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'

Friday, December 19, 2008

This happened in my neighborhood

This recently happened on my street. I'm thankful that the police made this arrest, but I also have great concern for the families that live on our street. Please pray for those of us who live on Saratoga Ave! We're prayng for the Kingdom of God to impact and change our neighborhood.
The police team also arrested two Pacific-Islander men, whose names were not available, for having two guns, including a loaded Uzi machine gun with 300 rounds of ammunition. The two also had scales for weighing drugs and night-vision goggles. Packaged narcotics for sale were also seized in the arrest, which occurred in the 1100 block of Saratoga Avenue in East Palo Alto.
You can see the whole article at Palo Alto Online. This is in response to the recent shootings and violence that I blogged about here.

Update: Here is another version of the story.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Dr. Emmit Carson on Non Profits Can Survive in a Down Economy

Dr. Carson from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation says:

- Non profits must be aggressive in telling your story. Get in front of more people. Connect.

- Know that the rules have changed. Know the times we live in and make adjustments. Engage the systems.

My Morning Jacket - "Look at You"

Indie band My Morning Jacket's recent record "Evil Urges" has an outstanding song called, "Look At You" Here are the lyrics:

Look at you:
Such a fine citizen!
Look at you:
Such a glowing example of peace and glory. Glory. Glory.
Of peace and Glory. Glory. Glory.
Let me follow you.

We believe in your power to lead
without fear.
Not about, in some tower,
but here-right down here-... with us
in this world.

Look at you:
everywhere at once.
Look at you:
such a glowing example of peace and glory. Glory. Glory.
Of peace and glory. Glory. Glory.
Let me... let me follow... let me... let me follow you
Great sentiments during the Christmas season as we reflect on the Incarnation.

Does the Gospel Itself Move Us to Do Ministry to the Poor?

Tim Keller answers the question,
"How does our commitment to the primacy of the gospel tie into our obligation to do good to all, especially those of the household of faith, to serve as salt and light in the world, to do good to the city?" I will divide this question into two parts: (1) If we are committed to the primacy of the gospel, does the gospel itself serve as the basis and motivation for ministry to the poor? (2) If so, how then does that ministry relate to the proclamation of the gospel?"
Read his comments here. This is an important theological reflection - especially for those of us who come from an evangelical perspective but are called to minister to the poor. We often are criticized for not proclaiming the Gospel.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Here's a couple of picures from our recent visit to Florida. Picutres with my parents are all the grandkids, as well as all our family together...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008




TIME: 6:00PM – 8:00PM

Light Refreshments will be provided.

For more information, please contact Patty Del Castillo, Executive Assistant to Chief Davis at 650-853-3155

My City

Five shootings in 5 days with nine hurt, one overdose and another homicide over a week ago. It's been an especially violent couple of weeks in EPA. What's been particularly shocking is that some of the victims have been children and women. This is revealing the insidious nature of the shootings. There is a meeting today with some faith leaders and the police department as well as other prayer events stirring.

Here is the official press release from yesterday's shootings: 
At approximately 08:44 P.M., East Palo Alto Police Officers were summoned to the 2800 block of Illinois Street for a Shot Spotter Activation. While police officers responded to the 2800 block of Illinois Street, police officers learned that a possible shooting victim arrived at a home on the 1600 block of Michigan Avenue. In a divided response, police officers responded to the 1600 block of Michigan Avenue and the 2800 block of Illinois Street.

When police officers arrived on the 2800 block of Illinois Street, they checked the area and located evidence consistent with the original Shot Spotter Activation. When other police officers arrived on the 1600 block of Michigan Avenue, they contacted a shooting victim, identified as, Fernando Knight, a 43 year old East Palo Alto resident.

The victim suffered a gunshot wound to his leg and he was immediately provided with medical care by Fire/Medical personnel of the Menlo Park Fire Department. The victim was subsequently transported to a local hospital for further medical treatment where he was listed in stable condition.

This shooting is actively being investigated by detectives from the East Palo Alto Police Department Criminal Investigations Division. Anyone who may have witnessed this incident is encouraged to contact Detective Angel Sanchez at 650.853.3144 or at 650.853.3160. Witnesses also have the option of calling the East Palo Alto Police Anonymous Tip Line at 650.851.8477.
Please join with us in prayer for our city.

Monday, December 08, 2008

NCUD's Christmas Letter

Dear friends,

Merry Christmas from all of us here at Northern California Urban Development (NCUD)! As 2008 comes to a close there is much to be thankful for and reflect upon.

Lately I've been thinking about an analogy that describes NCUD's work in the community. We are painfully aware of the current economic conditions in our country and world. East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park certainly aren't immune from the problems, which are indicated by the well over 400 distressed properties in our community that are either in or near foreclosure. Truly, a fire is raging and lives are being forever changed. In a fire there is always a short-term and long-term response. The short-term response saves lives and property. The longer term involves two activities: replanting and future fire prevention.

As I've meditated on the correlations between a fire and NCUD, I'm thankful that God has placed our organization in the middle of the crisis at the right time. Who would have known four years ago that Community Trust Credit Union (CTCU), sponsored by NCUD, would be on the front lines of the fight, helping members navigate their financial lives through these state of affairs? How could we have known that financial literacy would play such a vital role? I can only attribute that to God's wisdom and His leading you and I to work together.

Our youth financial literacy program currently serves over 150 students a week! These classes are another way we are helping to protect lives from future fires. Given the current economic situation, we’ve had the privilege of helping our students understand what is happening so that they can conceptualize the greater depth of how their decisions with money affect their lives. A guest speaker came in to explain the $700 billion bailout in terms that would make sense to high school students that didn’t really understand why it was deemed a financial crisis. Students were able to understand more fully what led up to the bail out and why it was so extreme. Great discussions sparked up between classmates, including their own take on the financial mistakes made and what they would have done differently. The chance we have to see youth openly discuss financial matters that affect their lives is further proof that our programs have had a resounding success!

Lastly, NCUD is currently in the middle of a number of vital conversations regarding housing and foreclosures in our community. The issues are complex, the needs staggering. Conversely, we have a number of resources in our arsenal to craft a direction and response to the housing crisis. In the coming weeks we will be proving out a program directed specifically at community transformation and rebuilding through an affordable housing strategy. Please look for exciting news soon!

As we persevere through the ongoing economic issues and development in our community, we need your help now more than ever. The current crisis will most certainly impact non-profit organizations such as ours. Yet, I truly believe we are playing a vital role for 'such a time as this'. A gift this season will have a number of impacts. It will allow us to expand our youth financial literacy program by over 50 students a week beginning in January 2009. In order to meet our expanding opportunities we would like to raise $35,000 by the end of December. Secondly, it insures that we remain on the front lines of the 'fire fight' - providing us with necessary resources to consult with local individuals and organizations and creatively and collaboratively maximize our resources to help the many families that are in need. I can honestly say that this year, your gift is even more vital. Will you join with us?

Thank you for the many prayers and generous support of Northern California Urban Development. Have a blessed Christmas and wonderful New Year.

In Him,

John Liotti and the NCUD Team

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Check this blog out!

My friend Andrew Marin from the Marin Foundation is doing some amazing work building bridges between the church and the LBGT community. Andy has been blogging here pleas take a moment and check out what he's doing and saying.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Oceans of Justice

I've been preparing for this weekend's CCDA Institute in the Twin Cities that Juanita and I will be teaching. The topic is the CCDA core value redistribution. It's amusing how that word has fallen out of grace during the election. For CCDA, the definition of redistribution is a 'just distribution of resources' or 'giving people the tools and resources to work their way out of poverty' - not a socialistic or communistic interpretation. Another way to look at it - it's changing the economic forces to reflect God's kingdom and His values.

I recently read a great article by Jeremy Del Rio called "Worship and Justice". In the article Jeremy quotes a well known text from the prophet Amos, but read in The Message version. It states:
“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want” (Amos 5:21-24, The Message)
Jeremy goes on to say,
"That passage messes with lots of evangelical tradition, far more than there’s space in this column to explore. But what of the “noisy ego-music” Amos references - that of the “I’m blessed, be blessed” variety - that consumes much of our church time? Is it possible that we have become so focused on what we can get from God for ourselves that we have forgotten that the point of His blessing is to love Him well and others sacrificially?
It seems I can't go to chruch these days, or pick up the mail, or turn on religious TV without someone asking for money. In fact, as I right this I myself am writing a Christmas appeal letter for NCUD. No doubt times are tight for ministires. Donations are down. But, in the middle of chaos and consternation I'm praying for awakening. Awakening to a new realization of Kingdom economics, Kingdom values and Kingdom infused worship.  

I find myself saying a lot of cliches lately. When someone asked how I'm doing I've been saying, "blessed!" When we speak of the financial woes, I say, "God is still on the throne!" I say these not to be trite or religious. I'm saying these because I want to remind myself of how blessed I truly am, in more ways than I can mention. I also want to remember that God is sovereign and still in control over the world's and, yes Virginia, my finances. 

Perhaps I'm rambling too much here. But - in the middle of the swirling chaos, I'm daily seeking and at times finding peace. It's a daily battle, no doubt, one I don't always win. I'm standing on the truth that if I first seek His Kingdom, His justice and His reign - that all will be 'added' and provided. 

Please pray for this weekend's Institute and that God's presence would show up. Pray also that Jesus' peace and presence would invade our lives and world. God knows we need it!