I love San Jose
I love San Jose. I mean, I really love it. It’s my favorite city in the world. And it’s my home. My kids have grown up here. The only house I’ve ever owned is here.
But whenever I meet someone new, and they ask what I do, I kind of hitch up for a second. I’m not saying I’m great at reading people, but whenever I say “I’m a pastor” people sort of take a step back. And I get it. People in this area are suspicious of religion. For good reasons.
Many are more than suspicious. They have seen religion at its worst, and have the sinking feeling that maybe religion is a force for evil. They’ve seen religion as the mandate for beheadings, seen religion co-opted by political parties to gain power, and used as justification to just be mean to other people. John Lennon’s famous line “imagine there’s no heaven…” sounds like a good idea. A way to end religious prejudice and violence.
And some I meet are secretly afraid that, to quote Christopher Hitchens, “religion poisons everything.”
But that’s why I love this city. The chance to write a different story. Because I don’t think that has to be true. Let me explain why.
It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way
I work at a church called WestGate Church and for the past four months, the majority of my work’s energies have been put into leading an incredible team of 9 directors and 80 other project leads and sub-leads (all completely volunteer, mind you) to figure out how we can actively serve some of the most at-risk and vulnerable populations in our wonderful city of San Jose.
One thing we’re doing is called “Beautiful Day” – which is this weekend. And at the end of it, more than 4,051 people will serve more than 8,000 manhours and we’ll be donating more than $100,000 to serve some wonderful groups. For example:
- We’re doing renovations at a refuge home for battered women and their children. We’re then getting drivers to chauffeur those women to a special venue with live music, incredible decorations, and a five-star meal cooked by a gourmet chef (while some super fun children’s workers watch and play games with their kids nearby).
- We’re putting on an “Alice in Wonderland” themed dance for developmentally disabled kids…and we’ll have a blast with them and their families as the DJ drops the beat.
- We’re renovating a parent respite area and building pergolas at the Saratoga Subacute Hospital, one of 2 hospitals in NorCal that serves medically fragile kids.
- We’re sending hundreds of volunteers (led by professional builders and painters) to do renovations and remodeling at CityTeam, the largest provider of services to homeless people in San Jose.
- We’ve met with the principals of some local schools that are vastly under-resourced and serving some of the most at-risk kids in our city, and we’re doing various projects at four different schools that those leaders say they need. We’re glad to do it.
This is just the start. There are dozens of other projects led by other churches on the peninsula and all the way down to South County. But it’s a good start.
And it’s a chance to say to this city, “We are Christians. We are people who take the words of Jesus very seriously, and our centuries-old tradition of faith mandates us – as it did those who came before us – to serve our city. To love our city. To look to those who are most at-risk and vulnerable, and ensure, with compassionate hearts, that they have what they need. And we are glad to serve with you, for you, and beside you.”
The Christian story, despite what you may have heard, is that God has loved us with a ridiculous and generous love. We’re just trying to bear witness to that love.
Find out more at www.beautifulday.org