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 Peace

On Sunday April 23, 2017 we started our Teaching Series on our seven Values. Everyone of our values has a story behind it that captures a moment in time where a word becomes something more. Our first story was for the value of Peace.

Peace is actually our newest value. We added it when we were still an independent church. We felt like we needed to be better at navigating interpersonal conflicts and personality clashes. We wanted to be good peacemakers with each other as a family, so we added Peace to our list of values as a way of making us accountable to that desire. Once we joined Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (MCEC) as our wider tribe, the word “peace” began to have other more global implications.

Shortly after joining the Mennonites we had a very scary and violent incident happen to one of our people and it became a catalyst for us trying to learn more about how to “do peace” rather than just say “we value peace”. It is a story that starts with a physical window but turns into a metaphorical window to help us rookie peacemakers dig a little deeper into practicing peace.

Here is a recording of Randell Neudorf telling our Peace Story:

We are still on this journey of figuring out how to practically be Peacemakers. We are definitely not the experts, but we are trying to learn.

We have some friends from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) who have been teaching us how to Practice Peace. They are the folks that go into war zones and stand in front of people with Guns trying to find new ways to solve conflicts. We really believe that some of CPT’s practices can be translated for our everyday local context.

CPT has a helpful definition for Violence and Nonviolence that we have been using:

  • Violence Is power that Dominates, Dehumanizes, Diminishes, and Destroys. It does this to Selves, Others, and Nature.
  • Nonviolence is power that Liberates, Humanizes, Heals, and Creates. It does this to Selves, Others, and Nature.

CPT folks spend a lot of time practicing, and roll playing situations they might find themselves in. When confronted with violence, hate or hurt we naturally jump towards one of two responses: fight or flight. People and movements of peace have to practice a Third Way Response.  An Active Non Violent Response.

  • It is Active because we don’t want to just avoid the bad powers of Violence (that Dominate, Dehumanize, Diminish, and Destroy)
  • It is Active because we want to build up the good powers of Non-Violence. (that Liberates, Humanizes, Heals, and Creates)

When Christian Civil Rights leaders organized peaceful protests (in the face of hate and violence) they took the time to practice being peacemakers. They would act out situations they thought they might come up against to practice how to be an active nonviolent force for peace (in the face of horrible racism, injustice and violence).

Acting out situations to learn how to be peacemakers is part of our Christian Heritage. Sometimes it is called “Theatre of the Oppressed.”

When we act a situation out we often have 3 types of characters.

  • Aggressors – the person acting out in violence
  • Victims (Oppressed Person)– the people the violence is directed to.
  • Peacemakers – the people trying to intervene.

The Point of the exercise is to remember that everyone is made in the image of God (the Aggressor, The Oppressed, The Peacemaker). Taking on the roll of each of these characters is so important.

When acting as the…

  • Peacemaker – We get to try out solutions and see what happens.
  • The Oppressed Person – We walk a little in their shoes and start to learn what they would want to happen, what they want to change.
  • Aggressor – We get to feel their emotions and their thoughts, and we even find ourselves feeling some empathy and love for the people we disagree with. This helps us learn to reach out to them.

We ended the gathering acting out some situations that involved Verbal Violence and going through some peace building exercises. We would highly encourage anyone interested in learning more about peace to approach it as a practical discipline.

If you are interested we would be happy to help facilitate a workshop or gathering for your church, youth group or community center. We have developed an interactive curriculum called Peacemaker Boot Camp as a fun and hands on way to introduce the value of Peace as a practical tool for our everyday lives.

To learn more,
contact Randell from The Commons:

email:  thecommonschurch@gmail.com
phone: 905-379-3717

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