January 6, 2016

Hello all! My name is Sarah and I am senior at the University of Dayton in Dayton, OH. It has been a busy past couple of days, filled with so many wonderful experiences, beautiful stories, and new friends. Today we started off making our first stop at Homeboy Industries, an amazing ministry started by Father Greg Boyle to help gang members walk away from the violence and addictions, and provide them with the tools, encouragement and love to turn their lives around. Many of us had done some reading and watched some videos about Fr. Greg and the homies, but being able to visit the ministry and hear peoples stories firsthand was really amazing as we were able to put faces to many of these stories. So many things struck me during this visit, and I wish I could write about them all. We began by sitting in on the industries morning business meeting and thought of the day. The thought of the day was given by Fabian, a past gang member who has completely turned his life around and now is one has one of the top positions at the industry, he shared with us and experience of how he came to see what it means to be a true man and how now his true joy and fulfillment comes from spending time sharing a meal and laughter with his family. Next we were given a tour of the facility by a gentleman named, Paco. Paco was one of the most honest people I have ever met, and also had such a big heart. He shared with us the many adversities he faced struggling in and out of prison and gang violence, but how it was Fr. Greg and Homeboy's that helped give him his life back, who helped him to believe in himself, who helped show him he was a human worthy of love. Another thing that struck me about Paco was his sense of reality and self-awareness. In sharing his story he was very open in saying his road to a new life was not easy, and is still not easy. He still struggles a lot with mistakes of his past, and controlling his anger, he realizes and accepts that he will not become perfect overnight, but true transformation takes time. This though makes him no less worthy of love. In many ways we are all going through transformations, maybe its not as drastic as Paco or the other men and women at Homeboy's, but we are all striving to become better versions of ourselves, the person God made us to be. One last takeaway I am reflecting on from our visit to Homeboy's, is the importance of intentional human interaction and presence. Walking into Homeboy's there was the temptation to fall into quick judgement of the men and women who choose to come in for help, but weather it was listening to Paco's genuine passion to change, Fabian's affirmation of what it means to be a real man, or talking with some of the workers about the chances of the Bengal's loosing their first round playoff game for yet another year, it is from these intentional interactions that I grew more in seeing that these men and women are not all that different from us, they may have made some poor choices in the past, but haven't we all (I know I have)? As Fr. Greg would say in the end it comes down to kinship, not us and them, but all of us in this together, brothers and sisters in Christ.

We finished our day visiting two local schools. Both of which gave us the opportunity to meet some pretty incredible kids, some of which had some beautiful singing voices. Again the importance of presence really struck me. At such a young age these kids had so much wisdom. When we asked them what kind of advice they had for us, the responses were pretty incredible and so genuine. It was also really awesome to meet some of the incredible and passionate teacher's who are so committed to their career in education and the well-being and success of their students.

I am so grateful for all of the experiences this immersion has brought us thus far, and for the people God has put on our path's along the way. Thank you for taking the time to read about our experiences, and journey with us through this week. Please keep us in your prayers as we enter into the final half of our time here in Los Angeles!

Sarah Wilker
University of Dayton
Dayton, Ohio

Hey y'all! My name is Ricky and I am a junior from St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas. Today marks the third day that we have been here in the wonderful city of Los Angeles. On this third day we had the amazing opportunity to visit Homeboy Industries and witness firsthand the many lives that Fr. Greg Boyle has been able to help transform alongside many other selfless human beings. One person in particular was the gentleman who gave us a tour of the facilities, Paco. Paco, a man who has been through his fare share of struggle, gave us this tour with such joy and apparent gratitude for the blessing that is Homeboy industries. He shared with us his story and it was at this time that you could tell that this man had been touched by God. To go through everything he had been through in his life and to still be able to get up and look at everyone with such understanding and with such love, it was truly a humbling experience. The level of understanding that Paco had was just so amazing. To be able to realize that people can't just change overnight and yet still be willing to wait for that moment in which those in need of help will come when they are ready, showed me that regardless of who the person is, if you have the ability to help you give them all the time they need but never give up in the fight to help them become the best person they can be. Another thing that stood out to me was the level of trust and honesty everyone had with each other at Homeboy. It didn't matter anymore where you came from, what gang you represented, you were all now united as one cohesive family striving to bring the best out of each other. I commend Paco, not only for his perseverance towards becoming a better man, father, and overall human being, but commend him for never losing faith. I thank God for allowing me to experience such a humbling and eye opening day at Homeboy industries, but also pray that he continues to guide each of us down the right path and to continue to bless Paco and everyone at Homeboy industries including Fr. Greg, for without him and his vision, possibly none of this would exist. I leave you all with much love and ask for your continued prayers as we continue our experience here in Los Angeles. Thank you!:)

Ricky Garcia
St. Mary's University
San Antonio, TX


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