Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Humble Beginnings 6: Krazy Korean: Don Kim

I actually was able to talk to Don before I put this picture up! So he cannot get upset with me....

This is Don Kim, and he was my VERY FIRST bible study teacher! Every Saturday I would take the Red Line "L" Train to the University of Illinois-Chicago (go Flames!) to the Agape House, where we met to study parable after parable. I have to tell you...studying scriptures was intoxicating to me! I kept just studying and studying the Word when we met. I pretty sure that I had at least 10 questions per study. Don was really willing to not only help me understand the Word of God, but everyone else who was being invested in Project I.C.E.
I was about 11 years old when Don led me in bible study. You also have to understand that at 11 years old, we weren't able to discern their ethnicity! Just think, a large group of inner-city Black and Latino youth seeing that Don was "Chinese" because we had no exposure to Asian Culture, outside of your Chinese Restaurant!
We eventually "got it" that Don was in fact Korean American! One of the baddest Korean American basketball players I knew (in his prime of course...I'd smoke him in a one-on-one game right now). He was competitive with us in any sport, which we loved and he became a big brother to us...
I am so indebted to his teaching of the bible to me, it was those very same parables that came to my mind when I gave my life over to Jesus Christ...but that's getting 2 Krazy Koreans ahead of myself.
SO...Susan Paik's obedience to start the bible study gave the opportunity for me to explore my faith, and Don Kim's weekly bible study leading invested treasure into my heart....Next Krazy Korean...Irene Hahn (with Liz Cho and Sharon Bak)...Fearless Korean Women who showed me what it means to have Joy in the Lord!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Humble Beginnings 4: I.C.E., and Koreans

Well, one thing is for sure...I hope Sue doesn't flip out on me about this picture!

This is Susan J. Paik, a PH.D scholar in early Childhood Education (this definitely doesn't do any justice to what she actually does or what Sue has accomplished in her life). Most of the world knows her as a prestigious scholar in the realm of academia, but for me...she's one of the closest people in my life! She's been a big sister/Aunt since I was a middle schooler...and she introduced me to Jesus Christ.

Let me share with you......

When I got to the 6th grade, I was invited to take a aptitude test by my school counselor (she really didn't believe in me as much as I thought at the time, but tested well in a couple of subjects and I think she was telling me to do this as a throw off thing...). Both my older sister and I were brought to the west side of Chicago to the University of Illinois-Chicago (go Flames!) to test in this program. We were given the same test, but I tested high enough to be entered into the program.

The program was called "Early Outreach." Nifty name huh? It was ran by Sue Paik! It was a Saturday program that reached out to kids in the inner city of Chicago, given them "extra" education skills and a college campus experience. Also, let me give you an idea of the size I was at this period of time.

You see how small I was, and this was Freshman year! Here I was 5' 4" and 100 lbs. I WAS SMALLER THAN THIS AT 6th GRADE! Sue Paik always reminds me that, "You were so small then, I could pick you up.....now YOU'RE BIG!" In some ways I laughed, but then I get the urge right afterwards to stop consuming food the expands me.

Susan saw me and other young men and women a part of this program and thought there must be more she can do the help us....enter God! God kept "bothering" for Sue to start a bible study with the youth. As she tells me, she says that "For one whole year he kept asking me to do it and I would say, 'No! It would jepordize my career!'" God was persistent and Sue eventually gave up to the Lord (score one more for Jesus!).

She started a group called Project I.C.E. You ask what is Project I.C.E.? Its the codename for the bible study! I.C.E. stood for "inner-city evangelism." Did I know this at the time? Of course not! I couldn't even tell you if I knew what was evangelism! Anyways, Sue decided to invite me, since I was around her all the time I could be when she showed up to the Early Outreach Program! I was EXCITED! Not only do I get the chance to read the bible, but I made a promise to myself a while ago when I was 6.

Wait a minute! A sixth grader remembering promises at 6 years old? Most of you may be saying, "Tony is one of the most forgetful people I know!" This is true, but when it comes to oaths I make, I try my hardest to keep them! When I was 6 years old, my family and I live with my grandmother. For me, I was happy! My grandmother and I were really close. She is the one who gave me my love to watching (and critiquing) movies. She was also a Jehovah's Witness. Seeing that my mother was a Baptist, and also didn't like my grandmother, we usually lived in a tense relating environment. One time I watched my grandmother and her friends have "bible study." I asked if I could participate, and they said "You can't. This is for us only." I was hurt....deeply! "Why could I learn about God? Why were they able to do so and not me?" I cried at the table by myself, and my grandmother came over and had a "bible study" with me. Just her and me! I loved it, but we could only do it once. I vowed to myself that the next time I get the chance to learn about God, I was going to take it, no matter who was in my way! This was that chance.

Whew! I'll have to finish this one up next time! I'll talk about another Krazy Korean who taught me to study the bible... and play better basketball!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Humble Beginnings 3: Breaking the Poverty Mentality

So...I'm just going to stop saying that "I'll update weekly!" That doesn't seem to work as well as I hoped it would.

In reading my blog about humble beginnings a year ago, I felt that I left a lot of people by the wayside in talking about Humble Beginnings...things have happened since that time. Alice and I broke off our engagement, my car and laptop was stolen, my mother had a heart attack, and my roommate died while playing tennis...needless to say I have felt "clogged" in writing down thoughts.

Yet I feel it in communicating this pain (and prayer!) that I will be able to give it all to the Lord. Let me continue sharing about the Projects..

Here's another picture of the projects that I lived in for such a deep period of my life. It's not that pretty is it? Everybody in these building lives at or under the poverty line...makes me sad to focus on it...but I press on!

The Poverty Mentality...how do I describe it? To me, its hopeless and nihilistic. Hopeless in the sense that when the economy of your vertical town is rock bottom, you don't much of a prospect of getting out of it. Nihilistic in a sense that you are out of your own well being. You are living for today because tomorrow isn't promised. Sounds good in one sense right? Not really when you think you are going to die tomorrow! The Poverty Mentality shapes how see the economy. Let's say you get a decent job at Burger King (that's actually decent in our area!). You make $5.15 an hour and work three days a week/5 hours a day, that's $25.75 a day and appoximately 78 dollars a week, not counting taxes. Since you get so little, you spent it like its your last, because it is! You invest in external things because the standard of judgment is what you have RIGHT NOW! Investment is practically impossible! Most banks require at least $50 deposit to have a bank account, that's two days of wages! You (the burger king worker) don't see the payoff in putting two days wages into a place for "holding" your money when you can do it yourself! No teaching on building up credit, or that people give differently to people with bank accounts. You get what it? It becomes a cycle!

So how do you get out of this? How do you escape? More important to this blog...how did I escape? Thank you Lord for Korean Americans (how many black people you know would say this?).

To be continued...The Crazy Korean American Women who showed me to Christ!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

07/26/07: Learning To See Light In The Shadows

Okay... so I won't promise anymore to have my blog entries in the next week. Too much pressure to do it all the time and I gotta keep things fresh! Well, I'm kidding, but I am releasing myself from the weekly tasks...

A lot of has happened over the past four weeks. I've been to Chicago and Iowa visiting family and friends while also doing a little fund development, but not everything has been going well in my life. Life....has been a little difficult.

Take for instance my job circumstances. I work full-time with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship here in Atlanta, GA. Its a missions-type of job so we can assume that having an abundance is not the normal way of life. It is the life of sacrifice, and journey of learning how to give of yourself in ways never before. However, I believe that there a point of sacrifice and a point where its difficult to live day to day with the support. I feel like I've been "flirting" between sacrificial and unbearable. Now I do believe (sometimes at least...) that God will not leave me nor forsake me. I've also lived in similar circumstances, but of course those were without the responsibility of having to deal with bills, banks, and work-shifts. So I might be preaching to the choir here, but I just feel worn a bit from the meager living circumstances. I actually have more bills than income!

This has "influenced" me to stress tremendously. I choose the word influence because worry is a choice. Its a VERY tempting choice, somewhat NATURAL, definitely INSTINCTUAL, but none the less a choice. I allow my instincts to control me, I naturally want to stress because of humans' broken nature and I hardly fight the temptation at all.

Well, recently I feel like I've come into the eye of the hurricane of my struggles and worries. Like almost life itself slowed a second and froze. I noticed that I CAN'T make anything spend up and slow down that is out of my control. There are a ton of things that happen to us in life that come from forces within our control and forces outside of our control. What I, and the rest of the world need understand is how we deal with our lives in the midst of problems, rather than just dwelling on the fact that we have issues.

I picked up a job recently as a chauffeur/driver. I use my car and pick people up from work and from home. I have a client name "Prasad" who looks like a mid-fifties programmer from India for a major phone company here in Atlanta. This is a guy who never seems to be short of conversation (I know...aren't I calling the kettle black.) and was sharing some of his wisdom with me. He said, "Western society want things so instantaneously. If what you have doesn't fill in a want, then you throw it away and try to get it another way. No patience...if they had more patience, maybe life wouldn't be so difficult....." He's right. Life probably wouldn't have so many difficulties if we just learned how to wait for things. I am still engaged and its a longer process for my fiance and I than we actually thought. I know I want marriage now, but I also know that based on the path that God has Alice and I on, we NEED to take our time. Its difficult, but it should definitely be worth it once we get there. We will have a higher appreciation for the journey if we take the path assigned to us.

So as I learn to deal with life and seeing light in the shadows, I hope that you as well learn to see it as well. What I am recognizing is that the reason light seems so dim in the shadow is either because our perspective to the light (close or far), or the light itself (God doesn't dim). So really, we have a choice I guess...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

June 28th, 2007

Humble Beginnings Cont.

Last Saturday was my Birthday! Needless to say I was completely surprised! And I thought that I was going to figure out when the surprise was. I had such an enjoyable time with friends and family. My Alice planned it all! At one point I thought I had a clue, but found out that she is a PRO when it comes to surprises, now if I could equal her prowess......

But Let's get back to the humble beginnings excerpt.....
This is an actual picture of the buildings that I used to live in when I was a kid. I found it online done by an artist getting a Master's Degree in Photography. Its difficult, even this picture doesn't do justice to the experience that I had there...I guess someone needs to profit from it.

This building represents the love-hate relationship I talked about in my last email excerpt. Chicago seen from a distance is a WONDERFUL place of opportunity and diversity (maybe not the best place to look at integration...but what are ya going to do?). In a lot of ways I consider this picture to be the doorway to hell, or at least it felt like it, not that I know what burning sulfur feels like but you know what I mean!

I loathed this place. In some ways I wish it was never invented. 16 stories of poverty. I once tried to calculate how many people on average lived in each home. 10 apartments on each floor. 4 APT's. with 4 bedrooms and 6 with 3 bedrooms. Two people per bedroom. 32 people in the four bedrooms and 36 in the three bedrooms....that's about 68 people or avg wise 70 people. 70x10=700 people and 70x6=420 people....that's 1,120 people in one building!!! Now I'm undershooting this number because extended families live with you as well. So let's double that number to 2,240 people! Most small towns can't even understand that amount of people and most people in general can't understand that all of the people who live in these buildings have Section 8 housing and working poor and on federal assistance, or both!

You look out of your barred windows and all you see are broken swings, drug deals, and hopelessness. In the distance you can see the Sears Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the World. You live in caged poverty, no opportunities, no banks, convenience stores with inflated prices, concrete for grass, and then you see opportunity staring at you, reminding you that you are just five minutes away from "Perfect Land" but thousands of miles from ever being accepted into that life.

I hear a lot of people tell me what you have to make the most of life, pick yourself up by your boot straps or you DON'T have to think this way. I say, the only way that people are able to say this is because SOMEONE HELPED THEM TO SEE MORE OF LIFE! We are all helped one way or another. These days I can be motivated about life, but I am still in the process of weening myself from the thoughts of hopelessness.

Looking from my window from the Projects at downtown Chicago left an impression in my mind. It began the mentality that I now to this day still struggle with. It has shaped my mind and for a LOOONG TIME had complete control over my destiny. I call it a Poverty Mentality. I saw life from a impoverished perspective. I saw opportunities as only visible but never real. I saw success as majestic and grand, but never close, or only a few "lucky" ones get to experience it, but only a few. Success was choosy, it didn't like certain people and completely ignored others. Or, success could be extremely ironic, making you successful at illegal things, but unsuccessful at getting an education. It's strange how you can live and become what you think.

So because of these things I begun to believe that I was destined for destruction. I lived in a harsh area, but I didn't want to become my area. Yet I saw no options into getting out of this arid life, so I reconcile in my mind based on some stats I had heard about Black Men living in volatile Inner Cities that a high percentage would be incarcerated, or dead by 19. I thought living past 19 would be like winning the Mega Lottery, and since I was never a believer in Lotto Games, and I seeing that I was robbed constantly and I was weak, I'd probably fall in the dead category. So there was it, my understanding at 11 years old, I was going to die by 19 and I believed it, wholeheartedly...

It has been 6 years since my prognostication failed...and I couldn't be any happier about it. But what was my mindset as young man with a short shelf life? Where was Dad? How did I grow up? Was I always in the Projects? How did I get there? How did I get to where I am now?

Many questions, so little time to tell....we'll pick this up later

Oh yeah, I'll try to update as quick as I can, maybe I'll decide to do a weekly update or one ever 3 days, its been good for me oh not every blog update will be Life Story Oriented, I'll mix it up with real time life updates...Tune in Next Monday!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Humble Beginnings

Well, today is the 25th of June....I'd hoped to send a couple out between my first and last, but I am seeing how difficult it is to be consistent with blogs. A new lesson for me to learn! YAY!

My beginnings as a young man in this world started in the best and sometimes worst place in the world....Southside Chicago! I have a real LOVE-HATE relationship with the southside...Its the place where my family lives, where I learned how to see life, how to read and write. It was the southside that showed me how strong a man is and how strong he isn't. The southside also showed me how to fear life, fear people, fear myself. I know, everybody tells me that don't let the things of this life hold you down and rise above these circumstances. Its easier said than done, and most people who says that are either still stuck in those "rise above" circumstances and weren't even a part of this style of life. Yes, I know, I am speaking in very bitter language but I feel that unspoken and unresolved emotions makes me feel bitter inside and projects outside. I hope that telling my story from whatever point of view, whether that be bitter, exuberant, docile, hopeless, or hopeful, would help me do some soul cleansing and let me then completely walk away from the hurts of the past. Talking again about my past from my lenses brings up some hurts, but I feel that it hurts when the wound happens, it hurts when the would starts scabbing, and it hurts when its in the healing process as well. I hope to heal by sharing. In some ways, I too am excited to see where this blog goes, I want to know how it ends as well, like a spectator watching a movie that's just begun.

Back to the Southside....A love-hate relationship.....Chicago gave me the eyes to see reality as is, but also a heart to relive the past over and over. My mother and father were together for a time in Chicago. I had a father in my life from birth to 11....I believe. We stayed at the "Low End" of Chicago, what is know as the lower numbered streets on the Southside of Chicago, unlike the West Side with the famous "Killer K" town streets or the "Wild 100s" of South Chi-town of South suburbs.

Hmm...I'll have to finish more of this tomorrow, getting late here!

Friday, June 22, 2007

06/22/2007: An Introduction

Hello and let me introduce myself. My name is Tony J. Gatewood. I am a mid-twenties, Full-Time campus minister with Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at the Atlanta University Center....huh..... now that I think about it, what I just did was introduce myself based on my job occupation.
Let's try another version:

Hello and let me introduce myself (again..). My name is Tony J. Gatewood. My family calls me Main(e) [we are not sure if the "e" is there or not, my mom uses it so we shall take that as the norm]. I am in my mid-twenties, one day away from my 25th Birthday! Nice! That's what I'm talking about...But upon thinking about this quarter year, I feel that I am at a fork in the road. In one direction is the life of a young man who has always been led in his life by others and will continue to be led by others. He will do great things, but may not reach his full potential. The other direction is the life of a young man who now has to take the reins of his life and ride. He has all of his potential in front of him to obtain. He can "take the land that was promised," but he recognizes that the direction is the road less traveled. Many pains to endure on that road, but true life is down that route.
These are my thoughts....the ones that I want to share. It's about my life, the life that I feel God has shaped. But I want to start from the beginning. For your sakes and for my own, I want to tell my story to you. I feel that I myself will understand the plans God for my life, but to testify to what God has done, what He is doing, and what He will do!

Tomorrow on my birthday I hope to begin this story of my life, when did this all began? How did I become the person I am today? While through it all, I hope to also share with you some of my real time thoughts about what going on in our society today. I hope that you not only enjoy this, but also comment and help me understand this journey as well. Well, that's my introduction...