Welcome to a window into our world.We have been fortunate enought to have enjoyed and been challenged by the faith, education, wildlife, work, culture and people we have encountered in the various places around the world that we have lived in. These experiences have moulded our thinking and lifestyle.
We do wonder sometimes what people’s perceptions are of Los Angeles, especially with all the gossip shows, glitzy films, raunchy TV series, network of highways and mies of beaches. LA County has about 26 billionaires living within its boundaries and many, many more movie stars, musicians, producers, directors and well known personalities. It has been the hub for many church revivals, and church growth initiatives. Creative inventions and many innovative ideas have come out of this area. It also has one of the top ten universities in the world in Cal Tech and a premier rocket research lab at JPL.
However, LA has also been called the first 3rd world city in America.
The state of California is the 5th largest economy on the globe yet has similar financial troubles as Greece and is billions in debt. Teachers are being sacked and government offices are closing down for several days a week to save money.
One of the largest contingents of folks living on the streets, anywhere in the US (about 11,000 people), reside in Los Angeles at Skid Row. Altogether, LA County is home to a total of 80,000 street people. However, these numbers are disputed as being 2007 statistics and that currently there are only about 50,000 folks on the street.
In 2009 a film was released called The Soloist. It starred Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr. Last month one of the directors of this film released an in-depth, real life documentary on what it is like living on Skid Row. Check out the film clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvG_UlvqggA&feature=player_embedded . I would recommend seeing how the “other half lives”.
We would ask you to pray for the people of California and LA. It is a state of wonderful vitality and hope. Yet there are also many challenges. Perhaps one of the most significant for people who follow the teachings of Jesus is how radically are we willing to live out Jesus’ love in such a diverse place of wealth and want.
We are currently exploring, with some other folks, what this would look like in the context of this urban culture and would appreciate your prayers for wisdom.
Ben has received his work permit and his social security number and is busily applying for work. He has also been informed that he is eligible to apply for a full ride scholarship at the Musician’s Institute and by the end of July he must submit a media piece giving an overview of his drumming abilities. He is composing an original score for this scholarship and if he is accepted then the media piece will be posted onto the web for people to vote on. When that occurs we will ask you to join us and to vote for him.
Charys has broken up from school and finished the year with a fantastic Ovations performance at the Pasadena Playhouse. This playhouse is where the likes of Dustin Hoffman and others have performed. Charys’ performance ran for two nights and one matinee. Some folks wondered if the school she attended was a performing arts school as the show was sooooooo good
Josh has also broken up from school for the summer and finished this year with straight A’s. Although we have not yet heard back regarding the the recent IB exams, he has hope. He has qualified for a driving permit, and under the CA state law he must be accompanied by an adult until he can take his full driving license test. Josh has excelled at climbing and is now training and volunteering at the climbing club. As he moves into his final year at IB please pray that he would complete the early drafts of his extended easy which is on the early Harappa civilization in the Indus valley.
Linsey has had an eventful and intense three semesters at Fuller and is taking the summer off. She has done well with her studies which is fortunate as if she had not kept to a certain GPA, due to visa restrictions, we would have had to leave. No pressure!!!!!
She has made loads of friends and become the College Mum to many of them (although Linsey thinks its more like big sister).
Since our last newsletter Kevin has been regularly reminded of the sadness of traffiking in the USA. The average age of a girl being traffiked in the US is 13 which involves the girls being raped and abused. It is estimated that over 100,000 children are being traffiked around the US linked primarily to the sex industry. Kevin has also been developing links and networks within the LA area and wider afield for Oasis USA and Oasis is currently developing Traffik Free Communities. These communities consist of groups of local people impacting their own local area to stop traffiking.
‘STOPPING TRAFFIKING ONE COMMUNITY AT A TIME.’
The first six months of this year were challenging, fun and an intense time for us as a family. Like a number of folks the current economic environment can hit you hard. However, in that place God’s provision is clearly visible as there is nothing else to fall back on.
We can thank God that He has impacted into some of our intense situations and we wait for his intervention and wisdom in others.
Each month there have been various ingredients that have shown us God’s love. These interventions have helped us either financially, practically or emotionally. They have also given us a deeper sense of the unconditional love of God that only fuels our hope and desire for God’s character to be revealed in other areas that we know need these resources. Not only for our own lives and the lives of our children but also for our friends and the folks that we study, work with and advocate on behalf of.
Psalm 34:8 says “taste and see that the Lord is good”
We recently experienced our second major earthquake. This was of a 5.2 magnitude, a rise of 0.8 on the last one and we shook for a little longer. (half the family didn’t even notice it as Linsey said “W are not easily moved!’)
Maybe its time to get our earthquake supplies in place. We are supposed to have a cache of provisions that would enable us to last 3-7 days if a major earthquake occurred.
We would ask for your prayers regarding Josh & Charys’ education. Due to the massive state budget cuts in California their school has had to let 20 excellent teachers go, libraries are closing and the principal, who was instrumental in turning the school around over the last several years, is leaving. The problem is that some on the school board would like to cancel the IB program. This would be extremely detrimental to Josh as he has one more year to go before he completes the diploma. The middle school that Charys attends, which is part of the same complex as Josh, is going through major construction which will last until the early part of next year.
Please pray for a wise and discerning principal who would be able to further develop the school in a time of crisis.
Pray that whoever it is would be an advocate for the children in a time when there is loads of political jockeying. Area school district members, who decide on schools, can be parochial, as they are voted into office, and do not necessarily have a long term view.
In a land that is perceived to be a land of freedom there are many lives that are not free. As we get to know more of the stories around the issue of slavery here in the US, rape and abuse are constant threads that weave their way through. A significant method of control, amongst the traffickers, is to rape a person on a regular basis for at least a year, so that their self-will is broken and they become a compliant commodity. Beatings and threats of physical violence are also common factors.
In a recent survey by an LA health organization it was found that there are several points of community interaction that a traffiked person can experience.
These range from meeting health care providers, relatives of the abuser through to interacting with people in shops and restaurants.
However, one point of contact highlighted on the list was congregations. Some people who are traffiked are taken or go to a local church.
The silent cry of the abused is outside and also inside the church.
Our challenge is; are we a community of love that enables the cry to be raised and in our life together do we have ears to hear it?
Another challenge was in mulling over that Charys, our daughter, is now 13 years old. This is also the average age that girls are traffiked and trapped into sexual bondage.
One of the areas traffickers focus on is towards women, children and various people who feel unloved and not included.
We are challenged as to how often we express unconditional love to our children and make it clear through words and action that they are loved. This alone is a simple yet powerful shield to combating traffiking.
There are various ways to fight traffiking and to get involved in freedom. Some are listed on this page. However, one simple way is to be actively part of a community; family, friends, church, school or work place, that is safe and loving and engages in living out the love of Jesus Christ.
This community has the possibility of creating an environment whereby someone who is being abused or traffiked would, either immediately or over a period of time, be able to share their situation and seek help.
Some ways to fight traffiking:
- Join or set up a Traffik Free Community group in your town or city.
- Join the Oasis 13 campaign and donate $13 or 13 GBP a month to the Oasis USA work.
- Asses your lifestyle - What can change... i,e, Join the Oasis campaign against chocolate producers who use enslaved children in coco plantations. Then don’t eat the chocolate
- Parents love your children, children love parents
- Care for one another…. 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
God has been meeting with me on a very personal level over these last few months and has been encouraging us as to His past provision and to the trust that we can have for the future.
This encouragement is sorely needed as recently we checked out some local resources on our quest to get an insight on the type of influences that are around us. Within a 25 mile radius there are several thousand members of various occult, pagan and black magic groups that actively engage in the practice of their "art". A couple are even focussed on vampirism and make the point that they are not groups that read the various vampire books or meet to watch the films but that they are actively engaged in the practice of vampirism.
This is not surprising as there was a guy called Jack Parsons who lived in Pasadena and was called the father of the American space age. The other thing that he was involved in was trying to bring the gods of babylon into Pasadena and the USA. He did this by trying to use practical and magical methods. Check him out on wikipedia.
As I mentioned in our last email our battle is not against flesh and blood but against the various powers and principalities that would seek to bring deceit, deception and destruction into our lives and the lives of our friends and community that we are part of.
Mr Cosby says
"The majority of people are settlers.
They like to settle a land pioneered by others. There are fewer paradigm shifters and paradigm pioneers, those who are ready, and sometimes even eager, to enter the new.
The biblical understanding is that the new is always beckoning us. God, by definition, is "One who does a new thing." And our desperate need is for the new. A new neighborhood. A new city. A new world which respects and honors and cares for all of its people.
The paradigm shifters and the pioneers are the ones who lead us into that newness."
Source: Sermon (September 7 1989)
This is a great quote but what he does not mention is that this is an adventurous but also a very uncomfortable place to be. These people do get to see the new thing outworking before them and the tangible earthy reality of God. However, it also takes you to honestly plumb the core and the depths of who you are, what you believe and who or what you trust your family or children to.
We have been asked what its like in our new environment. Well in many ways relocating to California from Colorado was like moving to another country. This is not so
out of the ordinary as the state has the fifth largest economy on the globe. We had to change our driving licenses, re-register our car; all the various utility companies and service providers were different. Fortunately, two months after we got here the bank we used in Colorado finalized a merger with another bank from California and came out to join us, which meant we could at last access our account and our money.
California and especially the Los Angeles area has a mystique of cool beaches, surfers, beautiful people and the glamour of the film industry. Over the years, through film and TV, there has been a brilliant PR job done to cultivate this idea.
There is wonderful countryside and as we walk around the block were we live you see lemons, oranges, and grapefruit hanging over the footpath.
There is a system in some places were people can drop off their excess fruit and it will be distributed to the poor. However, the reality is also that in this environment there are also approximately 80,000 people living on the streets in the county of LA, 10,000 alone in the valley were we live.
Kevin who normally enjoys gathering the news has tapered off watching the daily evening news as there are so many reports of people being shot and/or murdered within the metro area. Praise God that this year there has been a drop in the crime rate.
This large Californian economy has one of the highest home foreclosure rates in the country. It has 12% unemployment and is a major global centre for the pornographic industry. Last financial year the state was approximately 6 billion in debt and at the end of this fiscal year it is estimated that there will be a 22 billion dollar shortfall. Schools, social services etc.. are suffering huge cuts.
As in so many places we have sojourned, what you see or what is portrayed is often only a part of a mosaic.
A place of contradictions?
Wealth and poverty live side by side. Sun and high temperatures run through most of the year, yet as I write this we are in the middle of a series of storms that has brought a 25-30 ft swell along the coast line with flooding in certain areas. Water spouts and tornados swirl around. In the foothills just up the road approximately 2000 people were evacuated due to mud slides and fears that the hills may move due to the vegetation that was lost after the massive wild fires, earlier in the year. Snow now covers the mountains behind us and flooding is widespread.
This state is also a place of generosity even amongst the debt and financial crunch. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been given to help Haiti, whether in cash, goods or services. Many well- known people are using their leverage to raise more. Numerous rescue teams have left to assist in Haiti and overall the people and the government are pouring out to give aid and support to the people of Haiti.
Is it a place of paradox, or maybe just a place where ordinary people are trying to live amongst the extreme realities and complexities of life and are willing to be generous to those who are in extreme need.
Our experience is that the kingdom of God is made real in the ordinary day to day activities of life; amongst ordinary people who are open and desperate for God to do the extraordinary.
We hope and pray that this may be the situation in Haiti. What is happening there make the complexities of LA pale in comparison. Huge amounts of aid is flooding into the country. Please pray that this aid would be distributed to the people and that the country would not become a political pawn in the machinations of governments. Having been involved in a couple of disaster situations pray, that after the TV cameras have gone and the situation is off the print pages, that the practical love of God would be evident, and sustainable ongoing reconstruction would take place, plus that people would not forget Haiti or play political games as has been the case in the past.
Pr 21:13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.
The last quarter of 2009 was quite a bit of a venture; as we say on our blog “A venture can be defined as an undertaking of uncertain outcome and with an element of risk” and these months have been quite risky in their own way. The journey has impacted our emotions, our faith and hopefully strengthened and transformed both. Ben left in September to begin his time in India and is having a great adventure. It was quite a tear for us as, up to that point, we have journeyed through our adventures together. Linsey started her course of studies at Fuller which was a time of intense emotional and mental stretching and molding. Charys and Josh began at Blair IB Magnet School. Kevin became more immersed in the work of OasisUSA.
The kids school, Blair, is a multi-ethnic school and both of them are in the minority group within their school. We are told that until the 70’s the school was a mainly Caucasian school and then due to various education polices in California approximately 15,000 white families left the public school system. Private schools then flourished in Pasadena and went from virtually zero to 50. Many call this time the white flight period.
We like the school and its diversity is great. However, due to the large state cuts in education there are significant challenges which means that the school gives Charys and Josh a large workload. Josh has way more academic studies than Ben did in Colorado but less actual class time, and this heavily impinges on other creative and athletic pursuits.
It’s also been a time of stretching for Josh. He and Ben were very close and they had travelled through the various school systems together and watched over each other. On this venture Josh was the one pioneering for Charys and they have both been great.
The relationship between Charys and Josh has strengthened and it is lovely to see them working together. Not least of all on the games console as Charys slowly eats away at Josh’s lead and becomes more proficient and raises the competition level.
Josh, as stated, has had a lot more academic work this year and may not be able to compete in any track and field as he has to take courses in a local community college to supplement the need of his I.B. Program. This will be hard as he got to state finals last year in both the high jump and sprint.
However, he is able to get in a couple of hours a week at a local climbing club called ARC.
Charys is dong well in school but misses the UK. She has already been in a couple of musical events and will be in the main drama/music presentation in May.
Kevin has been able to get a feel for Oasis USA during the last few months of 09. The organization is in a phase of change and development and is also facing major challenges in this financial crisis. New ventures and funding streams are being explored with the existing systems being strengthened. It’s interesting that our journey has once again brought us to partner with another organization traveling through this sort of journey. Kevin’s work permit came through just around thanksgiving and he has been able to immerse himself more into his role. This role has some similar characteristics that were present during his role with other organizations. One of the exciting opportunities being developed is in helping communities unite in fighting trafficking and slavery. The thrust is called “Traffiked Free Communities” and involves helping the people in a city work together to influence and impact those who are being trafficked. In this early stage Kevin is also helping Oasis develop its prayer focus, strategic relationships and networks with the local and national church and with local government authorities.