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My hood sunset

About Me

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The Hub exists to develop young adults into urban leaders through incarnational training. We understand that the continued growth of urban areas and the urbanization of rural and suburban areas require an empirical and experiential method of training up individuals who can help bring health and wholeness to the urban areas typically resourced for a myriad of reasons. We recognize that Biblical community is a process that we open ourselves to sharing our lives and having common commitments. We are committing ourselves to transparent relationships, pursuing consistent practice of honest and loving communication and confrontation. Knowing that major differences exist based on ethnicity, culture and gender, we pledge ourselves to a climate which facilitates reconciliation. In light of our calling, we believe that we are to be stretched beyond our comfort zone and be bold for the sake of the Kingdom. As leaders we seek to embody integrity, discipline, and the courage to do what’s right in the midst of conflict, spiritual warfare and unjust systems. We intentionally open ourselves up to the influence of more mature leaders, wanting to be faithful, available, and teachable.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Anything from Ordinary

My time at The Hub has been anything from roommate burns hand towels with the oven, strange men climb over our patio wall in the middle of the night looking for a guy named "Richard", a guy hanging out on his bike behind the dumpster asking if I had crystal meth as I am getting in my car, which later that same car got towed by a fellow neighbor of mine, learning how to put boundaries with the neighborhood kids when they are needing help with homework at 11 'o clock at night, leaving love notes on my neighbor's cars when they parked on my spot instead of being upset that I had been paying for it...I could go on with stories of how extraordinary life is at the Courtyard Apartments. And man, what a blessing it has been! As challenging as it may be at times, it's been more wonderful than I could have ever imagined. Having to do life with a group of young adults who have an interest in discovering God's heart for the city and for their own community is a journey that will open up new understanding about yourself and God.

A treasure that The Hub has to offer is that you not only live in community with your fellows Hubmates, you also have your neighbors above you or below you, across the way, right  next door, and behind you with the connecting walls. Everyday has something new to offer, there might be frightening and wonderful moments all within a 24-hour period but it's wonderful when these moments are shared with fellow Hubmates. You can't get away from interacting with your neighbor and discovering they love to bake, knocking on someone's door to ask for help unloading your couch from the truck and discovering they recently had a miscarriage, helping a neighbor move into her house and inviting us to her new home for authentic Mexican food, and realizing that you do have neighbors that want to get out of the cycle of depending on government aid. They have dreams and hopes of pursuing  a higher education and achieving stability and provisions for their family, and the amazing part is that they ARE doing it! We have prejudices but you soon realize you're going to be smacked on the hand several times before you can even start to disengage from your habit of placing judgement before getting to truly know them. 

Vicencia Abundis graduated from Fresno Pacific University with a B.A. in Psychology in May 2010. She fell in love with God in junior high school, attends The Well Community Church, loves going on midnight hikes in Yosemite, enjoys water skiing and single skiing. Vicencia also volunteers at the Gloria Aldama Learning Center as a tutor to elementary students. Her future goals are to become a philanthropist, travel the world, go sky diving before she dies, go backpacking throughout Latin America and become a book editor.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hooray for CCDA!

For the first time in Hub history we were able to fly our four bright Hubbers to be a part of the 2011 Christian Community Development Association Conference in Indianapolis, IN. CCDA’s mission is to inspire, train and connect Christians who seek to bear witness to the Kingdom of God by reclaiming and restoring under-resourced communities. Here are some testimonies of what our Hub interns learned and are bringing back to the city.

Sam Kelly

At CCDA, Dr. Wayne Gordon made the point that if we expect to make a diffe-rence in our community we need to be there for 15 years. I'm not sure L.J. will let me stay at the Hub that long, but this lesson is still meaningful. It gives us permission not to cling to the idea that if we don't see results today, then there are no results at all. It's also a challenge: am I going to be willing to commit to a community for fifteen years at some time in my future? The Hub is certainly helping me to work these questions out.

Vicencia Abundis

One of the issues that was brought to my attention was the exposure to the darkness that exists in our communities when it comes to human trafficking. I just couldn’t believe my ignorance! This is happening in my own community and I have been oblivious to it. I’m now really interested in learning about what is being done in my city to prevent these horrific actions from affecting more innocent lives and about how to bring restoration. With my psychology background, I’d like to see if God may call me to bring therapy or counseling to the victims and bring hope and life back to them. It’s my prayer that God may use me as an instrument of hope and as an advocate to the churches and neighborhoods so that we can come together and fight this evil.

Emerald Gonzalez

One of the main things they talked about at CCDA is education and how the system is failing our children. God has given me a heart for middle schools and I felt a slight change toward elementary kids. In that I felt a call to change my major to education teaching instead of middle school. With this new change I would be able to do a lot more for the Kingdom and God’s children, through it will take me a bit longer to finish my credential and degree. I know this is where God has called me.

Molly Schengel

CCDA really helped to solidify my passion for education in our urban neighborhoods. Our schools are not the only ones failing our students. Broken families and broken communities leave these children lost, defenseless and hungry for attention and belonging. As a community and as followers of Christ, we can no longer stand idle. Through the workshops I attended I was encouraged to creatively incorporate the need for education assistance and while sharing and showing them Christ's love. As an after school program director I am given the unique opportunity to build personal relationships with our students which allows me to become invested in their lives both inside and outside of the classroom. CCDA taught me that with a holistic approach towards my after school kids, I can ensure that they are being listened to and encouraged both in their schoolwork and in their character. Our students not only need better grades and reading levels, but they need dedicated individuals who will tangibly show them Christ’s love. Even the smallest encouragement and math test victories help these kids realize the God-given greatness that is in each one of them.

L.J. Mariano

It was such an encouragement for me to be amongst great leaders who continue to fight the good fight and emerging leaders who are passionate about living out the gospel. I was challenged at one of my CCDA workshops of the utter importance of relationship between the church, para-church ministries, and community. The main message was to begin the dialogue of holistic transformation by asking the right questions before coming up with answers. Ministry is not about how well your program runs or the amount of attendees you bring in but the investment of relationships. My role as a youth pastor and community member gives me the unique opportunity to be a bridge between two and am excited for how God will use my influence.

This would all have not been done if weren’t for all your prayers and financial support leading up to this conference. Thank you for allowing us to come back home inspired, connected and well equipped to seek first the Kingdom of God in our city.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

December Newsletter 2011

When we launched our after-school program for the 2011 fall semester we had the strongest desire to holistically engage our students at the Courtyard Apartments, who we now call “Courtyard Champions”. Sure, we want to help them with math, catch them up on reading levels but more importantly we want to create a culture where Christ is at the center.

Before each program session we sit our students down with a snack and Bible story. No matter what story we tell, whether it’s about the “Ten Commandments” or “Peter Walking on Water”, our goal is to show our kids the realness of who Jesus can be in our lives. We want to share the gospel but we also want to create a culture where our kids can implement it. That is why we introduced our “Hug or Handshake Rule”. The rule is that each student has to express a form of gratitude to our tutors who helped them with their homework. What we teach may not retain all the time but if we can at least show them how to love like Christ, then maybe they can catch a glimpse of the Kingdom.

We’ve been hugging and handshaking every week since we started but I think this next story can speak for itself.
When talking about the evidence of the Holy Spirit at work I recall a story about one of our rougher elementary aged boys. He’s that one kid who’ll slap your hand harder than needed when giving a “high five”.
It happened at our first family movie night in the chaos of directing traffic, setting up a bed sheet, and movie projector. That rough “high fiver” I mentioned earlier walked toward me with the biggest smile, looked up and gave me the most heart-melting handshake. We really never know what God is up to when he is transforming a culture.

“...maybe he’s also in the form of a let you know he’s right in front of you.”

Have you ever looked to the sky and asked, “God, are you really out there!?” Why is it that every time something doesn’t go our way, we immediately point the finger at God and tell him, He’s messing up. Does God see how I see things or listen to what I hear everyday?

Maybe God is in the heavens looking down on us or maybe he’s in China comforting believers because of the oppression they face from their own country. But maybe he’s also in the form of a kindergartener that just wants to shake your hand to let you know he’s right in front of you.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

They Desire Ownership

Originally, I approached my neighbors with the mentality of wanting to encourage and empower them to become more. I’ve been tried to do this is a number of ways such as: one-on-one school work with the kids, encouraging them to explore things they are curious about, validating them with not only my words, but the tone of my voice, having them teach me something (ex: teaching this white girl how to dance… and man was that hilarious)

However, if these beautiful faces at the Courtyard Apartments have shown me anything, it is that I was wrong.

(Thankfully, I tend to be wrong, so this is nothing new.)

As much as I want to empower and encourage these individuals to become more… I am realizing that they already want that for themselves.

We put on a movie in the green for the kiddies and they loved it… but they wanted more. Now they want to put on a talent show, something they can take ownership of. They want more.

It may look like the single parent next door is using her child support money to buy cigarettes… but she is the first to admit that she hates being on welfare. She wants more too.

And so, in this short time, I am realizing that it’s about more than encouragement and empowerment. The real challenge is to provide the resources so that my neighbors can become more.  This neighborhood is rich in resources. There are dozens of different talents, skills, and mindsets. It is my job to acknowledge those assets and provide a place where those can be built upon.

And that’s the hard part. Because to provide them with resources is to fully trust that they will make the most out of what we give them… and that’s not always the case. But we need to start providing them with resources so that they can build upon their talents, skills and assets… and teach us something in the process.  
Molly Schengel is a recent graduate from Point Loma Nazarene University with a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and Non-Profit Management. She is currently serving as a grant writer for Highway City Community Development and coordinator of the Courtyard Champions After School Program.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hugs and Handshakes

It’s 12:15 AM at the Hub right now and I was waken up by a spiritual attack in my sleep. In my dream I was in my apartment with the Hub interns when all of a sudden I felt this force upon my head, arms and feet restraining me trying to force my head to look down. At first in my dream I was unsure of the situation because of the familiar faces that were present but in my attempt to resist the force pushing me down the Hub interns were no longer in the room! This was a spiritual attack that I was ready to face alongside the power of the Holy Spirit.

In my dream as I was attempting to resist the pressure these demons were putting on me they placed a cardboard box on my head and to arm weights that restricted movement of my elbow but also keeping me from raising my hands to praise the Creator of the Universe. In this battle a recited the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6:9-13 to fight off these demons. When I was coming to the end of the prayer I was beginning to raise my hands and I felt the demons trying to put more weight on my arms from reaching to the heavens with acknowledgement of God’s power. And before I woke up I said, “In the Name of Jesus, leave this place, you have no power here.”

I woke up in my room gasping for air and watched these black Aztec looking figures fade into the night.

Why do I share this? Well, because God’s is changing the culture of the Courtyard at Central Park. This community is becoming a place where children learn to respect adults without being intimidated with fear, where parents can talk about their kids and share life, and where God is the center focus.

This past week at our after school program called “The Courtyard Champions” we implemented a gospel presentation at the end of each session and reminding each child to express gratitude by shaking hands or hugging a tutor (we keep kids behind if they do not say thank you to at least one tutor..:)...hahaha!). Our students are more engaged in wanting to get their homework done, we are reading for 30 minutes a day and the gospel is being shared. What more could you ask for right? Well, there is.

One of our Hub interns got the rest of us interested in doing a movie night for the neighbors out on a grass courtyard in our community. Gather some snacks, get a good blanket, and set back and enjoy the show, yeah right! I really wished it could have been something like that but we got something else entirely. Some wanted to watch the movie (the Hub and some of the little ones) but everyone else was in their own world. From our point of view it was hard to see what God was actually doing in just a short span of 1 hour 40 minutes, He was building a community by rebuilding hope for families to have a place to grow. At first I could not see it but when I did I realized that this was the purpose.

I could end the story there and tell you that the rest of the night was perfect, but I’d be lying and I really want to make sure that all the truth is said. There was still a lot of drama with the little adolescent girls, two kids ran into each other playing tag in the dark and not everyone stayed to watch the movie but something extraordinary did happen.\

One of the little boys whose been calling me “Hey Dude” did something that restored my faith, big time. I’ve been teaching him how to throw a Frisbee the past couple weeks and he loves it. You should definitely see this kid light up when I ask him if he wants to Frisbee. He’s been a little rough when it comes to teach respect and showing him how to give a “high five” without trying to break someone’s hand. Well, as we were cleaning up from the movie night, he came up to me with eye contact and extended his hand for a proper handshake. YES! A preview of the Kingdom of God in the form of this little boy.

God is moving in the hearts of the people in our community and Satan is getting offended. I think that’s why he thought I’d be shaken by some demons trying to mess with me but I know my God is more powerful than any obstacle that may come my way. Pray the Lord’s prayer with us and that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Hub at Calvin Crest Conferenes

On September 9-11, 2011 we had the opportunity to spend a weekend of worship and training at Calvin Crest Conferences in Oakhurst, CA. Thanks to our God for providing the atmosphere and our supporters we were able to spend a wonderful weekend sharing our hearts, casting our vision and declaring our mission as the Hub for the class of 2012.
Loadin up the pick-up!

Friday evening was a time of getting to know each other better during a session of understanding the core values of the Hub, which are leadership development, Biblical community and urban ministry. Upon arrival we noticed a herding group of free range cows to keep us company throughout the weekend. For dinner we filled up on carne asada tacos and good stories of each others lives. (Don’t worry, no cow was touched in the preparation of this meal, I bought the meat from the grocery store) After our training session we spent the rest of the evening sharing more stories, jokes and ended the night with a time of worship. Not a bad way to end the night and start the weekend.

Good ole Highway 41 North

Saturday was a very full day of more relational training by focusing the day on emptying ourselves to each other by sharing the hurts and struggles of our lives.  After breakfast we went on nice hike down the Gethsemane Trail and enjoyed a time near running water. Some of us even our feet wet from the refreshing cool water from the mountain. In the afternoon we had an art project with our Hub journals made with mod podge glue, magazine clippings to put on a notebook. It was a lot of fun seeing how creative we were able to get with a couple materials. There was a little bit of a mess but in the end we all had our master pieces made. This was a day filled with the laughter, tears and discovery to what our community has the opportunity to become.

By Sunday, it was time to say goodbye to mountains, trees and cows but hello to the opportunity God set before us. This weekend was such a blessing to us all and we are so grateful for all our supporters and friends that I allowed this weekend to happen. We are all excited for what God has for the Hub this year. Please continue to lift us up in your prayers as we venture into God's heart for Highway City.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Exciting New Adventures

Greetings from Highway City and blessings from the Hub.

The 2011-2012 year of the Hub has finally arrived with new exciting adventures ready to begin! It’s almost hard to believe that just a year ago God opened the door of opportunity for us to immerse ourselves at the Courtyard at Central Park Apartments. We had such a successful first year of the Hub, graduated our first 6 interns through our 10-month program, hosted our second year of Fresno Urban Internship students, and launched our monthly neighborhood action committee. There is so much to be thankful because of all your support.

The launch of the Hub in the summer of 2010 was a true test of our faith by persevering through administrative and financial obstacles that God walked with us through. With a fresh group of interns comes a year of new challenges and opportunities of experiencing God’s amazing love. This year’s group consists of 3 young women and 1 young man who are all excited to see what God has in store for them during their next 10 months at the Hub.

Bittersweet Community Learning
Within a couple days of their move-in day, families and students immediately took notice of their new neighbors and embraced them into our community. In all the excitement of being in community also includes the bittersweetness of immersing yourself in our neighborhood. One of our interns was going to bed one evening when she was suddenly awakened by neighbors fighting right outside of her window. What started out as an out argument then turned into an all fist fight. The confrontation was left unresolved but with the two parties walking off in different directions. The Fresno Police Department paid our apartment complex a visit alongside with 5 other units during an act of disturbance in the community that left some of our residents baffled.  Some of our neighbors bring assets to better the community but most carry the burdens of their past that effect everyone. It’s messy but it is the mission field we’re called to.

Our God Is Our Hope
There are a lot of things to lift up in prayer for this year but at the same time there several things to give God our praise for. With my ongoing ministry at Central Community Church in the middle school ministry I am now consistently taking a car full students we serve at our apartments to church every week. A group of ready to learn and fully equipped interns are ready to apply themselves in our neighborhood for the next 10 months. We are so grateful that you have allowed us to be here in our community through your financial support. 

When I think about our interns and our 10 month program I think about how God sent Jesus to teach us how to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and all our strength and to love our neighbors as our selves. Can you imagine how God could drastically transform our community through our interns in the next 10 months? They will be colliding into constant contact with the struggles and burdens of our neighbors, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ through their lives, learning how to communicate love with their neighbors, and seeking the peace and prosperity of the city.

Pray with us as we venture through this next season with humble hearts as we dive deeper into relationships with our neighbors and to glorify our God with our lives.