Richmond justice program blog
Summer 2019 conclusions
Below, you can read some of our interns’ reflections on the summer. Join us in praying for their continued growth back on their campuses!
I think RJP more than anything has shown me what it means to put grow in community for the sake of the gospel. Through team meetings, house bible studies, daily sacrifices and the continued emphasis on Jesus' care for us all, I learned that to do His work, I must start at home in the nitty gritty experiences.
The Richmond Justice Program is a program of stepping into the light and of realizing the sin outside our sight. It reveals what I was ignorant of, and that awareness itself is grace from God for which I'm so thankful. "Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Before RJP, I viewed things from a black and white lens, especially when it comes to social justice. It was either you're fighting the system or you're racist and I need to fight you. I also had questions about why God is doing nothing about what's going on. Coming to RJP really opened my eyes to people. That everybody is learning and that change doesn't have an age limit. I also learned that God really does care A LOT about the poor and destitute. This really drew me to God and now how I operate is totally different.
RJP was a time and place structured specifically to bring different people together, which are pretty far and few between in my life, so it literally just gave me a huge unavoidable opportunity to sit and learn with and from (particularly) peers of mine of African descent. Therefore, I think I learned a lot from those now friends of mine and formed relationships wherein future growth can continue to occur. If nothing else, I built those relationships this summer and realistically that is the most important thing to me.
I came into the program wanting to hear from God more and wanting to learn how to communicate with others more effectively. In pursuit of that, I've been challenged to spend more time in the Word and to be vulnerable with my housemates, sharing basically everything I've struggled with in my life and in my faith. From that, I've seen other people being more open to share about their struggles and testimonies, which has allowed me to understand and love the better. While God didn't always speak in the way I had expected or hoped, He did speak in the midst of our trials. And for me, that was so much more powerful.
For a long time I closed myself off from the injustice that was happening in the black community because it hurt me. I felt as though I couldn't do anything about it. For a long time I felt as though my blackness was stripped away from me and I was always abused by my own community. RJP and God really showed me that there is more to being black than cursing, drinking, and twerking and we have a whole history that Black men and women have died and have chosen to be enslaved again just so I and others like me can be free.
When I walked into this program, I didn't want to talk about justice issues, racism specifically, partly because I felt uneducated. More-so than that, as a white woman it sometimes felt like I didn't belong in the conversation. Leaving this program, I have not only learned how to have a conversation about these things, but that I have a seat at the table, even if all I should be doing is listening there. Before the trip, I thought I would have to be coming up with the solutions, fixing problems of the past, carrying that burden myself. What I missed is that in order to know what people need, I need to ask them gentle questions and sit and listen to how they see things being resolved.
Week 3: Fundraising and a Good Lesson in Humility
July 1, 2019
In America we really like the idea of earning things. I mean, who wouldn’t? If you earn something then you don’t just have it by random chance, but you deserve to have it. It’s yours, and nobody else gets a say in what you do with it, and that makes us comfortable. It’s not just our money we want to earn; even for gifts we start to get the idea that we earn them. Think about Christmas: we tell kids all year that they can earn gifts through good behavior and if they’ve done what their parents say. Then when Christmas comes we’re wondering why our kids are less than grateful… it’s because “earned it” and “deserved it”, it wasn’t even a gift at all in their minds.
In the Richmond Justice Program we fundraise to a general program fund. We all send our own letters and spread the word, but in the end, all we raise ends up in the same place. At first, if I’m honest, this rubbed me the wrong way. After all, I was fully funded to my individual goal, but then when I told this to staff, expecting some sort of congratulations I was told. “Awesome, now you can keep going and help others who haven’t reached their goal.” I was taken back. Wasn’t I done? After all my emails and licking envelopes hadn’t I earned all the money I need and didn’t I deserve a break from this whole fundraising thing?
If I send out letters to my extended family and close friends and my friend in this program does the same, we both craft our letters with the same care and pray just the same, and after all that I am fully funded and they aren’t, in what way did I earn to be fully funded and they didn’t earn it? Due to how wealth is unequally distributed some people have access to wealthier networks solely based on things outside of their control. I didn’t earn being born into my family as opposed to another, so if having a wealthy family that are generous Christians is the main reason why I am fully funded then how can I claim I “earned” it?
Greed and pride. They make me feel like I earn a lot of things at times, even the love of God. In the same way, greed and pride can make me feel like my fundraising is due to myself rather than God’s graciousness. But through this community I’ve realized that I’ve been given the privilege to help others. I don’t have to fundraise, but get to help my brothers and sisters in Christ by giving access to my network. After all, if I didn’t “earn” it, but rather it was grace, then I can give freely. I can give it to those who don’t “deserve it”, while keeping in mind that the category of those who didn’t earn their fundraising includes me.
-Matthew Houff, UVA ‘21
Week 2: Juggling is Like Urban ministry
June 24, 2019
When I began week two at CHAT (Church Hill Activities and Tutoring) I found myself being kind of nervous, even though I’d made the decision to follow through with things that I felt uncomfortable with. So this past Friday was the showcase, and a week or two before, we had agreed as a house to learn a new skill. Jerry was going to learn how to play a song on the guitar, LaNija wanted to learn how to parallel park/do ten push-ups, Paul wanted to learn how to make bread, Azrael wanted to learn to shuffle cards, and I wanted to learn how to juggle. So I decided to sign up at the showcase and allowed that to motivate me to learn how to juggle faster. Each day for about 10 to 15 minutes, out of a total of two weeks, I would practice. During these times I found myself getting frustrated because I would start, then stop because I didn’t feel comfortable. I would start off with the juggling balls in my hand, which were old tennis balls wrapped In tape. By this point in the two week process, I had an idea of how to juggle because Levi showed me how to the first time the idea came to mind. He was my example which made learning a little easier, but that didn’t take away from the difficulty of learning. I would start off with three juggling balls and only alternate two. Then I would move on to doing the motion with three and then completely mess up and drop all of the juggling balls. At times I questioned whether or not I would be able to learn because I’d messed up so many times. I questioned whether or not it was a valuable skill and almost decided to give up simply because I didn’t see any immediate value in it.
I approached my second week of ministry the same way while at CHAT. I wasn’t really confident, but I was willing to learn, even if that meant that I would mess up sometimes. I just wanted to be consistent and continue in a posture that communicated that I was willing to do whatever it was that God wanted me to do in my life even if I wasn’t immediately good at it. In a similar approach, this ministry experience was kind of intimidating because for me this is something that I want to do but I didn’t feel fully prepared for. Throughout this week, I’ve been reminded that all great things start off small and just because I may look ridiculous when I start that doesn’t mean it’ll always be that way.
-Trayvon Estey, Taylor University ‘19
WEEk 2: Lamenting and Longing - A Super Full Week
June 21, 2019
This past week has been very intense going into the 3rd week of RJP. This is the week when we begin working on our sites, planning VBS, and having longer schedules. As an RJP group, we started going over the book of Nehemiah and continuing the discussion of what lament is and why it's important. While working at my site (YouthLife Foundation of Richmond), I began to see the brokenness of Richmond's history that affects the teenagers I work with. As an African American male, I was shocked about the pain and trauma that the many men, women, and children experience on a daily basis. This revealed to me how blessed and privileged I was growing up as a child and how I can use my privilege to benefit and serve the community.
During this week, we watched a very intense limited series called "When They See Us". This show showed the injustices of a true story that involved teenage boys of color who were framed for a crime they did not commit. When the episode ended, I was filled with tears and didn't speak a word. I was saddened by the pain and torture these young men went through and that God's Creation had the capacity to commit this evil action. That Saturday, we spent the morning on a tour of the historic trail of enslaved Africans in Richmond. This brought tremendous weight to my heart. Ecclesiastes 1:18 reads, "For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief." God revealed to me this week that we as a nation and as a kingdom of God need to lament for the brokenness of our nation's history. I'm still processing it all with the Lord and continue to call on Him for guidance. Praise Him for His redemptive power.
-Michael Sowell, GMU ‘21
WEEK 1: orientation
June 17, 2019
This past week whirled by before I even realized it was over. Orientation to RJP was more intense than I expected and I learned a lot more about Richmond than I was expecting. As a group, we started the week with each house group taking a tightly budgeted shopping trip. Some did better than others but we can all generally agree that it was a massive struggle to prepare for three meals a day for a week with a bunch of strangers. With our shopping trip out of the way, we all went on a bike tour of some historic locations in Richmond. This tour started in Libby Hill, which overlooks the James river and features a sky-scraping statue of a confederate soldier. Learning the history of what was once called Powhatan River and how there was a port nearby that was once used for the slave trade put what I had leaned in grade school in a real life lens. Suddenly it felt like it was more than a story my history teachers told me of people in some distant past. We continued the tour and landed in Chimborazo park, once the site for the largest Civil War hospital then later a freedmen's community which included a school to teach newly released slaves how to read and write, is now a beautiful park to bike, walk, picnic, rest in. This location had so much history and I felt like I could visualize each story and see where the nurses would get their clean bandages as they ran to save a wounded soldier or where the newly freed men and women would sit and eagerly listen to their teachers. This city has immense history and starting the week with a historical tour was a perfect preface to these next six weeks.
As we continued through the week, we studied scripture together and prepared our hearts to hear what God wants to tell us through this summer. We prepared for these next six weeks in the best ways possible. Praying for and with each other, worshiping the Lord side by side, and sitting at the feet of people who have lived in this community longer than we have been alive and listening to how they have seen this community change are just a few of the ways we have gotten ourselves involved in the Richmond community as well as built our own RJP community. Personally, I have already heard God speaking to me, telling me how I need to rest in and rely on Him and Him alone as well as how he has so much in store for me and my team. I’m learning what it’s like to have roommates (who aren’t my parents and siblings) and live with people of different cultures. It’s already been so enriching, I cannot wait to see how the rest of the summer pans out.
- Abby Krafsig, GMU ‘21
rjp 2018 blogs
Week 7 : Home
July 26, 2018
“Where are you from?” This seems to be one of the biggest questions everybody asks when getting to know someone new. Well, I could tell you where my family’s from—going in-depth on how my grandmother on my father’s side immigrated from Thailand, or how my mother’s great-great-greats came from the Netherlands—or I could tell you about where my family members live, or where my parents reside, or where I go to college…but I never know how to fully answer that question. Some people try to help by asking where I grew up, but even that answer is complicated. I grew up moving every 2-3 years of my life, living in 7 different US states and 2 other countries all before the age of 17. On one hand, I’ve been blessed to experience and engage with multiple cultures and I wouldn’t trade that for the world; on the other hand, I have struggled with the idea of belonging, especially as I’ve gotten older because so many people have lived in the same place their whole lives. Sometimes I feel like an outsider trying to fit in because I don’t know where I belong.
There is a great fear when getting to know new people, especially when we don’t know their background, their culture, or their native tongue. As a sojourner, it’s surprisingly easy to disassociate from society because it seems safer to step back than to draw more attention to yourself; but disassociating can also be incredibly lonely. I am thankful that my parents encouraged me to press into different communities rather than stepping away because I would have just made assumptions of people instead of getting to know them. While being a part of the Richmond Justice Program, we have been encouraged and challenged to focus on building community (which is why we’ve fasted from various social media platforms). It’s difficult to press into community and the kids I work with sometimes because this program only lasts for this short summer, but community, no matter where or how long you’re there for, is incredibly important. Some of the previous blog posts have talked about the importance of community, shalom, and neighboring; and have also talked about the challenges of being intentional with community. But what about people who are new to a community? What do we do then?
We recently visited an organization that works with refugees and immigrants to help them as they acclimate to the city and country; teaching them English, encouraging leadership development, and more. As someone who has moved constantly, I find myself relating to the immigrant community: it is difficult to find community when everybody else seems to have already settled. Imagine what it’s like for someone to move without even knowing the language or culture.
If you read the book of Mark you’ll find that there are many themes, and one particularly revolves around the kingdom of God. God created people for good. His intention was for relationships to flourish and for people to live in harmony. However, as sin entered our world, the beautiful dynamics have been broken; people fight and harm one another, which brings dangerous situations and fear. People leave their homes to seek refuge, but even they are marginalized as they try to find new homes. Mark shows a lot of Jesus’ love and compassion for others; he cared so much that he healed the sick, dined with tax collectors, and more because he came to restore the broken relationships. In the words of Tim Keller:
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.
God fully knows and fully loves us, and he asks us to do the same. No matter where you are or what your circumstance is, you can still build relationships with those around you. Yes, there is a great fear when getting to know new or different people, but that fear inhibits us from creating and building relationships with those around us. We all are image-bearers of Christ; if we let fear stand in our way, how can we move forward in love? There are many things we can do to bring justice to the marginalized and to spread the love of Christ. God has made us unique for a purpose; we have different talents so we can reach out to different people. I ask that you research what people groups lives in your communities and how you can be a part of creating a culture where Christ is the center rather than selfish ambition.
Where am I from? Eh, I’m from everywhere, really, but I have found my home in the Lord.
-Karese Kaw-uh, CNU ‘19
Week 6: Culture Creators
July 18, 2018
This summer the interns have committed to being present in the Richmond community. We have sacrificed many of our daily treasures in order to follow through with this commitment. I personally think two of our biggest sacrifices have been to give up our access to technology (phones and computers) and give up our money (credit cards and cash). It’s been difficult in numerous ways but because of our sacrifices, we have grown closer together as interns and grown closer with the Richmond community in ways I doubt would have been possible if we were to all stare at our cell phones whenever we wanted.
I believe these are just some of the ways we are trying to create a culture which is God-centered. We are striving to follow the greatest commandments: love your God and love your neighbor. In doing so, we have to be aware of not only ourselves, but also the place around us. We discuss a lot about not only our own stories and journeys, but also the larger stories of Richmond and America. As God’s people, we strive to see how God has been working in the good and the bad of our stories and join him as he works to bring his kingdom here. By giving up our phones and money, we already got rid of two major idols which distract us from God and from each other. But more than that, we try to fill that time and space with ways to draw closer to God and serve our communities. Eventually we seek to bring phones and money (among other numerous things) back into our lives not to serve our own purposes but to serve God’s purposes. It’s a little weird because it sounds like this huge social and mental battle but practically, it’s making a bunch of small choices. It’s these little ways that we have learned to pick up our crosses daily as we follow Jesus into his kingdom.
-Krunal Patel, UVA '18
Week 5.5 : Mind Dump, I’m Becoming Undone
July 12, 2018
I’ve experienced a great deal since I’ve resided here in Richmond for the past five weeks, and I feel myself becoming more and more undone. Coming into this, I knew there was much work to be done within my own heart (as there always seems to be); although it feels like the more I work on myself, the more work seems to be gleaming at the horizon, more questions that need answering, more questions about my own identity, and more questions about the grand human narrative of our existence. This encompasses culture making, conquest, oppression, love, hate, and a churning tornado of other key concepts. It seems almost counterproductive in a way. I thought I was working toward something, being built up, a rapid incline of knowledge and understanding, but I’m only becoming unraveled--broken down. There’s a small voice that echoes in my mind and says this is what needs to be done, you must first be completely dismantled before you can be put together again. Another voice replies, Again? Were you ever together to begin with? I don’t think so. All this talk of the painfully masked narrative of Richmond that became the economic foundation of our country through slavery and how this became intertwined with white supremacy, assimilation, and exploitation of minorities almost feels above my ability to comprehend at some points; yet, it puts my own life into perspective.
Where do I fit in this story? How have I been affected by racial injustice? Have I been unintentionally assimilating into the dominant white American culture? Is this something to be shameful of? Should I begin exploring my own ethnicity as a black man and try to fit more into the picture that society paints of what blackness should look and sound like? Am I too far gone? What does God think about it? These are only a handful of the questions that seem to make me come undone.
Sometime during the beginning of the program, myself, my fellow interns the were all describing unique ways to individually love each other well during our time here. I decided to jump on the bandwagon of hugs while the opportunity presented itself. So far it has actually been pretty helpful. Although there is was one particular hug that I have received a couple times that seems to cause a different kind of response in me. This hug feels patriarchal...paternal, fatherly. I guess that's the best way I can describe it, and secretly I want it to linger on for eternity. It seems to be the most comforting of hugs and it triggers something within my heart. It's like a breath of fresh air and a weight lifted off my shoulder without words. (not to negate everyone else's much appreciated physical affection) *Gross Milo, get your life together my dude* Could this be from an absent Father in my own life? Have I really missed out on something? Is there something instinctive in me the still yearns for a lingering, fatherly embrace. Is it all just in my head? What has helped shape this part of my story to be the way that it is? These questions makes me come undone.
I was having lunch with two of my favorite CHAT kids this past week, (not that I have actual favorites), okay, I have actual favorites. ten year old Jasmine was telling me her story. She spoke of the various shelters she's had to live in and the uncertainty of her whereabouts once the CHAT program was over. She explained how she was often put in uncomfortable situations like having to share a room with complete strangers and how "gross" the food that was served was. She spoke of the "crackhouses" that surrounds where she is currently residing and how dangerous all the other surrounding neighborhoods are. Ten year old Xavier agreed in a childlike voice, "Mosby Court? Oh yeah, that's death, death, death! I hear gunshots there all the time. I wish we can live somewhere with peace." "Yeah, like the Blue Ridge Mountains or something", exclaimed Jasmine. I'm not sure if it was their circumstances or the innocence in their voices but I became a smidge more dismantled. I felt a small brick thrown at the fortified wall that guards my emotions. These kids' stories are actually not too far from my own, and maybe I've somehow managed to normalize my own experience. Is God trying to show me something? I may need to do so more digging. Please pray for me as I continue to unearth bits of dirt within my own story with what seems to be a small, metal spoon, the same spoon I'm using to serve the Church Hill community.
-Milo Miller, TCC ‘18
week 5: Hope in Jesus
July 11, 2018
This summer has certainly been a whirlwind. We have been given so much information on the many injustices that exist in this country and a lot of it is hard to digest and process. Sometimes, it is hard to find the ability to smile when I look at the kids I am serving because I know that the odds are against them. The systems are working against their success.
However, last week we studied Philippians 2, which gives a lot of hope to us by describing the nature of Jesus and who He is. The Son was willing to come down to earth and give up everything, including power to take on a human body with many imperfections. Not only that, he lived in poverty, among the weak and was considered weak Himself. Naturally, no one would ever think that someone like him would be the one who has come to save the world from sin. Despite all of that, Jesus conquered death and was exalted, glorifying the Father through his ultimate act of love and humility.
Like Him, we are called to love and live humbly, “[valuing] others are [ourselves]” and “looking to...the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Jesus never said it would be easy, but because He has paid the ultimate price, “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:39). Jesusl’ ultimate sacrifice allows us to serve and to follow in Jesus’ footsteps with hope. It may not look like it will get better, the injustices may appear to multiply, but He has finished it already. He has won the battle.
So now we are able to smile even though things get tough. Now, we have hope that things will get better. And understanding this allows me to smile at my kids because I trust that our Father has a plan for them, that He has created them with a purpose in mind. He calls them His, created them in His image. And now when they smile at me, I see Jesus smiling through them and I smile too.
- Evangeline Hsieh, W&M ’20
week 3.5: From Pinch Pots to vases
June 28, 2018
I arrived in Richmond for the Richmond Justice Program Internship about three weeks ago. I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was that there were 10 other strangers (interns) that I would be doing life amongst and we would be serving the city of Richmond. I knew God had called me to this place for a reason, but I was having doubts about why I was there. I felt like I didn’t belong. For those of you who don’t know, I was born with Cerebral Palsy. Cerebral Palsy is a disorder that affects muscle tone, movement, and motor skills. Cerebral Palsy has affected my legs and has caused me to be in a wheelchair. I felt like my disability would get in the way or I couldn’t fulfill the mission God called me to.
However, In the midst of my doubts, I immediately felt love from all the interns. The more I wasn’t afraid to press into community and we got to know each other, the more I felt like I belonged. While immersing myself in the city of Richmond, I also began to look around at the community in the East End where we’ve been working. I saw how deeply they pursued their love for God together. When one struggled, they all struggled. I saw how the Spirit led them in worship every Sunday despite the struggles they’ve been through and how they prayed for one another fervently. I started to realize this was more than a community, this was a family.
Everything I had been longing for was right in front of me- I just couldn’t see it. The interns loved me despite my disability and the challenges that came with it. They loved me the way God loved me and that made all the difference. I did belong in this internship. God did call me here. No, I was not qualified, but God doesn’t call the qualified he qualifies the called. And it’s not just that I need this community- not to brag, but this summer wouldn’t be the same without me. ;) Like it says in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, every part of the body is necessary.
I’m starting to look at community differently and I’m realizing that community isn’t perfect. That everyone in a community is vital. That no matter the role you play there’s no part that is greater and no part is less. All of me is accepted and all of me is valued.
In closing, I want to share a poem I wrote. It expresses the difficulty and joy of undergoing the transformation God is bringing about this summer:
Let me be clay in the midst of your hands
Move me, stretch me, please do what I can’t
Make me something you want me to be
And when things get hard
Lord, soften me
You are the potter and I am the clay
I give up control, Lord have your way
In the midst of your hands, I am renewed
For you are the God who makes all things new
From pinch pots to vases
you’ve been with me through all phases
There are cracks in your creation
But I am build on a firm foundation
You are refining me through the fire
Through the mud and through the mire
When you are finished I’ll be your masterpiece
Until then your works will not cease
Let me be clay in the midst of your hands
Move me, stretch me, please do what I can’t
- Miriam Washington, TCC
Week 3: Shalom
June 26, 2018
In a recent letter from a friend I was asked the question “what state of mind has occupied you most while being at RJP?” She then suggested some responses: Excitement? Curiosity? Anxiety? Anger at injustice? Each of these feelings have characterized my heart and mind at some point during these past few weeks. However, there was one word that I felt best described my overall feelings: peace.
Last night, we had the privilege of hearing from Gina Maio, former head of school at Church Hill Academy, on the topic of Shalom and the Kingdom of God. Not only does shalom describe a feeling of internal peace, but it also embodies external justice in society as people are brought into right relationships, wholeness and righteousness. I was struck by this idea and the way God desires for shalom to reign in this city and all of creation.
Despite the hard conversations we have had surrounding various issues like education injustice, broken health systems and the dark history of this city, I have found peace in the never-changing character of our God who is always good and always just. When the kids refuse to listen or stay in the room at camp, God is humbling me to call on Him as my deliverer from all trouble. As we have heard from numerous community members in both Church Hill and the Northside, I’ve been encouraged by the ways God is already actively using His people to bring about justice in this city. Being able to share my heart during one-on-one discipleship time and intentionally delighting in rest and the Lord every Sunday have made me more aware of who God is and who I am in relationship to Him. The interns and staff that God has purposefully surrounded me with have served as a constant source of joy while also teaching me as I see different aspects of God’s character reflected in each member of the group.
Timothy Keller describes shalom as the “complete reconciliation, a state of the fullest flourishing in every dimension- physical, emotional, social and spiritual- because all relationships are perfect and filled with joy.” This is a beautiful picture of what our group is hoping God will bring to this city. Since being here, it has become so evident how desperately we need this shalom that comes from Christ. As we long for the truest shalom that is Jesus, I invite you to join us in this mission to build shalom through relationships with others while also watching for the ways God is offering you His gift of peace.
- Rachel Delaney, UVA '21
week 2.5: Such "Cute" Kids
June 23, 2018
There is a kid in my CHAT day camp huddle group who got upset with me today for using the word “cute” too frivolously. I’d told one huddle group member that her prayer jar looked “SO cute” only minutes after telling this particular child that his Noah’s ark model looked “super cute!” Instinctively, I defended myself with something along the lines of: “Everything is cute. God himself is cute and He created cute children like you so that you could create cute things like model arks and prayer jars!”
He rolled his eyes but I dug my heels in on my statement, and I’ve since been reflecting on a couple different definitions of the word:
1. Informal (originating from Acute)
Having or showing a perceptive understanding or insight: shrewd
2. Attractive in a pretty or endearing way
Yeah, I think God is pretty "cute". I think He has demonstrated His perceptive understanding and insight already this summer in His calling each of us (11 interns and 4 staff) into Richmond together to live, learn, serve, explore and grow closer to Him. He’s been shrewd in the ways He’s taught me more about Richmond in the past 2 weeks than I’d learned in the past 20 years, having grown up 25 minutes southwest of here. He is a really super ‘cute God; putting friends, neighbors, and heart-wrenching realities of injustices in our paths at precisely the moments we were aching to receive and address them.
And I think the second definition accurately embodies how God designed and created each one of us – each RJP intern, RUMI resident, Church Hill neighbor and CHAT kid… attractive because we are all His image bearers, of course, but especially endearing. Time here in Richmond thus far has challenged me not only in complex, intellectually stimulating ways (corporate repentance, dismantling systems, etc… kinds of ways), it’s also allowed me space to recognize cuteness in people often overlooked and circumstances often perceived as empty or hopeless.
Because what I’m realizing is that ‘cute’ actually is far too trite of a word to describe the beauty, vastness and wonder of the cross. I don’t even think there exists a word or combination of words to fully describe how awesome Jesus is and how clearly He is visible in this city, in this neighborhood, and in each cute little child He has us serving this summer.
-Jen Foliaco, UVA ‘19
WEEK 2: Love your Neighbor!
June 20, 2018
Even before I became a Christian I was familiar with this phrase. To me, it used to serve as a moral reminder of the importance of being compassionate, especially to people who are ostensibly different from me. But that only covers a part of its meaning. I like to tell myself that I love my neighbors well, but I also (erroneously) like to think of loving neighbors in its broadest terms. Don’t be prejudiced. Be caring to all. What God has been showing me in my time participating in the Richmond Justice Program is that this verse is not just an orientation: it is an invitation—or rather, a call to action—to build meaningful relationships across the lines that we ourselves have drawn.
I realize how obvious this sounds, but truthfully, I do struggle to put it into practice consistently. Most of the time, I would rather not initiate a greeting or a conversation with a stranger. Or with people I don’t know particularly well. Or, half the time, with people I know extremely well. However, with the encouragement and examples of my fellow interns and community members, I have started to see how active neighboring is not so daunting. Sometimes, neighboring is as simple as waving to the people sitting on their porches in Church Hill. Many other times, it means sharing meals and stories with our fellow Richmond Urban Ministry Institute residents, most of whom have spent time in prison but are now in the process of earning degrees and job searching. Neighboring can even take the form of prayer for a stranger on the spot, like when we didn’t have money to offer the homeless man who approached us, but who did allow us to pray for him right then and there.
These interactions begin small, and some will be with people who we won’t have the chance to pour into more deeply. Through God, though, and with time and intention, we do hope to cultivate meaningful relationships in the Richmond community that do justice to the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.
-Olivia Brashears, UVA ‘21
week 1: getting oriented
June 13, 2018
We arrived in Richmond on Wednesday, June 6th. The week passed by in a blur, but also feels as if we have been here for a month. Primarily, our time has consisted of learning about the history of Richmond and all of its secrets. The secret slave trade, the deliberate destruction of poor African-American communities, and the continued racism propagated by the Richmond government especially in the sphere of education were just some of the things we learned. On the flip side, we learned about all the ways God has continued to work in Richmond through incredible people like Benjamin Campbell, Pastor James Wilkins, and Pastor Don Coleman who have all sought Biblical justice through the power of Christ. Now, we are preparing for the bulk of our summer work by attending and taking part in CHAT orientation. In the days ahead, we will learn about how to work with the kids, both professionally and personally, as well as, begin to pray and dedicate them and their summer to the Lord.
-Cameron Woo, UVA '19
June 7, 2018
Friends, Family, Ministry Partners - we are so excited to keep you updated this summer on the Richmond Justice Program Blog. Each week a few of our interns will post here with stories and things about what they are experiencing. So far, we are all getting settled in to Richmond. Half of us are staying at the Richmond Urban Ministry Institute (RUMI) while the other half is living in a house in Church Hill (The Hill House). We are in the midst of our program orientation and interns will begin orientation at their work site, Church Hill Activities and Tutoring (CHAT), next week.
Please be praying for us this week as the interns process the history of Richmond, topics of justice and race, the new restrictions set on their life regarding money and technology, and the overall community being built here at the Richmond Justice Program.
We will update you with more next Wednesday!
-The Richmond Justice Program Staff Team
Lisa Keller, Connor Clark, Katie Yu, Katie Hazelton