My introduction to BCM was during my senior year of college. I spent my spring break in East Palo Alto volunteering at BCM alongside a group of classmates. I truly had no idea that this one week had anything to do with my future, but by the time I graduated from college I had applied for and accepted a role as a Fellow at BCM. After the Fellowship, I joined BCM’s staff as the Program Manager for Streetworkz, the middle school spiritual program. Within that first year, my students and the beautiful EPA community had convinced me that I had found my new home.
God has done so much in my life through my time at BCM. Some of the things that I now consider my core values and passions began as seeds that were planted and watered at BCM: a commitment to social justice and taking action against systemic racism, education inequality, mass incarceration and harmful immigration policies. While it is overwhelming and heartbreaking to look at our communities and recognize the enormity of the world's brokenness, I’m grateful for the ways God has allowed me to learn how to pursue change. My sheltered, privileged, sanitized faith was forced to transform into a kind of faith that can face the real world and choose to take action in the midst of injustice.
I often have to remind myself that it’s not my job to worry about the results; it’s my job to love my students and trust God with the rest. But every once in a while I am given the gift of seeing results. During a particularly difficult time in her life, one of my students came to me to share her frustrations with some friends at school. Rosie* was upset that her friends were gossiping about her. She vented about the situation for several minutes and then let out a big sigh before saying, “I guess I shouldn’t want bad things for them. I should just let it go instead of getting revenge. Like how we talked about at Streetworkz...you know, forgiveness and being like Jesus.” Quite honestly, I was shocked! I was not expecting that level of self-reflection. I knew Rosie was dealing with a lot, and would not have blamed her for being angry or bitter towards her friends. Instead, I got a glimpse into what God was doing in her heart. And apparently she was actually paying attention at Streetworkz!
I have so many memories with students and staff at BCM. There are the fun events, the exciting moments in students’ lives, the silly games we get to play. But some of my favorite times with students are seemingly mundane ones. Over the years, I’ve spent many hours driving students to and from program or picking them up from school. Those drives were such sweet (and loud!) moments of everyday life and conversation. Students would jump in the car and tell me funny stories about school. I’d listen to them encourage each other in one sentence and teasingly insult one another in the next. Once a group of students said they wanted to buy a car for a homeless man that we passed on the street. And then 30 seconds later they were complaining about how much they hated their teacher. It was like a front row seat to the spectrum of humanity’s capacity for both generosity and selfishness, love and hate. All in the backseat of a minivan.
I think that’s one reason middle schoolers are awesome. As adults I think we often convince ourselves that we’ve matured beyond that awkward phase of insecurity, uncertainty, selfishness and silliness. But my students help me remember that none of us knows what’s going on, and yet we all have enormous capacity to love one another, if we let Jesus show us how.