Today, March 10th, is the three-year anniversary since I stepped away from my position as a senior staff engineer to work in ministry (It’s also my 29th birthday, but that’s not the point, so… yeah). Needless to say, it’s been a decision I will never regret for so many reasons. For one, if I hadn’t stepped into this journey, I’m not so confident that I would have met my amazing Newsong familia!
I still vividly remember my first introduction to the Newsong community! It was a Wednesday evening at the Mix. And as soon as I saw it, I thought to myself, “What is this?”, because at first glance, it looked like chaos! But from the time I had dinner, talked to the families and students there, met with both Lambert and Rehana, and helped comfort a kid who fell off his scooter, I knew that this community and I were a match made in Heaven!
Now, working here, my Wednesdays are very long. As soon as I get to 10ten, I begin signing in all the high school students that come to volunteer with the preparation of the meals, classrooms, and the other hundreds of tasks. All these things need to be done by 6pm, before the 300+ adults and children join us for a meal and to sign up for one of the 20 classes we offer.
As soon as the clock strikes 6pm and the families start rolling through, it’s non-stop work! Checking families in, registering and welcoming the new ones, translating, helping people locate classes, helping volunteers make sure that they have their materials, making sure that kids are not getting into mischief, helping the student volunteers check out, and lastly, tearing back down so that the two charter schools can use the space the following morning. When it’s all said and done, those who are still around (and alive) try to regain their consciousness with some self-serve boba in Class 302 until closing time at 11pm.
While we have a staff of four, an intern, and many volunteers, managing the “controlled chaos” can be exhausting, especially for my personality. I have a Type-A personality and if you compared me to Mary and Martha, I would definitely be Martha! (Luke 10:38-42). Don’t get me wrong, I love our community, but when I focus on the tasks, it feels like I’m just sacrificing my time and my energy, when I could be at home, resting and comfortable, but it is when I am thinking these things that Jesus shows me my focus can sometimes be in the wrong place.
You see, it is because of this huge undertaking that everyone who comes to the Mix can experience love, familia and community. Just last night, as I was frantically looking for a fellow staff member to help me answer a question about a class, I stumbled into the foyer where I saw a high school kid weeping uncontrollably while another person was praying with him.
I have known this kid for over a year now, since he started taking classes at the Mix. I knew that he had experienced loss and tragedy and needed a safe space to grieve. And as I made my way in there, sat down and prayed and was WITH them, a thought suddenly surged into my mind, “THIS is why we put in so much work! THIS is why I did it, and THIS is why I will do it again next week!”
Had I not said “yes” to all of this, I wouldn’t have had the privilege to have this moment. I wouldn’t have been able to be with and provide God’s love and comfort! (There would be so many missed opportunities)! I would have never met this kid or the other amazing people! It puts Jesus’ words into perspective about losing and denying yourself to gain life! And it makes me want to do it ALL over again!
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” -Matthew 16:24-27 (NIV)
Felipe Vazquez is the Jr. High Pastor for Newsong Youth. You can follow him on Instagram @flipvazquezii