This past weekend, one of my staff partners, Jon Wong, and I led a 24-hour experience to help Greek students understand God’s heart for the poor through an inner-city project. This was called the Los Angeles Urban Project Dip (LAUP Dip). This may sound familiar from my summer in the inner-city interning for Homeboy Industries. While that summer project was 6 weeks, this LAUP Dip was one day. Even with one day, God was so faithful to reveal himself and His love for the poor to our students.
Here is one of the Facebook Updates one of our students posted:
I’ve never been so blown away as I was at Skid Row. So many feelings: sadness, hope, frustration, confusion, a longing to serve. I can’t say my life will be the same after this weekend.
The purpose of the LAUP Dip is to help students refine their understanding of the Gospel in how Jesus was good news to the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized. The Dip is also meant to allow students to mourn the pain of poverty and injustice, and to celebrate our role in the Kingdom of God to be a blessing to the poor in ways that maintain their dignity.
We had a total of 6 Greek students participate in the first LAUP Dip we have ever done. This is extremely significant!
As many know, the stereotypical Greek culture comes from a more privileged background: People must have the financial means to be Greek; many Greek cultures revolve around a party theme based on who’s hot, who’s not and an internal desire for chapters to become the ‘top house’ on campus.
Don’t get me wrong – There are tons of wonderful things about the Greek Community, otherwise I would not have spent a year of my life working to develop healthy Greek Culture after college. At the same time, what I know from experience is that healthy Greek Culture does not always translate well.
Greeks are leaders, Greeks are influential and every Greek that I know at UCLA is involved in at least 2 other organizations, working a part time job, focusing on how to beef up their resumes and trying to maintain a social life with their free time.
It’s hard enough for Greeks to be ministered to in the context of Greek Culture, let alone, in the context of an impoverished inner-city neighborhood.
This weekend we had 6 Greek students learn about God’s heart for the poor, mourn the systemic injustices that affect the homeless in skid row, understand the privilege and power they have in being Greek and how they can use that privilege and power for God’s Kingdom.
After teaching on how Jesus was good news to the poor, we spent time learning about all of the injustices that affect the inner-city. We took time to mourn and pray as a community. It’s important for us to take the time to observe and mourn before moving into action because if we do not, we cannot approach those around us with understanding and compassion. The next morning we had a teaching on The Kingdom of God and what our role is as Kingdom agents.
We took a walk around the financial district of downtown Los Angeles and taught about the power of money and wealth in Los Angeles. We then walked from the financial district one mile into Skid Row to see the stark contrast between wealth and poverty. What students begin to see is the strange power dynamic between one of the wealthiest areas in the United States, just one mile away from Skid Row, which holds the highest, most stable homeless population in the country.
We had students walk through skid row to be observers and to mourn from the teachings we had the day before. After taking one pass through Skid Row and debriefing the experience, we sent students back into Skid Row in twos and threes to hand out hygiene kits that we put together to the homeless and to get to know the stories of the people there. Students began to see how the homeless in Skid Row are just like us: they have stories, they have families, they have wonderful and beautiful personalities. Many students came back with powerful conversations and stories of how they saw God working in their own hearts after these conversations.
Afterwards, we came back to debrief the entire experience and we talked about how we can bring this teaching back to the Greek Culture at our campuses.
This was the first LAUP Dip of, what we hope would be, many. We want to see God work prophetically in Greek students in Los Angeles to care for the poor and to care about justice issues. Jesus cares for the poor and strongly cares for those who are oppressed. Jesus was and is good news to the poor and has called our lives to be good news to the poor as well.
How ought this change our lives?
Wondering why we used the Hygiene Kits? Deon Joseph is a police officer assigned to Skid Row. We asked him for advice on what would be most helpful to hand out to the homeless in Skid Row. Deon has a huge heart for Skid Row and believe God has called him there. Check it out!