I didn’t set out at the beginning of last school year to change nearly every aspect of my daily life, but over the course of the year, it happened. Last August, I hit a mental wall when it came to living on one side of the city while trying to foster a community and family at DSS’ East Campus 45 minutes away. In early September, I told my staff how desperately I was craving centralization. I’d been given the beautiful gift of two communities on opposite sides of the city and was grateful, but was being stretched thin and knew that that lifestyle wasn’t sustainable for much longer. If I was gonna live out the vision I felt the Lord giving me for what DSS could become, something was gonna have to give.
Later that week, a friend of mine from Aurora connected me with the pastors of Sacred Grace East Colfax– the church plant that was moving into DSS’ neighborhood. One meeting over coffee led to an opportunity to speak at Sacred Grace’s first event. That opportunity gave way to Sacred Grace cooking DSS a hot lunch once a week and those Thursdays in the school kitchen with Ruben and Jo led to fast forming friendships. Somehow now a year has passed and Sacred Grace and Aurora are the places I call home. Throughout the last season this little church has introduced me to my new neighbors; folks I now call friends and co-workers.
We talk a lot about the beauty of limitation at Sacred Grace and it’s been an ideology that’s reshaping the way I live my life. It’s no surprise to you all, I’m sure, that I want to “do all the things” and try to help all the people, all of the time. “More” as a concept has always seems better than less. Maybe it’s my overachiever, enneagram 2w3 personality, or maybe it’s our culture, but I know my personal tendency is never to abide in limits. However, as a tiny neighborhood church of roughly 30 people, we’re intentionally choosing to limit our lives as much as possible to the two-square miles of our parish. We’ve started playing volleyball and rock climbing here, shopping at the mercados on Colfax rather than the stores where I can easily get in and out in my native language, and walking/ biking the streets where we live as much as possible, rather than driving or commuting “out” for recreation.
It may seem like our reach and vision is small, but the reality is that our little neighborhood church and DSS aren’t trying to save the world. I’ve operated with that mentality in the past and I don’t need to tell you that the brokenness of the world is crushing. The brokenness of East Colfax? It’s similarly heavy, but working to love those in our parish, to address physical needs and come alongside the brokenhearted in our limited little ‘hood feels less overwhelming. And just imagine what could happen if all the Believers in the world chose to love the people right in front of them in their ‘hoods the way Jesus did…
Our campus’ vision for this year at DSS is a nod to our former student, Dom, who took a creative spin on the popular “BE A GOOD PERSON” shirt last year, and created his own “BE A HOOD PERSON” shirt for the first day of school.
Today as our students came “home” for the school year, their teachers and I sported our new team shirts as we rehashed summer adventures and gave a lot of hugs and high fives. I’m sure when Dom had his shirt made last August he wasn’t thinking he would inspire a new school motto in which his teachers would try to redeem what it means to be a ” ‘hood person”, but here we are… It’s an honor to be back with this insanely dedicated crew and our hilarious kids, living and loving together in our ‘hood on East Colfax.
Cheers to being a (neighbor)hood person this school year. May His kingdom come and His will be done in 80010 and to the very ends of the earth.
Support DSS while you shop!
Because our little school is 100% donor funded, we rely on the generosity of others to keep our doors open for our students. East Campus is in need of a few simple “household” items to ensure the safety and comfort of our students this year. And let’s be honest, food is hard to keep on the shelves around here with 25 teenagers… You can help support our school today by shopping from our Amazon Wish List. Just click here!
Reasons to dance!
Last spring, I wrote about how one of our now graduates, Precious, had encountered Jesus during our school’s Journey to the High Places conference in Alaska. Last week we got the exciting news that she has been accepted into the Tanalian Leadership Center for the 2019-2020 school year! TLC is the year-long Bible school in Port Alsworth, AK that also emphasizes trade skill building and college prep. We are all so excited for our girl! (See below for info on how you can financially partner with Precious as she goes on this wild journey with the Lord!)
I spent most of the summer trying to hire a science teacher for our campus and just as I’d thrown my hands in the air and thought “Maybe I should start to panic” the day before teacher week began, Jesus came through. (He’s so good at reminding me that this is His gig to run, not mine…) We are excited to have Miss Carrie Plank and Mr. Chris Isbjorn joining our team this year under the mentorship of our former science teacher — now “department head”, Tom Dechert. Both Carrie and Chris found out about DSS through Sacred Grace and live in the neighborhood. What a joy it is to work beside such loving, invested ‘hood people.
A restful summer in Alaska was exactly what this tired soul needed. I spent my time up north working for Lake & Pen Air, kayaking a ton, climbing the mountain, and showing some sweet friends from Colorado around the village. Thanks for visiting, Kit & Aaron. 🙂
It’s been such a sweet gift to run into my kids and staff all over the parish this summer and live life with them in a more organic way. Sometimes my students screaming “LEYBA!” as I walk down Colfax to work is a little jarring in the morning before I’ve had my coffee, but it’s a surge of adrenaline I’m willing to take…
We need your help!
We’re all so excited for Precious as she transitions into the next phase of life in Alaska! The Street School & Tanalian Leadership Center staffs are trying to rally around her and help remove as many obstacles as possible as she prepares to begin Bible classes and VoTech training in October. For those of you who have expressed interest in helping scholarship Precious for the 19-20 TLC year, you can do so by clicking here , selecting Tanalian Leadership Center Scholarship in the dropdown menu, and typing her name in the “additional comments” box.
Click HERE to learn more about TLC”s program
**Full disclosure and transparency: I’ve talked with Precious and her fam a fair amount and really do believe that our sweet girl will take a leap wayyyy out of her comfort zone and move to Alaska for this extraordinary opportunity. But also, as we often say, “DSS happens”. In the slim chance that donations are made to TLC and Precious is unable to attend due to some lingering extenuating circumstances, the scholarship funds provided will be transferred to TLC’s general scholarship fund. Either way, your partnership will help provide a life changing, intensive discipleship opportunity for a teenager in need. I just wanted to be absolutely transparent with this request and honor your possible partnership. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions or thoughts… xo
Sacred Grace East Colfax is currently meeting every Sunday night at Jubilee Coffee (1452 Kenton St. Aurora 80010) at 5:00 for community worship services. We would love for you to join us if you’re ever in the A.Co!
Sacred Grace East Colfax hosts a community dinner that we call “The Table” once a week. Just like at Jesus’ table, all are welcome to eat with us and talk through the deeper things in life. Shoot me an e-mail if you would like more information on the vision of The Table or to get connected to one of the groups re-launching in September.
~Slice of Life~
Nerd alert: Our staff had the amazing opportunity to hear Father Gregory Boyle, author of Tattoos on the Heart and Radical Kinship, and founder of Homeboy Industries speak last Friday. If you haven’t read Tattoos on the Heart, stop reading this newsletter and buy it. If nothing else, all the DSS stories I subject you all to will make more sense…
“It is certainly true that you can’t judge a book by its cover, nor can you judge a book by its first chapter—even if that chapter is twenty years long.”
Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace by Christie Purifoy
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Rose in Harlem – Teyona Taylor
Crowded Table – The Highwomen
I’ve Got The Joy – Common Hymnal
*Running, running, running. Kodiak Island Half Marathon, DSS is coming for you! Anchorage friends, I’ll be passing through on my way to ADQ in October. Hit ya girl up.