Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

New York City

Samuel and I just returned from New York. We had a great time. Most of the week was reserved for appointments and connections - mainly on behalf of BCM - but we also had some time to hang in the city and have some fun.

We spent a ton of time with Dr. Louis Carlo at Nyack College in Manhattan. I was very impressed with what they have going on there. It's one of the only Christian colleges I've been to that has an overwhelming majority of students of color. I really sensed that God is reserving something special for that college. I appreciate Dr. Carlo's hospitality and opening the doors for us. He is the director of the grad school - it's very impressive. I hope to make a connection between he and David Moore at Patten. Dr. Carlo is an amazing, warm and open leader. The students love him and it shows!

Additionally I had a great meeting at NYU with Curtis Wright at the multicultural life department. We got to connect with Jason Lewis - a former BCM intern and amazing artist. He recently graduated from the School of Visual Arts with a degree in cartooning. I wanted to connect with with some of my contacts in the city. Jason is an amazing young man - God is going to use him greatly.


On Tuesday night we had dinner with Jeremy Del Rio. Over the years I've heard much about Jeremy but never had the chance to connect with him until the CCDA conference in Indy last Fall. Jeremy is a authentic and honest man of God. I had a great time with him over dinner at a Chinatown restaurant that you HAVE to try when you're in NYC. Get the soup dumplings (Samuel and I had to go back for more on Thursday). When you get the chance - check out Jeremy's blog.


On Wednesday after our meetings we went up to the Bronx to meet with Dimas. He's pioneering a new church in the same projects where hip hop started, using the community center. Dimas is a true soldier. He's a fabulous speaker / teacher but still unafraid to engage in street level ministry in the community. After the meeting we played a little pool and foos ball. While not gloating - let's just say the West Coast rules!

On Thursday we were back at Nyack where I made another announcement at the chapel meeting. At the last minute I got to teach one of the pastoral ministry classes speaking about community development.

On the weekend Samuel and I got to have some fun. We went to Yankee Stadium and a Knicks game. We also went out to Jersey and Staten Island to see family. Good times. Samuel is 10 now - I really wanted to bring him along to spend some time with him. He loves NYC - the subways, the city, the food, the sights... We had a great time - a time that we both will remember for our lives. I feel blessed to have been able to bring him with me.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sitting in San Jose Airport

Plane is delayed - takin' the red-eye to NYC. This should be my last large recruiting trip for BCM. I'm speaking at Nyack College in Manhattan - thanks to Dr. Louis Carlo.

The fun part is that Samuel is traveling with me. He's excited to be in New York again. He's 10 now - I'm sure this is a trip he'll remember all his life. We have a couple of fun things planned - a Knicks game and a tour of Yankee Stadium. We're flying on Jet Blue - direct tv all the way! My friend Katie called it a boondoggle, hmmmm.

I had the strangest stomach flu over the last few days. Sorry to whine - but, man - I felt acute pain like I never had before. Right now I'm feeling ok... hope it lasts.

We land around 6:45 am...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Conversation about gentrification and economic development

Here is a ongoing conversation I'm having with a friend about gentrification and economic development. Thoughts???

M WROTE:

Hi John. I don't have any good leads for you in NY. But I'm very interested if you learn anything. I think that a critical step next for (our organization) is both the challenge of Gentrification and Economic Development and I think they are both linked.Right now if a young leader comes to our association and says that their CDC is ready to start doing economic development in their community what do they do, I think that to a certain degree (our organization) is a bit clueless. I don't think we could tell them a clear message as to what they should be doing. What economic development activity should our CDC undertake to help our community? Is there one strategy that we should do first? (Jobs, small businesses, training, asset building, micro lending, credit unions, recruiting manufacturers, employment assistance, etc.) Or is there a process we should undertake?) Thank you for helping us think through this important issue.

JOHN WROTE:

So, how do we proceed? Do we need a focus group or committee to investigate the issue? If so - when and where?
Gentrification seems to be occurring across the country and I've seen two extreme measures to deal with it w/ in the (organization's) ranks. One is to complain and take an activist stance the other is to essentially foster it and try to make as much money off the process. I'm not sure either extremes are right. In my humble opinion, this is a current pressing issue (gentrification / Econ Devel) confronting the 'urban' Body of Christ. We may miss the boat and ignore a 'sea change' in our communities. I'd be happy to work with whomever to talk about these issues regarding the direction for (the organization) ...

M WROTE:

HI John, thanks for the feedback and the offer.

Help me a bit with the note below. I'm not sure what you meant by: In my humble opinion, this is a current pressing issue (gentrification / Econ Devel) confronting the 'urban' Body of Christ. We may miss the boat and ignore a 'sea change' in our communities.

JOHN WROTE:

Well - let me quote Bob Lupton to illustrate my point. When I heard Bob speak on gentrification, he said, "We must have a strategy for justice or a historic injustice will be meted out."

In my view - the (middle / upper class) demographic shift back into the inner city is something that is unique to us - similar to what happened in the 50's to 70's with the push to the suburbs. The church missed the boat in those days and abandoned the city. Now we have a situation where the folks we traditionally ministered to (urban poor) are moving out and being displaced. I'm not sure their life situation is any better - it's just being uprooted because of gentrification.

What I'm saying is - gentrification is happening - in Chicago, Atlanta, LA, NYC, the Bay Area... What will we do about it? What is our strategy to avoid another 'historic injustice'? If we don't have a plan and discussion on the issue - we may wake up 10 years from now and find that our 'market' has left us - and that they are in a worse place in some respects than when they were in the city. In the suburbs they might have a nicer environment in some respects - but without the support of the inner city neighborhoods.

As I thought about the housing crisis that is confronting us in the Bay, it's clear that many of the folks in our community can't buy a house here (gentrification). So - we have to focus on credit worthiness and other issues that will prepare them for home ownership - realizing that to buy a house they will leave our community. Years ago - the issues were different. That's one way we can circumvent a historic injustice...

M WROTE:

From what I've seen and heard from leaders like yourself, I would agree with your analysis. The addition I might add would be that in many communities beyond California there is still time/opportunity to help the poor into homeownership in their current neighborhoods.

Back home for a week

Just got back home from my trip. After leaving Hampton University on Friday I flew down to Florida to I spend the weekend with family and friend.

I had the chance to hook up with one of my oldest friends, Tony. Tony is now a dentist in the town I grew up in. I've known him since kindergarten. It's a trip to see the two of us, late 30's, having coffee, talking 'grown up' talk. I remember alll the times on the playground at St. Peters School with him... TIme flies.

Also had the blessing to spend a ton of time with my nephew Noah and niece Lilli. I pasted some of the pics of the kids. It was good to be with the family. It was hard to leave but I was anxious to return home to Melissa and Samuel.

Oh yea, I also found a great pic of Melissa and Samuel taken on Christmas Eve.

Next Monday I head to NYC to recruit for BCM. Samuel is going with me... Hope to hook up with family and friends when I'm there. On Friday we're taking a tour of Yankee Stadium and going to a Knicks game. I don't know if he or I is more excited!



Friday, February 10, 2006

Transcript of Bono's message at prayer breakfast

Transcript: Bono remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast

Remarks — as prepared for delivery and courtesy of DATA — by Bono to the National Prayer Breakfast; Feb. 2, 2006.

BONO: Thank you.

Mr. President, First Lady, King Abdullah, Other heads of State, Members of Congress, distinguished guests …

Please join me in praying that I don't say something we'll all regret.

That was for the FCC.

If you're wondering what I'm doing here, at a prayer breakfast, well, so am I. I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather. It's certainly not because I'm a rock star. Which leaves one possible explanation: I'm here because I've got a messianic complex.

Yes, it's true. And for anyone who knows me, it's hardly a revelation.

Well, I'm the first to admit that there's something unnatural… something unseemly… about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents, and then disappearing to their villas in the South of France. Talk about a fish out of water. It was weird enough when Jesse Helms showed up at a U2 concert… but this is really weird, isn't it?

You know, one of the things I love about this country is its separation of church and state. Although I have to say: in inviting me here, both church and state have been separated from something else completely: their mind. .

Mr. President, are you sure about this?

It's very humbling and I will try to keep my homily brief. But be warned—I'm Irish.

I'd like to talk about the laws of man, here in this city where those laws are written. And I'd like to talk about higher laws. It would be great to assume that the one serves the other; that the laws of man serve these higher laws… but of course, they don't always. And I presume that, in a sense, is why you're here.

I presume the reason for this gathering is that all of us here—Muslims, Jews, Christians—all are searching our souls for how to better serve our family, our community, our nation, our God.

I know I am. Searching, I mean. And that, I suppose, is what led me here, too.

Yes, it's odd, having a rock star here—but maybe it's odder for me than for you. You see, I avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it had something to do with having a father who was Protestant and a mother who was Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, a battle line. Where the line between church and state was… well, a little blurry, and hard to see.

I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays… and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God.

For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land… and in this country, seeing God's second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash… in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment…

I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.

Even though I was a believer.

Perhaps because I was a believer.

I was cynical… not about God, but about God's politics. (There you are, Jim.)

Then, in 1997, a couple of eccentric, septuagenarian British Christians went and ruined my shtick—my reproachfulness. They did it by describing the Millennium, the year 2000, as a Jubilee year, as an opportunity to cancel the chronic debts of the world's poorest people. They had the audacity to renew the Lord's call—and were joined by Pope John Paul II, who, from an Irish half-Catholic's point of view, may have had a more direct line to the Almighty.

'Jubilee'—why 'Jubilee'?

What was this year of Jubilee, this year of our Lords favor?

I'd always read the Scriptures, even the obscure stuff. There it was in Leviticus (25:35)…

'If your brother becomes poor,' the Scriptures say, 'and cannot maintain himself… you shall maintain him… You shall not lend him your money at interest, not give him your food for profit.'

It is such an important idea, Jubilee, that Jesus begins his ministry with this. Jesus is a young man, he's met with the rabbis, impressed everyone, people are talking. The elders say, he's a clever guy, this Jesus, but he hasn't done much… yet. He hasn't spoken in public before…

When he does, is first words are from Isaiah: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,' he says, 'because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.' And Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord's favour, the year of Jubilee. (Luke 4:18)

What he was really talking about was an era of grace—and we're still in it.

So fast-forward 2,000 years. That same thought, grace, was made incarnate—in a movement of all kinds of people. It wasn't a bless-me club… it wasn't a holy huddle. These religious guys were willing to get out in the streets, get their boots dirty, wave the placards, follow their convictions with actions… making it really hard for people like me to keep their distance. It was amazing. I almost started to like these church people.

But then my cynicism got another helping hand.

It was what Colin Powell, a five-star general, called the greatest W.M.D. of them all: a tiny little virus called A.I.D.S. And the religious community, in large part, missed it. The one's that didn't miss it could only see it as divine retribution for bad behaviour. Even on children… Even fastest growing group of HIV infections were married, faithful women.

Aha, there they go again! I thought to myself Judgmentalism is back!

But in truth, I was wrong again. The church was slow but the church got busy on this the leprosy of our age.

Love was on the move.

Mercy was on the move.

God was on the move.

Moving people of all kinds to work with others they had never met, never would have cared to meet… Conservative church groups hanging out with spokesmen for the gay community, all singing off the same hymn sheet on AIDS… Soccer moms and quarterbacks… hip-hop stars and country stars… This is what happens when God gets on the move: crazy stuff happens!

Popes were seen wearing sunglasses!

Jesse Helms was seen with a ghetto blaster!

Crazy stuff. Evidence of the spirit.

It was breathtaking. Literally. It stopped the world in its tracks.

When churches started demonstrating on debt, governments listened—and acted. When churches starting organising, petitioning, and even—that most unholy of acts today, God forbid, lobbying… on AIDS and global health, governments listened—and acted.

I'm here today in all humility to say: you changed minds; you changed policy; you changed the world.

Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.

Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone.

I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. "If you remove the yolk from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places"

It's not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It's not an accident. That's a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. [You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.] 'As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.' (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.

Here's some good news for the President. After 9-11 we were told America would have no time for the World's poor. America would be taken up with its own problems of safety. And it's true these are dangerous times, but America has not drawn the blinds and double-locked the doors.

In fact, you have double aid to Africa. You have tripled funding for global health. Mr. President, your emergency plan for AIDS relief and support for the Global Fund—you and Congress—have put 700,000 people onto life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and provided 8 million bed nets to protect children from malaria.

Outstanding human achievements. Counterintuitive. Historic. Be very, very proud.

But here's the bad news. From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There's is much more to do. There's a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response.

And finally, it's not about charity after all, is it? It's about justice.

Let me repeat that: It's not about charity, it's about justice.

And that's too bad.

Because you're good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can't afford it.

But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.

6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drugstore. This is not about charity, this is about Justice and Equality.

Because there's no way we can look at what's happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn't accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the Tsunami. 150, 000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, "mother nature". In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it's a completely avoidable catastrophe.

It's annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren't they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.

You know, think of those Jewish sheep-herders going to meet the Pharaoh, mud on their shoes, and the Pharaoh says, "Equal?" A preposterous idea: rich and poor are equal? And they say, "Yeah, 'equal,' that's what it says here in this book. We're all made in the image of God."

And eventually the Pharaoh says, "OK, I can accept that. I can accept the Jews—but not the blacks."

"Not the women. Not the gays. Not the Irish. No way, man."

So on we go with our journey of equality.

On we go in the pursuit of justice.

We hear that call in the ONE Campaign, a growing movement of more than two million Americans… left and right together… united in the belief that where you live should no longer determine whether you live.

We hear that call even more powerfully today, as we mourn the loss of Coretta Scott King—mother of a movement for equality, one that changed the world but is only just getting started. These issues are as alive as they ever were; they just change shape and cross the seas.

Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market… that's a justice issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents… That's a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents… that's a justice issue.

And while the law is what we say it is, God is not silent on the subject.

That's why I say there's the law of the land… and then there is a higher standard. There's the law of the land, and we can hire experts to write them so they benefit us, so the laws say it's OK to protect our agriculture but it's not OK for African farmers to do the same, to earn a living?

As the laws of man are written, that's what they say.

God will not accept that.

Mine won't, at least. Will yours?

[pause]

I close this morning on … very… thin… ice.

This is a dangerous idea I've put on the table: my God vs. your God, their God vs. our God… vs. no God. It is very easy, in these times, to see religion as a force for division rather than unity.

And this is a town—Washington—that knows something of division.

But the reason I am here, and the reason I keep coming back to Washington, is because this is a town that is proving it can come together on behalf of what the Scriptures call the least of these.

This is not a Republican idea. It is not a Democratic idea. It is not even, with all due respect, an American idea. Nor it is unique to any one faith.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.' (Luke 6:30) Jesus says that.

'Righteousness is this: that one should… give away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of the captives.' The Koran says that. (2.177)

Thus sayeth the Lord: 'Bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, cover him, then your light will break out like the dawn and your recovery will speedily spring fourth, then your Lord will be your rear guard.' The jewish scripture says that. Isaiah 58 again.

That is a powerful incentive: 'The Lord will watch your back.' Sounds like a good deal to me, right now.

A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord's blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it… I have a family, please look after them… I have this crazy idea…

And this wise man said: stop.

He said, stop asking God to bless what you're doing.

Get involved in what God is doing—because it's already blessed.

Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing.

And that is what He's calling us to do.

I was amazed when I first got to this country and I learned how much some churchgoers tithe. Up to ten percent of the family budget. Well, how does that compare the federal budget, the budget for the entire American family? How much of that goes to the poorest people in the world? Less than one percent.

Mr. President, Congress, people of faith, people of America:

I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing…. Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional one percent of the federal budget tithed to the poor.

What is one percent?

One percent is not merely a number on a balance sheet.

One percent is the girl in Africa who gets to go to school, thanks to you. One percent is the AIDS patient who gets her medicine, thanks to you. One percent is the African entrepreneur who can start a small family business thanks to you. One percent is not redecorating presidential palaces or money flowing down a rat hole. This one percent is digging waterholes to provide clean water.

One percent is a new partnership with Africa, not paternalism towards Africa, where increased assistance flows toward improved governance and initiatives with proven track records and away from boondoggles and white elephants of every description.

America gives less than one percent now. Were asking for an extra one percent to change the world. to transform millions of lives—but not just that and I say this to the military men now – to transform the way that they see us.

One percent is national security, enlightened economic self interest, and a better safer world rolled into one. Sounds to me that in this town of deals and compromises, one percent is the best bargain around.

These goals—clean water for all; school for every child; medicine for the afflicted, an end to extreme and senseless poverty—these are not just any goals; they are the Millennium Development goals, which this country supports. And they are more than that. They are the Beatitudes for a Globalised World.

Now, I'm very lucky. I don't have to sit on any budget committees. And I certainly don't have to sit where you do, Mr. President. I don't have to make the tough choices.

But I can tell you this:

To give one percent more is right. It's smart. And it's blessed.

There is a continent—Africa—being consumed by flames.

I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did—or did not to—to put the fire out in Africa.

History, like God, is watching what we do.

Thank you. Thank you, America, and God bless you all.

East Coast this week - now in Florida

Been on the east coast all this week - Atlanta (Spelman, Morehouse and Georgia State) and Hampton University in Virginia. It was good to be with students. Our turnout in Atlanta was somewhat poor, because of the King funeral (I think). Hampton was great - I'm thrilled about our relationship with Minster Ray at the school.

Now I'm in Florida, hanging out with family for the weekend. Right now I'm having an intense discussion with my brother in law about the emergent church. Good times!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Read this book!


I've been reading this book. It's by a local Bay Area guy who was a key play in Apple a few years ago. Practical, clear and honest. If you're looking to start something or are looking for funding... this is worth the price. Get it here.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Bono from U2 Speaks at National Prayer Breakfast

There are a couple of artists that have influenced my thinking and passion. Bruce Springsteen taught me about the pain of the blue collar worker. Bob Dylan taught me the power of song (ever hear "Hurricane"?). Larry Norman told me that you could be a Christian and care about politics (song - The Great American Novel). Bono changed me - he IS a Christian and a social activist. Bono used the scripture to define my theology about the poor. I do what I do today in part because of artists like these.

Last week Bono spoke at the national prayer breakfast. Listen here. . This is a prophetic message to the church and those of us who care about God's heart for the poor.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Update on NCUDC (Credit Union) project

*This went out to our CU partners... Hopefully it'll give you an update on our progression...*

I wanted to take a moment and give you an update on our work over the past few weeks. Charlene returned from Guam on 1/18, which has provided us the opportunity to move ahead on our tasks and projects. Her father thankfully is doing well and recovering.

We are working on a number of fronts to see this project established. Here is the list of things that are on the “front burner”.

- CDFI Fund grant. The CDFI fund grant is due on 2/13. We are applying for federal money to provide us capital for EPAFCU. The grant application is arduous. We expect to get the grant complete, but the deadline is tight. We’re asking for 100k for technical assistance. If approved, it will fund in the fall.

- Business plan. We’re working diligently on the business plan for EPAFCU. We recently spent a day together working on this. Our goal is to have a draft plan by no later than 4/1. There will be additional pieces that we will add as we complete the charter application.

- Golf Tournament. We’ve moved the golf tournament date to 3/31. This gives us another week of room to work on this. We expect to have solicitation letters for sponsors and promotional material completed by next week. Once we do we’ll get information into your hands. Look for items from Charlene by the end of next week. We need sponsors and golfers, please help us!

- Location for EPAFCU. A location in EPA recently came available that, for many reasons, is the ideal location for the credit union. I’m hoping to finalize those arrangements any day now. Our goal is to take possession by 3/1.

Additionally, in a recent trip to Grand Rapids I had the opportunity to meet with Randy Karnes from CU Answers. The meeting with Randy helped establish our relationship with his company. He offered some excellent advice and encouraged us in our effort. With Randy’s help I’m outlining an action plan for the development of the business side of the CU. We’ll include you in the discussion in upcoming weeks.

We have identified a timeline for the implementation of this project. While in some cases we’ll be able to outperform what we’ve outlined below - I wanted to set realistic and attainable expectations for our performance based on the amount of work to be done. With your help we may be able to make this happen sooner. Of course, the wild card is the NCUA. As you know - each of these items have a myriad of action items. Here’s our timeline:

2/13 - CDFI fund application complete
3/17 - Fund raising dessert for NCUDC
3/31 - Golf Tournament at Poppy Ridge
4/1 - Draft business plan complete
6/1 - Charter Application Complete
9/1 - Build out of EPAFCU space
1/1/06 - EPAFCU Doors open

OK - there is a brief update on our progression. Thanks for all your help! Please let me know your questions and comments.