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And where did the past two weeks go exactly?

I do know that in there was a trip to San Jose to see family and attend my Aunt's 100th anniversary.These are all of her niece's and nephews and their kids for the most part. She's in the middle in the purple. It was a good time for all of us and it was great to be able to see my mom and other family that I either hadn't met or haven't seen in quite some time.

I also know that I have been exceedingly busy with work. I've definitely gotten into the swing of things, and continue to overcommit to things. It is keeping my busy though which takes away the problem of being too terribly lonely here.

I guess the most notable experience in the last couple of weeks for me has definitely been Halloween. The best part was Sunday night, when the youth group at the church put on this carnival type event called "Trick or treat, not on the street". This is supposed to be a safe alternative to Halloween trick or treating because many neighborhoods here just aren't exactly safe for kids to go around in. So we brought our families, something like 25 people to this thing. Aside from having to jump start the van because someone left a dome light on, we had an amazingly great time. It was so fun to watch the kids all run around and be crazy, and the funniest part was watching them figure out how to get ridiculous amounts of candy. Sometimes the buckets of candy that you win for playing games were unattended... that meant the kids just took handful upon handful. Most of our families at least know to keep their kids from eating candy continuously. It was so much fun to see what the parents came up with for the kids to be for halloween. Some hit the dollar store, some costumes were completely homemade. One family was the cast of the Wizard of Oz, but by far, my favorite was one of our youngest wearing a box wrapped up like a present. Though he didn't keep it on long because it was restrictive, it was absolutely adorable. Overall, the weekend was a success. On the actual day of Halloween we had the school kids with us and took them to go pick out pumpkins and go to the library. Listening to the parents tell us that it was the best Halloween they ever had was great, and I would venture to say that it was one of my favorites as well. (And for those who were wondering, I was a Mountain TOP staffer for Halloween. It was cheap (free) and easy (I still have a staff shirt that i actually wear in real life plus the hat.)

I don't know if I've mentioned, but I'm currently leading an optional Bible Study for our folks. I've been having a great time with that and this week really confirmed to me how awesome our program is. The topic this week dealt with the idols that we place in our life and false gods. Through the time we met, we talked about one of the places that some of them had spent some time, the only family shelter in the area. Our program is unique as we are not a shelter and are somewhat beyond transitional housing, but hearing stories of the places they've been before has truly opened my eyes to some things. For one thing, I am starting to learn that lots of privately based social services can come from the wrong motivation. As we talked, the group was sure to say that we were down to earth people who really cared about each person as an individual. In huge shelters there can be a tendency to be lost among the crowd, but with only 6 families, we really have the time to devote to them. The down to earth part really struck me as an odd thing to say, so I inquired about what they meant. It seems that for most of them, the "system" of social services in this city as well as others is often motivated by personal gain. Of course this is certainly not the case with every agency, but some of our people have been burned time and time again by agencies that have a hidden agenda. This is why I love our program, yes we're supported by the church, no, we don't force Christianity on our folks, and wouldn't even think of it. My Bible study was asked for and is not mandatory. We are not out for monetary gain, we hold true to our non-profit status. I'm quickly learning that sometimes people in charge of non-profits aren't questioned about their salaries. Sometimes they help to perpetuate homelessness and dependency because it guarantees them a job. It breaks my heart to see human suffering, and there are people who are supposedly committed to changing the lives of the poor that are actually just using others for their own personal gain. That right there makes me sick, but it also makes me thankful that I'm working for such an amazing and somewhat unique program. Though it is a program that requires a fair amount of financial resources, the end result of giving people a chance to move beyond minimum wage jobs is awesome.

I suppose I should step down off of my soapbox, but I am seriously scared by the continuous oppression of the poor that I see daily. There tends to be little to no chance that people can move upward, and for the most part, that is perpetuated by the system that has been created to help the poor. Grassroots movements to change the system anyone?

I've been reading a lot about the judicial council decisions made Monday and have really struggled over them. The one involving Beth Stroud was certainly expected, based on what the Discipline states. The other decision, involving the reinstatement of a pastor after he was placed on involuntary leave for denying a gay man membership to his church, makes me not so happy as I don't think people should really be denied membership so arbitrarily. Plus... *cough* Openheartsopendoorsopenminds* (yes I am aware that this is merely a slogan and not an official position of the UMC...but COME ON) I won't give more than that with my 2 cents, but I will however link you to some interesting discussions of how it all went down and what people are thinking. After all, I read a heck of a lot of blogs. :-)

Gavin's thoughts here here and here. I especially like the 2nd one. :-D
Read some more conservative minded thoughts here. And be forewarned that the comments get somewhat ridiculously long on some of those and it takes heart to read them all.
There are some thoughts here as well.

Keep in mind that I don't endorse any of these links, they're just ones I've read and could find currently to link. There are plenty of other links from these links. I do have to say that I commend the Council of Bishops for coming back so quickly and with a stance that I can be behind, I wasn't so sure that is what their reaction would be, but then, they're just sticking up for their authority as well. Gotta love that UMC bureaucracy. ;-)
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3 Comments:

Laura, I was also disappointed in the second item. Your post today is great, well thought out and very insightful. We are proud of you and no matter where you end up in the future as a social worker, as a pastor, or as a business executive (cough) you will do very great job in part because of the experiences you are having right now. - Dad

By Anonymous dad, at 6:38 AM  

Laura,

Handsome family picture!

I share your concerns about the poor. There is a line in a song done by Nancy Griffith that says something like "....America is only a dime away." Which talks about the fine line between where we are all at in life, with regard to the have and the have nots, and the good and bad life.

Yes indeed we need to practice Open Doors. That is our challenge.

Keep up the good work.

John W.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:08 PM  

Hi Lauara havent heard from you in awhile

By Anonymous Ben, at 5:38 PM  

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