(photo above of Alex and Neaners)
I am so grateful for you. I’m grateful for your monthly financial support that enables me to do this work. And for the many, many of you who pray diligently for me and our work at Tierra Nueva. I’m grateful that you are living lives of faith where you are at amidst the struggles and joys of life.
Early this morning I sat with my cup of coffee and looked out my front window at the moon surrounded by the dark sky. And I cracked open a new favorite book called “The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves” by Curt Thompson M.D. It’s not only fascinating; it’s also quite helpful to see how shame operates. Thompson writes as a christian through the lens of interpersonal neurobiology. “In the same manner that God intends that our minds grow in maturity and connection, just as we do with each other, it is one of shame’s primary features to disrupt and dis-integrate that very process, functionally leading to either rigid or chaotic states of mind, and behavior lived out intra- and interpersonally.”
To have an integrated healthy mind (and the mind isn’t just intellectual functions, but regulating our emotions, and so much more) we need integrated healthy communities (families, neighborhoods, churches). And when we have healthy communities, we can have healthy integrated minds. When they are both present they can form a positive feedback loop. When they are both missing, they reinforce a negative feedback loop.
At Tierra Nueva we come alongside people who have heavily experienced the negative feedback loop of shame their whole lives. And shame is a powerful tidal force that becomes internalized in their own minds pulling them under via the stories our society says about “those people” – ‘felons’, ‘addicts’, ‘immigrants’, ‘gang members’ – and the repeated ways they are demeaned and shamed.
When their lives turn around towards life, because of the vulnerability and resurrection power of Jesus, it’s truly a miracle. And as we see through the gospel accounts, Jesus loves to involve his disciples in this work. (Jesus wants healing in our minds and stories too). We are telling new stories with them about their lives (and our own), integrating them into a community where the love of Christ reigns, and over the long haul – shame gets healed.
Some of you (if you are on our Tierra Nueva mailing list (snail mail)) recently received our annual appeal letter in the mail with a brief retelling of the story of Neaners (pictured above) – former gang leader, who is now one of our Tierra Nueva staff – reaching back into the gangs with the love of Christ. As Tierra Nueva’s Director of Development and a big picture/systems thinker I am giddy with the vision of seeing Tierra Nueva become sustainable for the long-haul, building new soil (tierra nueva) that more and more people, from the margins, like Neaners, can grow up into all God intends for them.
Please consider an end-of-year or monthly gift: either 1) to our General Fund, 2) to our Emerging Leaders fund (that supports Neaners, Salvio, Victoria, Julio), or 3) consider giving specifically to my work at Tierra Nueva.You can give online or through the mail. For details go to: http://www.tierra-nueva.org/donate (Note that on our website it currently says: ‘Emerging Workers’ (this is the Emerging Leaders fund)
With Gratitude and Shalom,
** in case you are not on our mailing list or haven’t read it yet, – here’s the Tierra Nueva letter **
Dear friend of Tierra Nueva, November 13, 2015
José Garcia was born in Oregon and as a young boy travelled back and forth between there and Texas, Mexico, California, and Washington. José didn’t know any English when he started kindergarten here in the Skagit Valley. He was often made fun of. When he was 8-years old he got heavily involved with the Sureño gang. They named him Neaners (meaning ‘baby’) since he was so young. He was arrested at school in the 5th grade. Neaners spent the majority of the next two decades locked up. During this time, Chris Hoke of Tierra Nueva wrote Neaners letters and visited him over a 7-year period. Slowly, Jesus penetrated the hard shell Neaners had constructed. Neaners puts it like this: “Have you ever seen a rose before it blooms? It’s hard, and then it opens and blooms. That’s what happened with me. I was a rose that grew through a crack of concrete.”
Neaners said to me today, “Hey, my story ain’t unique. So many others have gone through the same stuff.” How true. The need is great here in the Skagit Valley, as so many have heavy loads that keep them from new life. What made the difference for Neaners was the love of Jesus embodied in the persistent presence of Chris, and others who believed that God’s love crosses over all borders and barriers.
At Tierra Nueva we believe that Jesus calls people back to life while they are in places of death. We believe in resurrection. And we know that God calls Tierra Nueva and the wider church to walk alongside and advocate for people down the long road leading to new life.
So we are active in all the places highlighted in Neaners’ story – the migrant community, in jails and prisons, with gangs, and in our newly revitalized children’s ministry, so that we can make a difference early in kids’ lives. And we are active in raising up leaders from the margins like Neaners – who now serves in our gang ministry taking others under his wing.
We’ve been building bridges in the community with jail staff, schools, law enforcement, local business owners, and churches, because we know that we can’t do this work alone.
You can invest in the long-term sustainability of Tierra Nueva by becoming a General Fund donor. Please consider an end-of-year gift or making a monthly or annual commitment. You can sign up on our website or mail a check made payable to Tierra Nueva. God’s Peace to you in this season.
Director of Development