Manager.

Tutoring to Give Hope and a Future

A blog by Margaret Kazibwe, EPA Fellow.

The mission of BCM is to equip East-of-Bayshore youth to grow spiritually, gain life skills and develop as leaders so they have hope and a future.

When I read that, I think about my role as the StreetWorkz Coordinator and ask myself, “Margaret, are you doing this well?” This mission, which fits into one short sentence, comes with a lot of responsibility. 

Youth gather while on retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Youth gather while on retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

As I reflect on my students over this past year, I see their most evident need is to develop as leaders so they have a hope and a future. The word hope continuously grabs my attention. Some synonyms for the word hope are aspiration, desire, aim, goal and plan.

I want my students to be motivated to become more than they believe they can be and to make big plans for their futures. I want to help them realize they have potential beyond what they have been told and beyond what they have seen in themselves so far.

This fall, BCM implemented an academic tutoring program for the middle school students we serve in StreetWorkz. We realized the lesson of our founders—that academic help is just as important. In much of Jesus’s ministry we not only see spiritual healing, but physical healing as well. In Matthew 9 Jesus heals a paralyzed man and also tells him to go because his sins have been forgiven. His ministry was holistic not just focusing on the spiritual aspect of forgiving sins, but also the physical aspect of healing the body. So because BCM is a holistic ministry, we want to enhance them spiritually as well as academically. We care for the person as a whole; mind, body and soul. For many different reasons, some of our students are struggling academically. Because of this struggle they tend not to care about school all together.

What they do not realize is education is important because it gives us knowledge of the world around us. It helps us develop opinions and a worldview. Education helps us better interpret information as we apply it to our daily lives. In a spiritual context, education helps us understand the context of scripture and how to apply it to everyday life. This is what makes the educational disparity in our community so saddening. Did you know only 24 percent of high school students of color in the Silicon Valley graduate ready for college? This is according to a report by Aspire Public Schools. In East Palo Alto, the high school dropout rate is estimated to be over 60 percent. And, the Ravenswood City School District scored 712 on the Academic Performance Index, which falls short of the 800 statewide target. That is why adding the academic tutoring component to our middle school programming is important. We want to give youth more opportunities to grow, to be challenged and to be encouraged as they gain knowledge. Since adding the academic tutoring component to our program we have begun to see hope unfold and growth occur.

 We have only provided tutoring for a few months, but I already see a difference—especially in attitude—in some of the students who come to the program.

Sydney shares words of wisdom to a youth while she completes her art homework.

Sydney shares words of wisdom to a youth while she completes her art homework.

One day recently, I was helping one of our students with her math homework. She came in last week and told me she did well on the assignment. I told her afterward how proud I was of her and gave her a high five for getting all the problems correct. As she received my praise, her face lit up. She excitedly told me since school started back from Christmas break, her grades have gone up. I am overjoyed to see her understand something or have a huge smile on her face because I believe in her.

I want the students of StreetWorkz to leave from the tutoring and program nights feeling like they can do whatever they set their mind to. I want them to know that someone has confidence in them, even while they are still facing challenges.

BCM’s mission comes with a huge responsibility, but I believe through StreetWorkz we are making progress as we little-by-little develop leaders so they have hope and a future.

Pray Without Ceasing

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.

EPA Fellow Briana, works with a youth to prepare the StreetWorkz fellowship meal.

EPA Fellow Briana, works with a youth to prepare the StreetWorkz fellowship meal.

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."

Margaret and a youth pause as they get ready to go on retreat.

Margaret and a youth pause as they get ready to go on retreat.

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."

This youth meets with Sydney as she completes art homework.

This youth meets with Sydney as she completes art homework.

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,

Sydney Brown
EPA Fellow

*Name changed.

Seasons Change

A reflection by Tammy Slaughter.

Season: 1. one of the four periods of the year (spring, summer, autumn and winter). 2. a period of the year when something is best or available  Dictionary.com

Change: 1. to make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of something different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone  Dictionary.com

We all have seasons in our lives, and depending on where we are and our perspective, we will determine whether each season requires some kind of change.

A student takes a break between homework and singing at Bible Club on the West Side.

A student takes a break between homework and singing at Bible Club on the West Side.

Julian* has been attending Bible Club Plus** off and on for about three years now. He loves to fellowship and have dinner with us, but it is difficult to establish a relationship with him. Additionally, he doesn't seem to fully understand the parameters and disciplines that come with attending Bible Club Plus. For example, he doesn't often have homework, so he wants to socialize throughout group, disrupting other students. Whether speaking loudly and out of turn, or hitting the boys and teasing the girls, Julian can be pretty disruptive.

Juanita* on the other hand is pretty quiet. She likes to hide away in the midst of the students. One day, 6 year-old Juanita was asked to share one thing she likes about herself. She said her [plaited] hair. The boys laughed. She shut down.

Another student Abigail*, needs a place where she can be free to sing and express her feelings. She’s 10 yrs old but at this age is already whispering to me about women, marriage and raising a family.

Each of these students is lively and vibrant and need to be able to express themselves without the fear of being ridiculed. They need separate clubs—one for boys and one for girls. Two clubs, one night. With the assistance of a new Bible Club leader this year, we've been able to provide a venue where the boys are able to be boys and the girls are able to be girls.

Julian has been joining groups a bit more often. One day he worked so quietly within the group, I could not stop affirming him. He was so happy, he reminded me on a number of occasions to share the news with Steve—the club leader—who would arrive a bit later. Across the street, eight girls including Juanita and Abigail would freely dance and sing to praise and worship music. Later, they’d write in their journals about how they believe God sees them. Their views are different and interesting.

A young boy receives homework help from volunteer, Jordan, during bible club plus.

A young boy receives homework help from volunteer, Jordan, during bible club plus.

There are many areas where we desire to grow and change. And the changes, although challenging to some degree, have been great! I can see where Pastor Les, Steve, Stefie, the kids and I are being challenged and stretched.

We hope this process will help us to understand these youth better, and aid in developing curriculum that more closely relates to them.

Would you please pray for us during this season of change?

* Students names have been changed 

**Bible Club Plus is tailored to meet both the spiritual and physical (or felt) needs of students in 1st-5th grade. We hope to build positive character traits based on Biblical principals while introducing students to the gospel of Christ. We also provide a healthy and nutritious meal and snacks and seek ways to increase family involvement. Additionally, students meet twice a week to receive homework support. 

Volunteers Make BCM Programs Go!

All of BCM's school year programs are back in full swing this new year! We have lots of great kids involved, but are short on volunteers. Have you ever thought about volunteering? Here's where we need the help:

StreetWorkz is our middle school spiritual program. We have about 24 kids coming every Thursday evening for dinner, games, and a Bible lesson. Our 2 leaders, the EPA Fellows Margaret and Sydney, need help with dinner prep, as well as the facilitation of games and lessons.

Photo by Federica Armstrong

Photo by Federica Armstrong

KidSmart is our after school academic program for elementary school students. We need volunteers to provide homework help, do skill-building work, or read one-on-one with the students on Monday-Thursday afternoons.

Our group of about 45 students are split into 5 classrooms that are each supervised by interns. These wonderful and hardworking interns need the support of volunteers in order to help each child in their class. 

Photo by Alex Vakulin

Photo by Alex Vakulin

We have lots of sweet and silly students in KidSmart that need the homework help and attention of caring adults to help them thrive as they navigate elementary school and the beginning of middle school.

Photo by Alex Vakulin

Photo by Alex Vakulin

Would you like to visit and try it out? Email volunteer@bayshore.org or call(650) 327-9941 to get in contact with Holly Meyer, the Coordinator of Volunteers.

Have you met Christian?

Does Siri function as your personal assistant? Did you know BCM doesn’t use Siri? We have someone better, and his name is Christian. Christian, our front desk receptionist, came to BCM nine months ago and greets our students, parents and visitors everyday with a warm, gentle smile. Since starting, he has gone above and beyond the expectations of his job; he answers requests of program staff to fulfill small and large tasks, works as an adjunct program manager for the Lego robotics team, and is often the last staff member to leave the building, ensuring the safety of the students and staff. Needless to say, Christian has become an invaluable asset to the team. 

Christian is motivated by the diversity and experience of the staff, interns and volunteers here at BCM. Having an interest in child advocacy and education, he sees BCM as a passage toward his future career in teaching. According to Christian, BCM is a place where he can converse with people from all walks of life: "I can talk with Ms. Diana who has experience in accounting. I can knock on Rolando’s door; he is a Stanford Alumni. I can kick it with the EPA Fellows who are my own age. I have access to a wealth of knowledge."

 Having moved to East Palo Alto in 2010, leaving his parents to live with his sister as he finished high school, Christian longs to be reunited with his parents and prays that the strains of life aren't too heavy for his family to bear. In the future, Christian dreams of giving back to the students in East Palo Alto, the city that renewed his hope and inspired his goals.

Join us as we pray for Christian, thanking God for his commitment to BCM, and lifting up his family while he is away from them.

 

I can talk with Ms. Diana who has experience in accounting. I can knock on Rolando’s door; he is a Stanford Alumni. I can kick it with the EPA Fellows who are my own age. I have access to a wealth of knowledge.
— Christian

A Triumph After All

An interview by Briana Carter

 I sat down with staff members and volunteers of KidSmart, our after-school tutoring program, to discuss their journey, the growth of KidSmart, and the unspoken truths about working with urban students.

 What is your role in KidSmart?

Diana: As the manager of KidSmart I create an open relationship with teachers. And, you could say I’m the “middle man,” like the liaison between teachers and parents.

Ed: I’m a ‘room leader.’ I tutor 3rd and 4th grade students.

Waniya: I’m a tutor that helps with every subject, but specifically I tutor twelve 3rd -5th graders in math facts, reading, writing and spelling.

Ada: I help in Waniya’s classroom; I do homework help and one-on-one reading with 3rd-5th graders.


 When you first started interning with KidSmart, what made you nervous?

Ed: I don’t have children of my own so I was nervous about discipline. I wasn’t sure what I should or should not say. I think not knowing how I would respond to the students’ behaviors was huge in the beginning. Funny, it sometimes still is, but I have Diana - she’s a huge help!

Ada: I would agree; the student’s behavior.

Waniya: For me I did not know if I would know the answers to their homework questions. I have definitely had some difficult questions that caused me to learn the subject again and then explain it to them.


  Working with students you learn a lot. What did you not know year 1 that you know now?

Diana: I didn’t realize how advanced the education system/curriculum was. I guess I hadn’t been paying attention once my children were finished with their schooling. I seriously learn so much from the students.

 Ada: It didn’t initially register with me that any student, no matter race or socio-economic background, when receiving one-on-one attention, will thrive. I’ve seen that be true time and time again at BCM.

 Ed: I didn’t think about family background and family structure dynamics and what implications this would have on a students ability to learn, behave, and interact among their peers.

Waniya: Now that I’m three years in the game I know how to deal with difficult students -- and when I say difficult, I mean a student that doesn’t want to receive help. I have a tough shell now-- I’ve learned how not to take offense.


Photo by Federica Armstrong 

Photo by Federica Armstrong 

 Since KidSmart has on average 40-50 students each year, it is safe to say you deal with a variety of students each year. I presume you’ve had a wide range of success as well. But have you had any failures?

Diana: Unfortunately, yes. But I’ve realized that I can’t save all my students. Some of my students have outside barriers that are beyond my limit of control. I also have limited expertise, and I’ve learned to be okay with that.

Waniya: Yeah, last year I wanted a student to know their multiplication table 1-12 by heart. I worked super hard with the student, but the student was indifferent about knowing them fluently. As the year came to a close, I realized I was not going to reach my goal, but I was still happy that the student knew 1-4 by heart. I guess you lose some and win some.

Ada: I had a student who I just couldn’t get through to. It appeared the ability was there, but role models outside of KidSmart were a bad influence. The student didn’t even complete KidSmart, which was a bummer.

Ed: I can’t really think of any right now.

Photo by Federica armstrong 

Photo by Federica armstrong 


 Now that you’ve been working with BCM for a few years, what has changed?

Ada: A lot! Diana has done an incredible job of streamlining the program. The necessary resources and supplies are readily available. And Diana has brought order and consistency in understanding the reading scores and levels of each student.


 So would it be safe to say, as the years go by the job gets easier?

Waniya: It does most definitely.  You start to see repeating situations, so you just know how to handle it. I think learning how students will react is a big advantage that definitely makes the job easier, especially those students who continue to come year after year. Developing relationships with students makes the job a lot easier.

 Ed: One-on-one is a lot easier now, but having to juggle nine kids is definitely a challenge.

 Ada: Yes, especially when kids return because you build an understanding with them.

Diana: It’s not easy and your heart has to definitely be in it. I would say its easier being as I now know what I’m doing.


 After the interview, I took a moment to reflect on the impact these four individuals have had on their students. These are ordinary people like you and I who want to see students receive a preeminent education. Each year we get new volunteers, but I’m always amazed by the volunteers that come back year after year. It’s so refreshing to hear them say things like, “I look forward to coming back each year.” Volunteer and staff  have celebrated times of success and persevered through times of failure, making KidSmart an epicenter of educational growth and learning. Our children deserve the best education possible and I am so proud to be a part of an organization whose vision is to see our youth graduate from school and emerge as leaders in their community.


    From left to right: Diana, Waniya, Ada, Ed