Thursday, February 7, 2013

Get up and GROW.

The past 8 months, I have been striving to build genuine relationships with my neighbors. This road has been met with moments of joy, peace, frustration, and pain.

I now sit here, with 3 months left in the community fellows program. Hopeful for what comes next. A little anxious about how to get here. And thankful for the experiences good and bad that have occurred as I navigate what it means to provide a glimpse of God's kingdom to others through relationship.

The past 8 months have been leading up to this. I have been plowing. Planting seeds here and there. Now its time to water the plants. Now its time to care and cultivate.

I am reminded of the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:

The Parable of the Sower

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears,[a] let him hear.”

I know God is here. He has been in this neighborhood way before I moved here. He will be here long after I move on to wherever God has in store for me. I am just an instrument for his vision here in Bellflower. I have been sowing. My hope is that as the seeds I planted and relationships I have cultivated have landed on good soil. Soil that will help the seeds thrive and grow. 

Now it's go time. Yes, the past 8 months have been hard. I have made mistakes, I could have done things differently. But I will not live in the "Should-haves" and "could haves" I desire to take these lessons to the Lord to ask for a transformation and renewed hunger to finish strong and seek God's vision for the Cedar neighborhood. I desire to continue to invest in the relationships that I have and partner with my new friends to go out and seek neighborhood transformation through gospel relationships.

Lord. I pray that you will help me to be present. Right here. Right now. I am in this state of 'unknown.' You have called me and now it is my time to go. Go out. Grant me boldness. Help to not focus on the mistakes and short comings of the past. Give me a renewed sense of fire for this neighborhood. I pray for good soil.

You 'Grow' girl,

(I just haaaaad to throw in a pun here.)

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Realities of Living Incarnationally.

So there I sat. Frustration. Anger. Disappointment.

Who was I angry with? Why was I so frustrated? Where was this disappointment coming from?

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Christians in Community Development Association (CCDA) National Conference in Minneapolis. It was an amazing experience to connect with like-minded individuals and be inspired by the stories of transformation that was going on in local neighborhoods. To see God's hand working through people like me.

Coming back home. I began to assess my own neighborhood. Where was the transformation happening in my own neighborhood? Where were those life-giving relationships? Where was the interdependence?

To be honest. I can't see it. And this is where the trouble begins.

I began to compare myself to others. To the stories I heard of living incarnationally. From my perspective. I didn't have those relationships with my neighbors. Why wasn't I able to have these type of relationships? Did my neighbors not like me? Am I not good enough? I must not be equipped to do this work.

The feelings of inadequacy grew and grew.

Why am I here? Where is God in my neighborhood, and why isn't he using me?

It's a trap. And these questions are lies.

One of the things I struggle with is finding my own worth in my work, the approval and acceptance of others. I know and believe my identity is in Christ, but struggles are struggles and they creep up every once in awhile, especially in times like this. I am wrestling through this. But I have faith that God is working. Even when I can't see it. I must live by faith not by sight.

God is here, in the Ramona neighborhood. He has ALWAYS been here. And he will be here when I leave. His hand is working.  But he has put me here in this neighborhood during this particular season for a reason. I must have faith that he will use me, in his timing.

So how is God working?
The work that is being done is not outwardly. Its in my heart. God is showing me to live by faith. Not by sight.

He is transforming me and showing me that the relationships that I'm building take time. They have seasons. Times of abundance and times of drought. In the times of drought, where relationships are not so fruitful, it DOES NOT reflect my worth or my ability.

I am believing this is true.

I am learning to take ownership of my assets. As I think about my strengths and what I do well, I am good at developing and fostering growth with people through relationships. Getting to know their story, investing, walking alongside, learning from, and receiving from every relationship.  God has given me the ability to connect and relate to my neighbors. He is showing how to do this day by day.

Today, I took a long stroll around my neighborhood.

My walk way everyday.

One of my neighbors art studio. Bellflower is filled with such a wide array of people!

Sign for a local carniceria

Broken TV set in the empty parking lot next door.

Business along Clark Blvd.

The Artesian.

I made sure I took the time to soak up and allow myself to immerse myself in my neighborhood. The sights, sounds, people.

As I walked through the neighborhood, I kept seeing things like this:
All the vacant businesses alongside Belflower Blvd

All about me clothing. Another recently closed shop.

Lock. Stock, And barrel.

Business gone. Vacant signs at every corner. Even the business that were once booming with enthusiastic owners when I first moved in, now left in shambles, abandoned.


Those are the words I could hear God speaking to me. Loud and clear.

As I saw the run down buildings, empty, broken glass, abandoned. I began to think of how this reflected my neighborhood.

In conversations with my Bellflower neighbors, Bellflower was once the thriving little town. 

In recent times the economy has hit it hard, like it has in most surrounding communities. Business that once thrived, now left to nothing. Foreclosures are a daily occurrence.

Like the buildings. The people here, including myself are broken, empty, waiting for life to be breathed into it.  Searching for revival, a fire back in our bones.

I have been praying that God would reveal needs of my neighbors to me. How can I meet those needs? What are my own needs? Where is my own poverty?

Revival needs to happen here. And its going to happen. God is HERE! I have faith that he is going to do something BIG here. I don't know when and I don't know how. But again. By faith, not by sight

A revival is going to happen in my neighborhood, in my city. My prayer is that God will be seen, in the most unexpected ways. And I know somewhere in there, I and my fellow fellows are going to be a apart of it. Big or small. We are laying the foundations to a transformed Bellflower.

Revival is not only happening outwardly, its happening within me. God is helping me defeat the lies that i believe about myself. The lies of inadequacy and my disbelief in my heart. My worth is not in what I do. It is not in the quality of relationships that I build or what others think of me. It is in Christ. And Christ only. 

I falling in love my neighborhood.  I am falling in love with its unique quirks, the kookiness and I mourn with it in its brokenness but am joyful that God is here to bring comfort to his people in the midst of it. I feel at home. And that is a wonderful feeling. I desire to stick with it through thick and thin. God is here and moving. I feel it in my bones.

By faith, not by sight.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Tasting and Seeing...

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
-Psalm 34:8

I am definitely tasting and seeing what the Lord has done for me!

This past weekend I had a little shindig at my place to celebrate God's faithfulness in my life. Specifically my full-time gig at Olive Crest, an awesome non-profit that I seriously am falling in love with.

Today after I finished cleaning up the house after the party-tornado destroyed our living room (it literally took me 2 hours to clean up), I lied down, exhausted. And a thought came into my head. 'Lord you have been so, so faithful.'

Not just with this job, or this amazing opportunity to serve in my neighborhood. Someone could look at me and say 'Of course Rachel, you deserve this, you work hard, you genuinely care about others, etc.'

I am nothing. All that I have done and accomplished in my life is evidence of God's faithfulness in my life.

Overcome with emotion, I began to write in my handy dandy journal. While flipping through old entries I came across one dated September 11, 2011:

September 2011..

In this entry I was barely beginning to explore this call that I felt was put on my heart to minister to the poor. I had more questions than answers. I wanted to know 'why now?' 'am I really strong enough to do this?' "Do I follow this call?'

As I read this entry again, I see a common theme. Fear. I was fearful of how God was going to play this out in my life. How would he use me? Of course I was not strong enough to care for others. Why me? Why now? I was frustrated with the lack of clarity and direction.

But I also see that I desired to risk and explore this call on my heart to LIVE IT OUT. I didn't know how the hell I was gonna do it, but I was determined.

Fast forward one year. Here I am. Living and serving in my neighborhood. Being mentored and encouraged by like-minded individuals. Working closely with an amazing team to provide a glimpse of God's kingdom in our city. Gaining wisdom from colleagues who were once in my shoes, asking the same questions that I have. I'm learning more and more each day what it looks like to truly love my neighbor. With each up and down, I feel affirmed that this is the place where God wants me.

Sometimes I think. How did I get here?
Two words: Obedience and Faith. (An on going process that never ends! Yay for processes!)

Oh it seems so easy, but as I am still learning it is most definitely not.

So what does this look like in my life?
Trusting that God will provide the next steps. Relinquishing my fear and control and allowing him to do his work.

Easier said than done. In the past year alone, I see how God has turned my world upside down, right side up, and then back down again....calling me to risk and trust him, through joy and pain, heartache, and darkness. 

It has been a crazy year to say the least. He has provided in ways I have never imagined.
Some of those questions I asked a year ago are no longer questions, some have been clearly answered, some are in the process of being answered, and of course new questions have risen.

I will never have all the answers. But I finally feel like I am at a place where I can honestly say that it's perfectly okay I don't have the answers.

One step at a time. I am only responsible for what Lord chooses to reveal to me. I have to be diligent with it and trust that the Lord is lighting my way. He is my foundation.

As I think about the Lord's faithfulness in my life. I can't help but get excited to see where He has taken me. Through the valleys and mountains. Each experience, a new lesson learned, and most importantly my faith is renewed and strengthened. Always forward.

Basically God is the bees-knees.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Week 5: Spare Change.

Sundays. A time to relax and find rest.

The reality is Sundays is a day (for me at least) to catch up on chores, such as cleaning, gardening (or at least pretend to 'garden.), and LAUNDRY.

In our complex, we have a common laundry room, which runs on what else? Coins. Living in an age where practically no one carries change, I decided to take walk down the street to my local liquor store and get some coin-age.

Walking up to the door a voice calls out to me. A man about in his mid 40's. I can't really see him but I hear him.

'Spare change, ma'am?!' His voice weak and crackled.

I panicked.

I tried to make eye contact from a far and mumbled something about giving him change on the way out.

I didn't stop to think.

The past couple of weeks, my perspective on homelessness has changed dramatically.

We are so quick to help the homeless. Either out of guilt or fear. We give them the things we think they need. Food. Money. Clothes. Anything that will stop them from talking to us. 

When we give, it's so easy. We feel good about ourselves. We can check the 'good deed of the week' off our list. On the surface we are doing a good thing. We are called to help one another.

But go deeper.

We are feeding into a cycle of dependency. The homelessness become nothing more then receivers. We rob them of dignity. When we give, give, and give it sends the message the 'I am better than you, you have nothing to offer me.'

A unhealthy relationship forms based on who possesses power.

I am seeking to build relationships with the homeless. To discover the gifts and talents of those in my community and develop those things.

 'Pity weeps and walks away, compassion comes to help and stay.'

I no longer want to help out of pity or guilt, I desire to be compassionate and stay and invest in those around me.

It is so easy to give hand outs. But it takes true patience and compassion to stay and invest, and walk alongside those in poverty.

I am 'relocated.' I have committed to make Bellflower not only a place I live, but home. I desire to understand the problems that my neighbors face and begin to look for REAL solutions.

So now to get off my high horse. I bet you are all wondering what came next.

While inside, all my knowledge and new perspectives came flooding to me.

'No, Rachel don't be a fool. Buy him food and talk with him.'

And that's what I did.

So I approached the man. And as I got closer. I could see that his appearance was unkempt, but nothing of someone who was chronically homeless.

I felt like the wool was pulled over my eyes. I felt foolish. I swallowed my pride and began a conversation with him.

'So where are you staying?'

'I live in an apartment down the street.'

Disappointment and anger set in. Here I am trying to show love to a neighbor and this man isn't even homeless at all.

Out of frustration, I handed him a dollar and walked away, not even looking back.


Did I apply my new found knowledge to this situation. Did I handle it the 'right' way?


I let anger and frustration get the best of me. Instead of asking him why. I took the easy way out and fed into that cycle of dependency because in that moment, it was far more easier than asking him why he was out begging for money.

I think this shows that I am still learning. Even though I am learning so much about what it means to 'love my neighbor' I am still in the process of learning how to actually live it out in my words and actions.   


Heavenly Father, 

It is my prayer that I will live your truth out. To share in the sufferings and pains of others. To stay and invest in the lives of your children. May Bellflower become my community, my home. Help me to learn from my mistakes and forgive me of my foolishness, my pride, and my disobedience. Grant me feet, hands, and a swift tongue that is ready with the gospel. 

Will you banish the lies that the enemy feeds me, telling me that your good work is not possible. That I am not fit for this ministry. Will you help me to constantly see myself as your beloved. A child called to do your good work. May I feel your presence as I go out and engage with my community. Grant me boldness, use me for your kingdom.

Lastly, I pray for my neighbors. Will you be ever present in this place.


Thanks Friends! I promise I will update this more frequently. It's been hard to balance 3 jobs and a social life. But I guess this comes with being a grown up! :)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Week Two: Transition and Changes.

As I approach the end of my second week as a resident of Bellflower. I am realizing some things.

Transition is hard. (No brain-er)
I find myself having to adjust from not being a few minutes away from family. A new environment. Being the 'new kid on the block', feeling like a fish swimming against the current, etc. Pushing past the initial awkwardness and trying to slowly build relationships with my new neighbors. All this while trying to balance personal relationships and work (or lack there of).

This is MY community
About a week ago, I had the pleasure of doing Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) training with CityNet, another non-profit who are connected to KCB. The one thing that I took away from it is this:

'Community Development is not about doing it for people, its about doing it WITH people.'

So simple, yet it resonates deeply. I am learning to have ownership of my new community. These are my neighbors. And I am now a part of the process of being woven into it. This excites me. It motivates me.

I have been crazy busy. But I am excited to share that slowly but surely I am building relationships with my neighbors.

It has been difficult to make the first initial steps of saying hello and making small talk. If you know me well enough, you know that even though I am very people-oriented and thrive in environments with others, I initially am terribly nervous and a bit awkward when it comes to meeting new people. Some have told me this is endearing, but I fear they are wrong. :P

But once again I am reminded that this awkwardness is okay. It's another chance for me to rely on Christ for boldness!

I am reminded of when I was a RA at Biola. My palms would get so sweaty and my mouth would become so dry when I thought of approaching a new resident. But I overcame this fear in time and PUSHED myself.

When I look back at that experience I can't help but laugh and see how God pushed me to be bold.

Well here I am again. Palms sweaty. Mouth dry.

Who knows maybe I will look back and laugh at my nervousness once again!

Here's hoping!

 I do have an interesting story to share.

This past Saturday, I had the pleasure of volunteering with a local church that puts on a weekly breakfast for the local homeless community.

I have helped with these type of events in the past. But what made this so different was that instead of being in the background, serving the poor. I was sitting alongside them sharing a meal and sharing our lives together.

As I began to talk to people. The nervousness crept up. My insecurities in my own abilities to interact with people grew as I would hear of the stories of what life was really like on the street, the hopelessness and jadedness that was apparent in their words and faces.

I too began to feel discouraged and jaded. I did not know the words to respond to this.
I began to to think, 'This is so hard. Why am I here?' I am not equipped.'

I realized that I needed to shut up and ask God for strength. Turn off the negative voices and just LISTEN to the words and stop trying to come up with comforting words or whatever.

When I stopped and listened and allowed the spirit to work through me, things fell into place.

I had a amazing conversation with a man, about early 30's. It was strange, our conversation started with him asking me if I have ever gotten high. (Again, I do not know how it got there!), slowly from there we talked about his time in jail and then I found about his children and how he has had trouble finding work.

We talked for awhile before he left. And he left me with this:
'Will I see you next, week?'

You bet.


Pushing myself to be intentional with all the new people in my life. To not be discouraged by the awkwardness or the initial differences that we may have. To not let my insecurities (lies from the enemy!!) get in the way of loving others well. Be bold. Be confident.

Trusting/Relying on Lord for Strength
This week has been a difficult one for me personally. Please pray that I will be obedient in the Spirit for the difficult things I have been processing and find true joy and comfort in his love alone. That as much as I am investing in others, that I in turn will let others invest in and love me. RECEIVE. RECEIVE. RECEIVE.

Thank you friends! :)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

New City. New Neighbors. New Experiences.

When I started this blog, I promised myself I would update it on a regular basis.

So here we are 3 months since my last post, if you are a regular reader, you'd think I dropped off the face of the earth!

 But fret not. I am here.

And if you are here because I sent you a support letter in the mail....WELCOME! :)

In fact I have not been twiddling my thumbs around, doing nothing. A LOT has been going on!

If you have read any of my posts on this blog or even talked to me in person, you know a bit about my journey in the past year as I have tried to figure out this call that the Lord has put on my heart for the urban poor.

For the longest time I struggled with how to make sense of it all. I went to school for Film! I thought I was going to work in Hollywood working on TV shows and summer blockbusters.

But during my last year at Biola, things began to change. I became heavily involved with various ministires, I got to invest in the lives of others and be invested in by amazing teachers and mentors. As I gained opportunities to minister to the urban poor, the more my heart began to break and I realized how much the gospel was needed in the city.

I realized that working with people wasn't just something I was good at, it was life-giving. I began reevaluating my future. My brain began to hurt as hundreds of questions raced through my mind.

Is this just a phase? Am I cut out this? Am I strong enough? What the heck am I gonna do with a film degree?!

A month before graduation I finally came to terms with it. GOD DOES NOT WASTE. He has given me my gifts, talents, and passions for a specific reason. He gives us specific seasons to use these gifts, talents, and passions. I believe that God will provide opportunities to work with the urban poor as well as opportunities to use my talents of film and media.

With that I am excited to share with you what is next for me!

 This summer I will be living in Bellflower, CA as a Community Fellow through a non profit organization called Kingdom Causes Bellflower.  The Community Fellows program is an opportunity for young leaders to gain tangible, hands on experience in Christian community development work. I will move into an under-resourced neighborhood in Bellflower, and will use my time in the neighborhood to intentionally build relationships with my neighbors and help bring about community transformation. The Kingdom Causes staff will provide training and support as we learn about community development, and will cover our housing costs for the year.

I look forward at the opportunity to work with like-minded people to provide a glimpse of reconciliation, hope, and healing that comes from the gospel. I am excited to gain hands on experience doing urban ministry and learning what it looks like to truly love my neighbor. I am looking forward to being stretched relationally, emotionally, and spiritually. 

A year ago, I would have NEVER imagined that I would get an opportunity like this! The Lord has been so faithful to me in the past year. It has been a difficult process, especially in the past six months. There have been times where my faith has been shaken and tested. But I am reminded of this verse: 

'Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.' 
(Psalm 119:105) 

As much as we want to see what our future looks like, we simply can't. What we can do is abide in Christ and TRUST that he will provide in his timing. This is such a difficult concept to truly believe in our hearts (I have my freak out moments from time to time, thankfully I have a few core people to knock some biblical sense into me!) Surrendering our fears to the Lord and allowing him to do his work is very, very difficult!

As I meditate on Psalm 119:105, I see how much this verse is so applicable to my stage in life. He reveals little by little his plans for me, and by faith I must follow. And he always provides. 

Thank you for your support. I hope you will follow me in my journey in the next year! Feel free to subscribe to this blog!

Check out more about Kingdom Causes Bellflower 

-Rachel :) 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A deep seeded faith.

Change is coming.

Short version: God is moving. Taking my life and turning it upside down.

Not into reading long rambling posts? Stop here.

Okay you lost your chance...

I am in a state of transition (I have come to really HATE that word in the past months) and with that dreaded 'T' word comes another bad word....trails. But I have found that my positivity strength is one of my biggest enemies. Because I am naturally optimistic, I tend to disregard my struggles and minimize them.

I have finally realized that I am in a time where things are uneasy. I am living in the 'unknown' A lot of things in my life are 'up in the air.' My job situation. Personal relationships...uh basically my future.

One of the things that I struggle with is control. By nature I like to have everything figured out. I like to know what I am getting into. I like to have a plan.

One thing I am certain of is that God has a plan for me. He is guiding my steps.

Yes! Yes! I know God loves me and has a plan for me. He gives me strength, hope, and wisdom.

Yes I know this. It has been beaten into my head through theology classes, sermons, friends, mentors.

Knowledge can be a very powerful thing. But sometimes we can become numb to the things that we already know.

But sadly the things that have been 'beaten' into my head about who God is are just in my head. It hasn't seeped into my heart.

And isn't that where TRUE transformation begins?

One of the things I am realizing is that I need a genuine faith. I desire to have a  intimate and deeper relationship with the Lord. I am yearning to have a faith that pierces my heart and transcends through out through my actions and words. 

Even though I am in a season of uncertainty. I can feel that the Lord is calling me to go deeper with him. Inviting me to a place where I can learn to what it truly means to have faith in him. What it looks like to rely on him solely. To go to him with all my worries, anxieties, etc.

It is my prayer that in this season you will help to understand the truths of who you are whole heartily. Please give me genuine faith that I can live out for your glory. Transform me. Use me. I desire to be broken and built up by you.