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Ambar's hollywood service journey

We see you…te vemos

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Prayer vigil, many communities of faith gathered for this cause.

Two nights ago, we went out to Downtown L.A. to participate in a Prayer Vigil for justice. Justice for victims of mass incarceration, mass deportation, non-affordable housing, and underpaid low-wage jobs. The night started with the host, Dr. Yolanda Brown, crying out, “make some noise if you are Latino, African-American, Asian or Pacific Islander, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Catholic, an immigrant, child of immigrants, and if you have a family member whose been incarcerated or if you’ve been incarcerated.” After all the cheering, Dr. Brown stated “We hear you, we see you, we see God and we see God in you.” A simple, but powerful act nonetheless. In calling out all the categories, that at times divide us as a people and are used to make us feel inferior, she empowered us and deemed us worthy and important. I say “us” because I identify with several categories previously mentioned. I am an immigrant Christian Latina whose had a family member incarcerated and deported. With this act, the host recognized those who society usually doesn’t recognize or acknowledge; the so-called “minorities”. We are not forgotten, we are seen…somos vistos.

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Dr. Yolanda Brown welcoming us and getting us rallied up.
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God made me in God’s image. #CanYouSeeMe ?

The meaning and intent behind the mantra of the night, “We see you…te vemos...”, was to let the men, physically incarcerated behind the vigil, know that they are not forgotten; they are also created in God’s image. They all have a dignity that has to be valued and respected. Most importantly of all, they deserve a second chance, and a third, and even a fourth if needed. How many times does God forgive us when we make mistakes? We make mistakes every day. God forgives us endlessly because God’s mercy is so abundant. So why can’t we return that same grace to those who have stumbled along their paths and made mistakes? Why must we be so harsh with our brothers and sisters?

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Some of my fellow YAVs/Dwellers Ahreum, Rowena and Marji, along with our directors Matthew and Marvin. The jail is right behind us.

As I stood outside and looked up at the jail window cells and saw the tiny windows where I know inmates where looking down at us (pictured to the left), I wish I had made a sign that said “We care for you, we love you, pray for you, forgive you, and fight for you. You are not forgotten.” Although I did not have that sign, I imagine that our presence alone and what we were declaring meant something to the men in the correctional facility. It’s like another woman speaker had stated, “I pray being here reminds these men that they are not forgotten. We still see them.” I hope that the imprisoned men grasped the message we all desired to give them: one of love, care, support, forgiveness and of not forgetting or leaving them behind.

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An ex-convict who had been in prison for 20 years for killing another young man told a story that touched us all. One day, he received a letter from the mother of the man he killed. In it, she spoke of how her intent was not to throw anything in his face. Instead, she told him that it hadn’t been easy but that she forgave him. She recalled how Mary, the mother of Jesus, forgave all those who had killed her son and called them her own sons. Now, this mother who lost her son told his murderer, “I could call you my son, if you let me.” I had not expected this turn in the story and stood in utter shock. Wow, the power of forgiveness is truly incredible. Then this man said to all of us, “If we could see through God’s eyes, through Mary’s eyes, then the world would be a better place.”

We also heard from a woman who had a mental illness and became much healthier once she had housing. As she stated, “Incarcerating people with mental illnesses, who are homeless, who have drug addictions does not work. Giving people a life full of purpose does. Affordable housing is the answer.” I agree, affordable housing is the practical answer. However, I also believe Jesus is the transformative answer.

Here in Hollywood, as I continue to learn more about homelessness, I am coming to understand that so many of those who are homeless are mentally ill. Some had it before they lived on the streets and others have developed it while being homeless. In the past, in different areas of the city, arresting those with mental illnesses, with no place to stay and with drug addictions has not had effective results. Getting people housed with the best-fitting supportive services for them is a better solution to this specific problem.

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Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries here in Los Angeles, also spoke at the Prayer Vigil. His organization hires ex-convicts and gang members who are looking to give up the gang life and lead a better and more honest life. Fr Boyle is the author of Tattoos on the Heart, a great book detailing how Homeboy Industries came to life. At the vigil, Fr Greg mentioned that the building behind us (the jail) is a representation of how society excludes people. He then compared it to the foot washing ritual that took place and how that signified inclusion. In biblical times the washing of feet symbolized hospitality and a warm welcome to your guests. It was interesting to witness the two extremes right beside one another; exclusion and inclusion.

I want to leave you with this testimony. Pastor Michael Fisher shared how he lost his brother, a vibrant young man, to a shooting. He became frustrated and asked God to show him the way to understand why these kinds of tragedies happen. Through this experience, Pastor Michael learned that a person takes someone else’s life because along the way, someone forgot about theirs.

As Father Boyle stated at the vigil and in his book Tattoos on the Heart, “Mother Teresa diagnosed the world’s ills in this way: we’ve just ‘forgotten that we belong to each other’” (187).

So please, let us not forget any longer.

Blessings to you.

P.S. You can watch a video of the prayer vigil here: http://abc7.com/1009142/

Shrimp Tacos Initiation…en mi vecindario (in my neighborhood)…


My first meal in Los Angeles were these shrimp tacos last Monday. They were amazing! I got them from the neighborhood’s pride and joy taco shop, Cactus Taquería, pictured below. As former and current dweller Sara told me, everyone loves this Taquería and always comes here to eat and hang out. I can definitely see why Cactus Taquería is always full. It was so great to eat authentic Mexican food and to use the resources I have to support local food shops, neighbors, and families. Not only that, but in sharing a meal with Sara among our neighbors (vecinos) and blessings our vecinos  (Cactus taquería owners), I felt like it was my initiation into this community. Meals are usually part of the hospitality a community gives to new visitors and these shrimp tacos were figuratively my welcoming into this latino community. This is only the beginning of me feeling at home here. If you’re ever in Hollywood, come and eat here! You won’t regret it!

Home sweet home…nuestra casa…

“Mi casa es su casa”…”Home is where the heart is”…IMG_0904 IMG_4240

“La casa de la comunidad” is the community house that we share with our neighbors. Twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays evenings, we have children from the neighborhood come play, hang out and receive homework help from the YAV / Dwellers. In front of the house is also a community garden where both we and our neighbors plant fruits and vegetables. It is a tradition of our Hollywood site to have the Community Open House Days and to share the garden. This house truly is the community’s house. A good portion of our neighbors are latinos, so as we latinos say, “mi casa es su casa”. In this case it’d be, “esta casa es nuestra casa”, meaning this house is our house.

Reflections from Stony Point…

IMG_4162Last week, I participated in an “orientation” with all of my other fellow YAV volunteers who are now currently all over the world and nation communing with some of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. I write “orientation” in quotation marks because as our Coordinator of the YAV Program, Rev. Richard Williams, stated “this whole year will be a year of orientation.” Now, the following are a few reflections from my time at Stony Point.

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Day of Arrival – Monday August 24th

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As I sit here in the midst of an open field beautifully kept with a precious garden beside it and beautiful homes behind this enchanting scenery, I sit here with a deep sense of gratitude. I am grateful that God has given me the gift to appreciate the beauty of creation and of even human beings’ creation, which God gave us the ability to create such marvelous spaces and things. I am more aware of this gift after the confirmation in the StrengthFinder test, which stated that I perceive beauty more so than the norm. I now realize that God has been subtly telling me that this the past year.

Wow, look at the moon perfectly fitting in with the clean, healthy, soft and clear baby blue sky. Barely able to see it unless you stop…and really pay attention. So Lord God as I initially sat down I said, “Lord, I don’t fully know what you have for me this year or why I am here.” But, I do know that the work that you started in me, you will bring to to fruition and completion.

It’s so great to be here and be among so many different people from diverse backgrounds and still be able to get along with them right off the bat. Even though we are all unique in our own ways, what unites us is our mission. Our mission to proclaim the gospel to the whole world and not just through words, but through actions, through serving and more so being with those most in need.

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We are all here gathered as volunteers and will literally go to various parts of the world and our nation: Colombia, Peru, Ireland, Hollywood CA, Montana, Atlanta GA, Chicago IL, and Boston MA among many others. We show up to take a stand on poverty and to demonstrate to our world and communities that we love and care for them. We can only do this because God loved us first and is our perfect example of how to love. Through God’s love, we can provide hope for all our lives and our world. The work won’t be easy, but possible if we stop focusing on hate, jealousy, and greed and instead center all our energy on love, hope, restoration, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Thank you for your time and blessings to you!

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4th Day of Orientation – Thursday August 27th

As I sat in the service, the following thoughts came to my head during prayer time after hearing and being so moved by Blair and Patrick’s, two YAVA’s (YAV Alumni), experiences. The prayer time was my chance to really be quiet and meditate as I had not had the opportunity earlier today. Reflecting on Blair and Patrick’s stories, I noticed how I am profoundly moved by people in difficult or tragic situations and always want to fix it and make it all better for them. This is especially true for those who I deeply care for and love. I usually feel hopeless in these moments and get upset because I can’t do more.

Today I realized, thanks to the two YAVAs, that my job is not to fix people’s situations and make it all better when I don’t have the ability or the means to do so. Instead, my purpose it to make sure they feel loved and supported and to help them perceive how important, worthy and valuable they are to me and to our society. God is already a given here.

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I remember how friends I deeply care for and cherish would tell me about their upbringing and all the hurt and chaos they experienced in their lifetime. I would get so devastated and troubled in hearing these life stories. All I wanted to do was make it all better. I didn’t want them to be hurting, in pain or holding on to past hurts. I desired for them to be free from all their sorrows. Now I understand that I don’t possess the power to change their life situations, but that I can provide love, support, and encouragement. I can listen for those who want to vent or just want someone to talk to. In these situations, I can also love them as they are and bring joyous moments to their lives. I am so grateful and praise God for this lesson because it is going to be so important to keep in mind for when I work with the homeless. I may feel like I can’t do much to get them housed and stable, but I just have to keep reminding myself of this lesson.

Now, I thank you for listening. Blessings.

I would greatly appreciate your support

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Lights, camera, action! Celebrities, luxurious lives, fame, wealth. These are probably some associations you make when you think of Hollywood, California. While this is all true, there is another side to the story of this “well-known” city. Envision yourself living in this grand urban center and not knowing where you will sleep at night. Picture yourself walking through the streets with an immense hunger. You pass by several eateries, but are not able to purchase food to nurture your body. You don’t know from where or when your next meal will be. You don’t have a home to call yours or clean clothes to keep you refreshed in these hot and humid California days. You’re frustrated at the circumstances that have placed you in this situation. You feel hopeless. Where can you go? Who can help you?

This is the reality of many Californians in Hollywood. Stories of suffering, struggle, racism, classism and poverty have been silenced by society so that this famous city can only be known as the “home of the entertainment industry.” Did you know that the Los Angeles county has the largest homeless population in the nation? Were you aware that a large number of these individuals in Hollywood are young people with ages ranging from 15 to 23? As Los Angeles is the focal point of the nation’s homelessness and also of human trafficking, the pornographic industries take advantage, especially of the youth, in these sensitive and vulnerable states.

This upcoming year, I will be serving as a Dweller / Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) in Hollywood to serve the homeless population. I will work in an agency or a ministry where I will engage in issues of economic injustice, mental health, domestic violence and human trafficking, which are all in this context connected to homelessness.

If you are willing and able, I ask for your financial support for this year of service that I am about to embark on. I will not be paid a salary or a wage for this work, but only a small monthly stipend to assimilate into the community I serve. Continue to visit this blog so that you can all experience this Hollywood journey and special year with me.

My goal is to raise $3000 for this program. You can provide support by donating to the PC USA website and by writing my name in the comment section here. However, if you would like to make a weekly, biweekly, monthly or quarterly contribution instead of a single donation, you can visit the DOOR website and set up your donation here.

This program emerges from DOOR’s (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection) partnership with the Mennonite Mission Network and Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Thank you for your consideration and support.

Hello beautiful people!

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Hello there!

My name is Ambar Sabino and I am so thrilled to share that I will be a Dweller / YAV in Hollywood, California this upcoming year! I will be dedicating my life to a year of service to help the homeless community in this great city. I will be working in some capacity on the following issues, in connection to homelessness: economic injustice, mental health, domestic violence and human trafficking. In addition, I will also be working towards racial reconciliation, which is so important as we reflect on the many tragedies this nation has currently faced. Let’s all pray and take action towards fostering a safer, healthier and more loving world. Always remember that faith without works is dead 😊 (James 2:14-26).

Now, guess what? You’re coming with me! Yes, YOU! I will take you on this special journey with me through this blog. So stay tuned, great things are to come ❤️.

Stay blessed and see you soon!

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