Search

conversations on the fringe

Tag

Gloria Lee

Dreamers: What’s Their Story?


Since I was 4 years old, I always knew that as soon as our whole family had visas, we would be getting on a plane to America from South Korea. We grew impatient as this process took so long, but we went on with our everyday life without much impact.

My friend Ryan (name changed for privacy) also waited 4 years to come to America, but his story is very different from mine. He lived in Guatemala during a civil war. People were tired of corrupt government and dreamt of a better life. His father was at risk of being forced to join the guerrilla. Wanting a better life for his family, he left his children and wife behind and headed for California looking to secure a safer and better future.

His wife eventually joined him while Ryan and his brother lived with their aunt. 4 years later, the family was reunited in Los Angeles. They knew that crossing the border with “coyote” smuggler was just as risky as staying in a non-progressive society where poverty, violence, and civil war was all they knew. However, the high risk of crossing the border at least came with the hope that if they made it, there could be better future. The family no longer had to live in the midst of civil war.

Ryan’s parents worked diligently to provide for the family. His mother cleaned houses all day, and his father worked in a factory. They were granted legal work permits, legal social security cards, and legal IDs. They both worked hard, paid their taxes, and did their best to be law-abiding citizens. The only thing that was missing was legal documentation to live in the United States… but once again, this was the better option than living back home.

Ryan and his brother were taught to study hard, get good grades, and go to college to secure brighter future. Ryan didn’t even realize that he was “illegal” until he was actually accepted to a Cal State University. When he went to enroll in University, he learned that without a green card, visa, nor birth certificate, he couldn’t get financial aid. Because the family couldn’t afford to pay for his tuition, Ryan made the decision to go into the workforce although his heart was for higher education. Ryan found a job in a charter school where he could live out his heart for mentoring teens.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), created in 2012 under Obama administration, allow people brought to the US illegally as children the temporary right to live, study, and work in America. In order to apply, they must meet the following requirements: under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012, came to the US while under the age of 16, have continuously resided in the US since June 15, 2007, be enrolled in school or have equivalent of a high school diploma, and never been convicted of a serious crime.

Those protected under DACA are known as “Dreamers.” Since DACA creation, nearly 800,000 unauthorized immigrants have been granted protection from deportation. And nearly 690,000 are currently enrolled in DACA. Current DACA recipients come from around the world, but more than nine-in-ten are from Latin America, and nearly half of current DACA recipients live in California (29%) and Texas (16%) (Pew Research). Under Trump administration, new applicants under will DACA will no longer be accepted, and their current permits will begin expiring March 2018. Unless Congress passes legislation allowing new immigration status, Dreamers will all lose their status by March 2020.

DACA gives youngsters the opportunity to be known as “legal” residents, to continue on with higher education, and work towards a career. Most Dreamers are “givers, not takers.” Of course, in every population of people, there are bad apples in every barrel. But you can’t judge the whole barrel by few bad apples.

Most Dreamers love this country because they were given education, safety, security, and opportunities that their motherland couldn’t provide. They want brighter future for themselves and their families just like every other immigrant. They consider America to be their country as most of them grew up in the US from childhood.  

When I think about my friend Ryan, it pains me that he was robbed of opportunities that were granted to me. Both of our parents wanted better future for their children. Fortunately for me, we didn’t have to flee South Korea in a hurry. We could afford to stay as long as our paperwork came through.

However, for Ryan, his parents made the decision to flee Guatemala due to civil unrest even if it meant leaving illegally. Ryan and I both didn’t have much say in the matter. We followed our parents. We both studied hard in hopes of better education and opportunities that our parents wanted for us. We both lost our moms at a young age. We both had obstacles to overcome.

Fortunately for me, my legal status allowed me to chase after my dreams of going to a top university and following my passion in my vocation. For Ryan, all that came to a sudden halt. In the past 6 years I’ve known Ryan, he has always worked multiples jobs to support his family, especially his younger siblings after his mother’s passing. In addition, he found the time to mentor teens through his local church.

Ryan has impacted many young people that he has mentored over the years. And those of us that are blessed to call him a friend have been touched by his story and enriched by who he is. He was granted DACA, and he still dreams of going back to school one day.  

I asked Ryan, “How can we best support and advocate for Dreamers?” This was his answer:

“By exactly what you’re doing. Asking and getting to know someone’s story. I believe if you listen to life stories, you come to know an individual not by their label but by who they are: their character, their content, their humanity, and their heart. We’re not how many portray us. Dreamers are beautiful individuals who want to contribute to our neighborhoods, cities, states, and nation to be better and greater. Most of us pose no threat to our nation. We have a lot to offer… all we want is the opportunity to do so.”


Gloria S. Lee – Graduate of UC Berkeley and Talbot School of Theology, Gloria has been in vocational ministry to children, students, and families for over 20 years. She loves equipping leaders and parents to help kids love and follow Jesus. She is a contributor to Children’s Ministry Magazine, International Sports Ministry curriculum, blogs, and few ministry books out there. Gloria loves anything Wonder Woman, the beach, trying out new restaurants, coffee, traveling, and just chilling at home with a good book or a show on Netflix. She’s currently on staff at Menlo Church in Northern California.

you can also connect with Gloria via: TWITTER BLOG FACEBOOK LINKEDIN

Advertisements

Take Care Of Yourself


I am one of the healthiest people I know! It’s not because I live a healthy lifestyle, per say… but I was just blessed with an amazing immune system. I can’t remember ever having the flu… and even when I come down with a cold, I may be out of commission for 24 hours, and I’m done.

However, in 2010, I became a complete mess physically. Canker sores and cold sores decided to take turns making an appearance for 4 months straight. My left eye would twitch for hours at least once a week. I developed gallstones which resulted in the removal of my gallbladder. I had insomnia for 3 months: I would survive on 2-3 hours of sleep a night, and then I would crash for 12 hours on my days off. It’s obvious that this is sure sign of unhealthy life, most likely related to stress. However, I couldn’t see how bad of shape I was in. I kept thinking it’ll just get better. It took some serious intervention from my friends to realize how horrible I had looked and felt.

I rarely look or feel stressed… but when I’m not doing well, it usually manifests itself in physical illness. As a workaholic (I actually enjoy work most of the time), I failed to see how burnt out I was. In addition, my soul was hurting and tired, but I failed to see how much I needed rest and care because I was too busy caring for others in ministry. I was also in a very toxic work environment, but I refused to see how much it was affecting me… because I kept telling myself to suck it up and plow through. Things had to get worse before I was able to see that I needed to make some serious changes in my life.

After suffering from an ongoing physical ailment, I had two friends that intervened and spoke truth into my life. They told me that I needed to resign from my position at my church before it literally kills me. They called, emailed, and texted me every few days to make sure I was okay and to keep me accountable. They kept telling me that the relationships and the love I have for the kids and families in my ministry would continue beyond my position in the church… and they kept telling me that I wasn’t going to be effective in my ministry if I continue down this road. It took me several months to actually hear them. Things did get worse, and I finally turned in my resignation after a whole year of suffering through my ailments.

So what have I learned? I am not invincible! I can’t save everything and everyone. I need to know my limitations. I need to ask for help. And I need to be willing to leave toxic environment for my own health. As someone in ministry, it’s easy to become a martyr… but when I look back, I don’t know that my presence was effective because I was in such a bad shape. I learned that it’s not my ministry, my people… but God’s ministry and God’s people. He takes care of His people, and it’s not up to me to make sure they’re well at the expense of my own health. I still keep in touch with families from that ministry, and we can all agree that I stayed in that ministry a year too long.

It literally took 12 months for me to rest, renew, and restore both physically and mentally. Emotionally, I’m still working on forgiving few individuals… and I’ve asked for forgiveness from few as well. Today, I make sure I take “Gloria Days” at least twice a month. “Gloria Days” are when I unplug, go to the beach and enjoy God’s beauty, or spend time with life-giving friends and family. I pay close attention to my body. I am also learning to be more vulnerable and to ask for help when I’m overwhelmed or tired. At the risk of sounding Oprah-ish, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be as effective in your ministry (or relationship) to others in your life.

Take Care of Yourself!


Gloria S. Lee – Graduate of UC Berkeley and Talbot School of Theology, Gloria has been in vocational ministry to children, students, and families for over 20 years. She loves equipping leaders and parents to help kids love and follow Jesus. She is a contributor to Children’s Ministry Magazine, International Sports Ministry curriculum, blogs, and few ministry books out there. Gloria loves anything Wonder Woman, the beach, trying out new restaurants, coffee, traveling, and just chilling at home with a good book or a show on Netflix. She’s currently on staff at Menlo Church in Northern California.

you can also connect with Gloria via: TWITTER BLOG FACEBOOK LINKEDIN

Do Nothing


Do you know how hard it is to do nothing? It’s even harder to do nothing in silence alone. We’re bombarded by noise and a long list of things to do in our lives. I don’t think I’ve ever met any adults (and many teenagers) who said: “I have nothing to do because I’ve done everything on my to-do list.” Life is busy. Life is noisy.

When I read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I remember thinking chapters on Silence and Solitude had to be the hardest practice. When I read Jen Hatmaker’s 7, I decided to commit 7 months to practice of fasting based on the book. I was doing pretty well in the first six months of fasting, then I hit the last month of pausing seven times a day for prayer and reflection, and I failed miserably. Silence and solitude do not come naturally to most of us. Even when I’m alone, I usually have music or tv on in the background as I’m reading or busying myself with something else. I love being alone. But I don’t like doing nothing.

Silence and Solitude are two of the spiritual disciplines that fosters spiritual growths in followers of Jesus. In Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline: The Path of Spiritual Growth, he writes:

“One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent, who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust.” 

I often thought the reason I sucked at silence and solitude was that I just didn’t like being productive. Sitting in silence and doing nothing felt like… well, NOTHING. No productivity. But I failed to realize that what I was doing was resisting the space to hear God’s voice. I would often say, “I’m not one of those people who hear God’s voice.” But perhaps its’ because I failed to create space to hear his voice. I was always too busy (which is not always a good thing anyhow).

A few years ago, I started practicing silence and solitude. I would go to a park, the beach, or somewhere I can just stare out into God’s creation (I needed to go where there was no bed, no technology, and even no food. But this space can be a special chair or a room with your cup of coffee.). I went with no agenda, but to just sit, stare, and do nothing. There was no need to put my thoughts into words. I just needed to go and be.

“One of the fundamental purposes of solitude is to give us a concrete way of entering into such stillness so that God can come in and do what only God can do.”

– Ruth Haley Barton

It took practice. The first time, the first 5 minutes felt like an eternity. But the more I practiced, I was able to sit and do nothing for an hour, and it didn’t feel miserable. In fact, it was so good for my soul. Even if I didn’t walk away having had profound “ah-ha” moment, it was so good to clear my mind, sit still, look at the waves in the ocean, and just be. As I learned to be still, I also learned to listen in silence. Of course, thoughts of what I was going to have for dinner that evening, or my to-do list would creep up here and there, but I also learned to let it go and move on.

I still struggle with carving out regular time for Silence and Solitude but putting this spiritual discipline has done more for my soul than anything else. If you’ve never tried it, give it a shot!

Resources


Gloria S. Lee – Graduate of UC Berkeley and Talbot School of Theology, Gloria has been in vocational ministry to children, students, and families for over 20 years. She loves equipping leaders and parents to help kids love and follow Jesus. She is a contributor to Children’s Ministry Magazine, International Sports Ministry curriculum, blogs, and few ministry books out there. Gloria loves anything Wonder Woman, the beach, trying out new restaurants, coffee, traveling, and just chilling at home with a good book or a show on Netflix. She’s currently on staff at Menlo Church in Northern California.

you can also connect with Gloria via: TWITTER BLOG FACEBOOK LINKEDIN

Safe Place To Talk Diversity


When I first immigrated to the US from South Korea at the age of 8, I went to go live with my grandparents in Olathe, Kansas. I was the first Asian kid in my elementary school, not to mention the first Korean. Back then, kids had never heard of Korea, and they kept asking me “where are you from again? You’re not Chinese? You’re not Japanese? Then what exactly are you?”

I actually got sick of kids asking me about Korea or where I was from, so in 6th grade, I asked my teacher if I could do a report on Korea so the kids can understand my country. To be honest, I don’t even know where I got the idea nor the confidence to even ask my teacher. Thankfully, Mrs. Ater agreed and I was allowed to share about Korea, the country, and its culture, to my class for the next 2 weeks.I’m forever grateful to Mrs. Ater for giving me the opportunity to help kids understand how I’m different from them, but it doesn’t make me different as a human being. Kids were more intrigued, and they asked lots, and I mean LOTS of questions. This helped them realize the value in different culture… and while I had assimilated into the western culture in a lot of ways, they also understood that we spoke Korean and ate Korean food when we were with family.

While some kids from other classes made fun of my small eyes, the kids in my class kept wanting to ask me more questions… one kid even asked me to teach him to write in Korean.In 9th grade, I was randomly selected from my school district to attend diversity camp in Los Angeles. The purpose of this camp was to open dialogue about our perception of different ethnicities and cultures and to better understand one another. Some exercises included jotting down all the stereotypes that are out there, and addressing each one which dug into the history of each culture. I didn’t know it at the time, but this camp taught us how to connect with people that are different from us. And we all left the camp with friends from different cultural backgrounds.

Neither of my above experiences included God’s design nor perception of diversity. However, I feel that the church should create safe space for these conversations to happen. What I have learned at a young age through some of these experiences is that people are more alike than different. We all have the need to be liked. We all have the need to be understood. We all have a history that has shaped us to be who we are. And we all hurt when we’re misunderstood or judged.I have also learned that many of us are curious. We have questions. And the unknown or unanswered questions often lead to fear, and we often jump to our own conclusions or judgment of others. However, there aren’t many platforms where people, especially youths, are allowed to ask and learn about one another.

In the church, we often talk about how we need to love everyone regardless of our differences. However, we often don’t hear of churches nor youth groups that provide a safe place for these conversations to take place. So where and how do we start?

One idea is to provide discussion with a panel consisting of different ethnicities. This can be a place where students can ask honest questions (anonymous questions allowed) about race, culture, and diversity. The panel can help students better understand people that come from different backgrounds. It’s important to establish a safe environment, letting students know that their questions won’t be judged. It’s not a place where anyone needs to feel offended, and allow everyone the benefit of a doubt. Allow the panel and students to express their feelings. Lastly, be sure to allow time to debrief what they have learned, and how this has changed their initial perceptions.

Another idea is to provide an event where students of different backgrounds can connect. Shared experience usually connects people. Whether it’s serving together or playing together (if it’s a team event such as laser tag, make sure the teams are racially mixed). If your youth group isn’t diverse, invite an ethnic or multi-ethnic neighboring church youth group for a joint-event. Allow time for students to converse. You could even have “get-to-know-you-better” games. Once again, be sure to debrief with your group on what they have learned.

We often talk about loving others that are different from us in our youth groups… give opportunities for students to experience and practice being with others different from them. And allow them to live out their faith and the Word of God right now!

14” For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.”  ~Ephesians 2:14-16 (NLT)


Gloria S. Lee – Graduate of UC Berkeley and Talbot School of Theology, Gloria has been in vocational ministry to children, students, and families for over 20 years. She loves equipping leaders and parents to help kids love and follow Jesus. She is a contributor to Children’s Ministry Magazine, International Sports Ministry curriculum, blogs, and few ministry books out there. Gloria loves anything Wonder Woman, the beach, trying out new restaurants, coffee, traveling, and just chilling at home with a good book or a show on Netflix. She’s currently on staff at Menlo Church in Northern California.

you can also connect with Gloria via: TWITTER BLOG FACEBOOK LINKEDIN

 

Youth & Special Needs


God made all of us to be relational! That includes children and teens with special needs. Even those on the autism spectrum and don’t seem very social still can’t do life without relationships.

We learned this the hard way. We have done a pretty good job supporting children with various special needs including kids on the spectrum in elementary programming. We have provided buddies… or have helped with a coping mechanism so their hour with us is engaging and appropriate. As these kids age out of elementary into youth ministries, we assumed some kids would do better in elementary, especially if they have mental limitations… after all, we already have the system in place with their buddies. This is where we were wrong. We were more consumed with the mental capacity of these kids and “where they fit” rather than helping them grow in their relationships with their peers.

What we learned was that the kids that are supposed to be in middle school but were held back in elementary programming were no longer thriving. Upon further investigation, we learned that these middle schoolers missed being with their friends that they had grown up with for the past few years. We failed to see that kids with special needs crave relationships just as much as anyone else… They had been with the same friends all throughout elementary programming, but to pull them back all of a sudden didn’t sit well with them.

We sat down with our special needs coordinator, and we started to brainstorm how we could better support and minister to teens with special needs. Since programming for youths is very much different from elementary programming, we started to brainstorm to better meet their needs. Most of all, we wanted to see how we could plan for inclusion as much as possible so that preteens and teens don’t have to be separated from their peers.

We are learning that there isn’t much out there for teens with special needs. A lot of our own research shows that most places tend to group teens with special needs with adults with special needs. There are churches that do ministry well to special needs… but we were most interested in creating a place where kids and teens can be part of the overall group as much as possible without feeling overwhelmed or distracted.

This is still a new idea for us… but we’re currently working to create a sensory room where kids and teens with special needs can easily slip in and slip out as necessary. Our plan is to have a buddy system for preteens and teens that may not be able to sit through the whole student ministries programming. The buddies will consist of adults as well as peers. Our goal is to minimize peer separation as much as possible. We also want this to be a serving opportunity for other teens as well.

So how does this sensory room work? First, we want this room to be therapeutic space with equipment to help students with special needs calm and focus so they can be better prepared for learning and interaction with others. Second, we want this space to feel safe. Everyone is entitled to bad days, and if a student wants to hang out in the sensory room during the whole duration of programming, they can. But we want this room to be fluid where students can come and go. If they feel overwhelmed by noise or activities, they can slip into this sensory room, where they can feel safe. If they feel anxious or bored, and they just need to be away from the group as to not become a distraction to the large group, they can slip into the sensory room to relax and regroup. Once they feel ready, they can easily rejoin the large group in progress. Our ultimate goal is to help students transition smoothly, be included with their peers as much as possible, and help foster relationships. Students with special needs can experience Jesus just as much as anyone else… and while some may have mental limitations, many can still fully experience love and acceptance through relationships. And if we believe that knowing and growing in Jesus happens best in the context of relationships, why wouldn’t we provide that for our students with special needs?

If you’re interested in finding more resources to start inclusion ministry to youth, feel free to contact me as I’m in the trenches along with you! In addition, you may find some great resources from these sites:


Gloria S. Lee – Graduate of UC Berkeley and Talbot School of Theology, Gloria has been in vocational ministry to children, students, and families for over 20 years. She loves equipping leaders and parents to help kids love and follow Jesus. She is a contributor to Children’s Ministry Magazine, International Sports Ministry curriculum, blogs, and few ministry books out there. Gloria loves anything Wonder Woman, the beach, trying out new restaurants, coffee, traveling, and just chilling at home with a good book or a show on Netflix. She’s currently on staff at Menlo Church in Northern California.

you can also connect with Gloria via: TWITTER BLOG FACEBOOK LINKEDIN

A WordPress.com Website.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: