Homeboy Industries

Last August I had the privilege of attending the Homeboy Industries Conference in L.A. It was hands down the best conference I have been to and I’ve been to plenty. The conference was spiritual, informative and interactive. This is also where I got to meet and speak to my muse Father Greg Boyle for the first time. I highly recommend you read his books. If you ever get a chance to hear him speak also highly recommended.

What I discovered was that Homeboy Industries is this magical holy place where their motto is “Hope has an address” and people are given a second or third or fourth chance, whatever it may be. It is a place where there is a community of kinship. A place where there is love with no measures or regrets. A place where they invest in people and build from within. A place where barriers are dismantled. A place where there is a circle of compassion where no one is left standing outside of it.

What I took home with me from this conference was to face the challenges I experience. To embrace the challenges, struggles and adversities I face because they allow me to grow so that I can maximize my potential output because that is what growth is. What we see on the other side of that is community, kinship and our love that extends forward. As much as we love to receive it we can give it out too.

What impressed me the most about being at the conference was the amount of respect and admiration everyone had for Father Greg especially those who were former gang members.

It hit me while I was at the conference listening to Father Greg speak, soaking in every word he was saying that I was in a room where you could just feel the hope. That I was sitting in a room that was just full of love. Now I admit I’m a sucker for sayings like “hope has an address” but here this was all tangible. It was like if you’re here you will experience it. It was amazing to be in a room where it was “us” a mixture of clients, law enforcement, social workers etc. A room where there was no 
“us” or “them”. Its almost like you had to be there to understand what I’m trying to explain I suppose.

The reality is that each one of us has issues and a back story and we all deal with it in different ways.

Father Greg and everyone at Homeboy Industries are so inspirational. They are so brave to walk through those doors wanting to make change. Which is a difficult thing to do. They are also smart to want to do it surrounded by love and kinship.

Thank you so much for the privilege of being there and counting me in as a family member. If you are ever in L.A. I would highly recommend you visit Homeboy Industries and go on one of their tours and eat at one of their cafes all staffed by former gang members.

We Value Authenticity

Authenticity Teaching Segment Part 1 – by Susan Suzuki:

So authenticity has become one of those buzzwords that has worked its way from describing ethnic foods at restaurants to church.

So… As I watched this definition of authenticity on YouTube I was reminded of a Buddhist story I was told when I was a kid.

One day Buddha was sitting peacefully in his home, when suddenly the demon God Mara showed up knocking on his front door. Instead of freaking out or locking his door, Buddha invited the demon in for tea. Buddha decided he wanted to get to know Mara better.

Buddha made a choice in that moment and had enough courage to be vulnerable enough to invite Mara into his peaceful home. He invited Mara in to see grace, love and a feeling of belonging rather than seeing darkness and gloom. And… that is a powerful way to live.

I find this story fascinating, because I think it teaches us about embracing darkness and gloom whether it’s our own or others.  Darkness is not bad, it doesn’t need to be suppressed, it needs to be heard. These fears or gloomy astpects are as much a part of us as all of the good stuff, and if we suppress them we are denying ourselves of our wholeness and who we are.

So, if any darkness or negativity come up in your mind instead of hating them or rejecting them, take the time to accept them. This will change your human experience.

Just like in the spring, sometimes the darkest of days and the gloominess of rain will bring the most beautiful of flowers.

The Commons defines authenticity as a way for us to appreciate that we are all on very unique life journeys and that we don’t all need to look, act, or think alike to be able to learn and grow together. For us, it’s less about being authentic as a group … and recognizing that we are all authentic and unique people

I’m reminded of our Commons beach day. It was Susan Neudorf who said people must wonder who we are? When people look at our group they must wonder who we are because we are all so unique as individuals. We don’t appear to be a family gathering or church gathering and yet we are all here together.

What I love about our values series is that it’s been story based because if we share our stories it’s allowing us to connect as people and as a church. But more importantly to God because God has been in each of our stories. if we listen to God when he nudges us to send an encouraging word or to call someone we are in a small way being vulnerable but more importantly authentic.
Our insecuriritues can lead to fears but these also can lead to joy, creativity and love. Like it did for Buddha and Mara.

So if you choose compassion to deal with your insecurities because feeling vulnerable makes you feel alive and authentic even though there is no guarantee things will work out.

For Christians, our true self is found in Christ, and we are on a pilgrimage to become more like him. As 1 John 3:2 says: “We are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet appeared.” A greater reality awaits.

So, like the Israelites singing the Psalms of Ascent, we ought to look up and ahead to the even more authentic glories of Zion and her King.

Authenticity Part 2 – by Nina Zoomevele:

Here is a recording of Nina continuing our talk about Authenticity.

We ended out gathering with an interactive discussion. We asked people to share something from their bucket list, a lie and two truths about themselves.  Then everyone tried to guess which was which.

Click on the images below for the other talks in Our Values Series: