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Sometimes you have to cut out the beef...// SAUP 2018

Eating locally as a SAUP family

SAUP aims to raise awareness and empower students by educating students on different topics on a weekly schedule. Week 5 was stewardship week. As we progressed through the week and I learned about how conscious or unconscious I was of stewarding my time, resources, finances and many other things, I quickly realized that I had much to improve on and that my idea of stewardship as a whole was inaccurate.

We began the process by taking several surveys on how conscious we were of our water, energy, earth, and slave labor usage in our daily life. For me, this raised a lot of awareness as to how inconsiderate I had been every day. I took the surveys and realized that I had indirectly been supporting many brands that had been using slave labor. We watched a documentary titled “True Cost” which told the story of cheap labor across the world in different nations and the problems and injustices that come with it. As we learned more about this, we were also taught different ways to combat this problem such as buying free trade clothing and doing research to raise individual awareness on what brands are better as well as being encouraged to donate clothes that we hardly wear or need.

As we learned more, I began to realize that stewarding did not just mean spending less money and being more frugal or less selfish -  in some ways it actually meant the exact opposite. I began to see ways in which I could actively choose to steward, such as: choosing to intentionally go to farmers markets maybe once or twice a week and support local farmers.  This choice may be more expensive but it is more environmentally conscious as opposed to supporting big companies who might have the lowest prices but don't care as much about the environment.  I also learned that eating beef consistently and regularly does a ridiculous amount of damage to the earth and how simply cutting my beef consumption to a couple days in a week instead of 4 or 5 times a week affects the earth a considerable amount.

All throughout stewardship week we were loaded with information and given ideas on how to battle these problems and the week closed off with us being given a packet of commitments that we had the option of making. These commitments ranged anywhere from choosing to devote time to research and learn more about human trafficking all the way to choosing to enter into a job field that works to stop human trafficking. Throughout stewardship week we were given knowledge, equipped with practical actions to take, and encouraged to make commitments to actually following up with these actions. During stewardship week, I truly realized that SAUP was more than a program of learning it was also a program of doing.

Philip Chong
Culinary Institute of the Americas, San Antonio

Who assigns value to a person? // SAUP 2018

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The theme of the second justice week for me was value. Society decides the value of each of us by how badly colleges want you, how easy it is for you to get a job, how media portrays people like you, and the list goes on. The activities we did, the documentaries we watched and the stories we heard revealed a gap in the value between racial and socioeconomic groups. Most people would like to believe the days of three-fifths citizenship for African Americans are over but in Texas our school districts are drawn so that the local tax dollars of richer, mostly white families aren’t shared with poorer, less valued, minority communities. We learned about one of the most modern attempts at integration which resulted in angry protests by parents concerned with violent behavior, and unprecedented government intervention. We cannot claim to be champions of equality while our schools are segregated to the very real detriment of minority communities. We live as though black children devalue our schools.

One documentary followed a small Chinese bank that was the only bank prosecuted in the wake of the 2008 collapse. The message is clear, “your bank is not valuable, we can make an example of it.” With value comes visibility and the ability to have your voice heard. As a white male I will rarely have to fight to have my point of view known, it is constantly held up as the normal perspective by the media, entertainment, and marketing industries. I know that if there is an issue facing my community it will be addressed, and that should be the same for others but it is not.  Thankfully, we serve a God who sees everyone as valuable (Imago Dei) and I pray that I can see and advocate for those with "diminished value" in our society.

Matthew White
UTD

Engaging with Poverty & Homelessness // SAUP 2018

 Supporting the children at the border at #familiesbelongtogether rally

Supporting the children at the border at #familiesbelongtogether rally

Reflections on the Working Poor
Edward Liu
Texas A&M

With the various resources made available to those in underprivileged circumstances (student loans, food stamps, WCI), one could very easily assume that taking advantage of these resources is a solution to escaping poverty and not doing so indicates laziness. At least that’s how I felt for the longest time. However, with potentially unattainable requirements in the overall tedious application process; a plethora of everyday obligations, and long hours of work for low pay (If a job is even available), actually receiving said benefits seems less possible than I thought. For some of the working poor in our society, everyday could be a fight to survive. Knowing about the injustices that affect those around us and not having a way to break these chains is heartbreaking, but this is where we can remind ourselves that we don’t have to be the one to create a change, but through God, we can trust that He’ll bring the healing that this world needs.

Reflections on Homelessness
Noah Flees
University of Arkansas

This past week was justice week—focused on the idea of Biblical social justice, and the various social injustices our nation currently faces. Instead of participating in common team-building exercises during community week, we spent time reading in the Scriptures about how Jesus’ ministry was God and others-focused, such as in Matthew 6 where Jesus instructed people to not worry about “what you will eat or what you will drink...or what you will wear...but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”

On Thursday after returning from our sites, the staff initiated a multi-day, in-depth simulation
that lasted until Saturday. We were placed into 3 groups simulating the experiences of
impoverished immigrants, the working poor, and the homeless. I, Philip, Hope H, and Amos
were placed in the homeless group.  We spent a day and a half walking around town to
meet the homeless—learn their stories and experience. For the first time, I saw them as real
people. The kind you can have an honest, intelligent conversation with. They were comprised of all different races and ethnicities, and while a few showed signs of a mental illness, ALL of them were keenly aware of their predicament and position, and many were simply grateful for a conversation with anyone who didn’t ignore them.

This past week challenged my suspicions and fear of the homeless, as well as my previous
attitude of ignoring them. At the same time, we learned in sessions that the factors leading to
homelessness are often wide-reaching, historically difficult to remove, and often ignored by the greater public in favor of keeping them out of view. One thing I know for certain is that I will never ask myself again if someone begging for money is worthy of my generosity. For every possible conman, there are countless men and women who are laying down their dignity for a dollar to spend on bread.

Consider the Ravens // SAUP 2018

 SAUP family visiting the West side

SAUP family visiting the West side

Somehow, week one of SAUP has flown by. Between getting oriented to the SAUP rule of life, making visits to and observations about various neighborhoods throughout the city and getting into our work at our ministry sites, our days have been packed from morning to midnight. We read and bible study, we cook, we pray, we play (lots of board games) and paint with our fingers. Then, we wake up to do it all over again.

For me, the journey thus far has been a story of the birds. On our first day at Servant Partners, an organization focusing on incarnational ministry through church planting, our first task was to engage in the community with a prayer walk. Mark, the pastor with whom we are working, encouraged us to look for the good and the beautiful. In neighborhoods like our site in the East Side, that struggle with poverty and other injustices, it is especially important to take note of the ways that God is working. Indeed, the streets were teeming with life, as a jungle of blooming trees fed in from either side of the sidewalk. Birds of all kinds hopped, sang and flew past us. Their songs and feathers were a testament to God’s creation, as well as his provision: “they do not sow or reap… yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than the birds!” (Luke 12:24). Watching the birds set the tone for working with purpose at our ministry sites and preparing ourselves to live five more weeks on the floor of a church hall.

In the face of some very real and intense struggles, both planned and unforeseen, the Christ-centered nature of our SAUP family been our comfort. And his kingdom is like a mustard seed: starting small but growing grand enough so that the birds of the air may find shelter in its branches.

Hope Fa-Kaji
Rice University