Bruce Calkins

After his retirement as a Pastor, Bruce visited a man in prison. They prayerfully decided to begin an outreach to the gay community.

After the prison term was completed, the man invited his friends and contacts to a gathering. These were young gay men who felt wounded by their church or who had no church background at all. The men needed a place where they could safely share their pain and anger and their questions about God.

What began as an informal gathering became a faith community. There is now a focus on service and discipleship training. Some of the men are now ready to start new outreach groups so that others can experience God’s love through Jesus Christ.

Bruce is also an avid hiker.  It came as a delightful surprise to him to realize God was opening up another ministry area for him on the side of a mountain among fellow hikers.

Bridging in Retirement: Rex McDaniel

rex-mcdaniels-bad-quality-sorry-chris“In retirement, I have been glad and grateful to hear Jesus say, ‘Go join them, in their work and at their table,’” shared Rex, one of our newest Bridge Leaders.

Rex spends three days a week at a Habitat Build site, building relationships with habitat workers, the 9 families whose homes are being built, and a few other groups helping regularly at the site.

When one leader ended up in the hospital waiting for a triple bypass surgery, Rex didn’t hesitate. He called and went over to the hospital before the surgery. When he offered to pray, the wife said, “Yes, yes, would you?” Rex prayed a simple prayer, and afterward the wife gave him two big hugs and said a heartfelt “Thank you.” The Habitat leader exclaimed, “Wow, I never would have guessed this would happen.”

But this is the kind of thing that is regularly happening as Bridge Leaders join in God’s work to make disciples in a stunning array of contexts. For example, relationships are being built among European expatriates, Hollywood creatives, motorhome residents, Spanish-speaking and Arabic-speaking immigrants, professors, and couples in marriage crisis.

To learn more about becoming a Bridge Leader, email Jim Milley: Jim@BridgesUS.org.

Urban Confessional: A FREE Listening Movement

One of the primary skills Bridge Leaders develop is creating safe space for people to be heard and accepted.

Our friends at Urban Confessional are paving free-listening-cornerthe way for a culture of listening and relationship through their simple, profound acts of offering FREE LISTENING on streets around the globe. And it is inspiring!

Check out this article on Huffington Post that features there work as well as a 1 minute video with Urban Confessional’s founder, Benjamin Mathes, about why he does this.

 

Through various social media and merchandise, Urban Confessional is promoting messages of love like these:

“Being heard is the first step toward being healed.”

“Your story matters because you matter.”

“You don’t need to be licensed or holy to listen.”

“Being heard is so close to being loved most people can’t tell the difference.”

 

For more on how you or your group can develop the cross-cultural skills of listening and creating safe space for others, contact Chief Catalyst Jim Milley: Jim@BridgesUS.org.

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Connecting to God through poetry-writing

Bridge Leader Greg has been training Street Chaplains in Fremont, California to build bridges of spiritual friendship among people in housing facilities and those experiencing homelessness. One of the ways they help people process their experiences and connect to God is through the act of composing prayers and poems.
A veteran experiencing homelessness wrote the following poem after being befriended by a Street Chaplain:
“Why can’t I get the lightening jolt of adrenalin I needed in Iraq,
but now crave on the streets of Fremont?

Sometimes I think my homeless life keeps the adrenalin flowing-
the fear of violence,
the scramble for food,
the unpredictable friendships.

To be honest with you,
I’m scared, scared of being alone, scared of being with people.
PTSD they call it, as if it is a university, and I the alumni, summa cum laude.
I thought I lost the ladder out…
But now I have hope.
I will soon have an apartment.
A stable place of quiet to live, to work, to heal.
Thank God for a new home. ”

Led by Bridge Leader Greg, these are the chaplains who spend hours and hours with people who are in need of housing and in transitional housing.
Bridge Leader Greg and others held a house-warming party when the author of this poem did indeed move into his new home!
To support Bridge Leaders like Greg who build bridges of friendship among those outside of church culture, you can donate online.
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Level Ground: Creating Dialogue, Not Division

The Bridges Team is excited about the work that our friends at Level Ground are doing to build bridges of dialogue, not division at the intersection of faith, gender, and sexuality.

If you don’t know about Level Ground, check them out online, or if you are local to Los Angeles, their headquarters and ongoing events are located in Pasadena, CA.

Executive Director, Samantha Curley, describes Level Ground as a “creative, collaborative, and communal experiment in empathy. Our hope is to cultivate a better way of speaking with one another across our differences and disagreements.”

The Level Ground Festival began as a student-run film festival in 2013, but has since expanded to include multiple art forms, panel discussions, and other interactive experiences in six cities across the U.S. Level Ground itself is now offering ongoing programming and events beyond the Festivals, which include Theology Classes, Storytelling Nights, Art and Dialogue Nights, and more.

Save the date for their next festival, held in Pasadena April 5-8, 2017.

Partnering with churches to reduce waste: Barbie Ishida

Bridge Leader Barbie is passionate about bridging around ecology issues among local churches. She is helping churches and their communities embody good stewardship of the earth through education, community projects, and changed habits of waste production.

Common Ground Altadena

Barbie Ishida has a vision to create a non-profit called, “Common Ground Altadena,” which would assist local churches in reducing their waste streams and recovering organic materials from it to combat climate change. 

“It’s not about recycling. It’s about education, awareness, and giving ways that churches can participate that are cost-effective. I want to research more options and make connections for people, serving as a resource,” says Barbie.

Her passion, however, is not new. She has cared about environmental issues since high school. Then almost a decade ago, Barbie was inspired by a program called “Wasteless Living” that was brought into the Pasadena school where she was teaching. She was inspired to try something similar with churches. She knew that church events, like all events, create a ton of trash and are almost always not equipped to compost any of it.  

“I bumped into Bridges online, and I realized I needed some structure—I was just thrashing around.” Barbie recently started attending a Bridges Support Group to gain the missional skills and guidance to move forward with Common Grounds Altadena.

“We were doing something on calling at support group today. Do I have it in me to do? Now at this point in history, we’re in major environmental crisis. I feel like I have to drop everything and work on climate issues. The churches need to model the reversal. Everything is so interconnected at this point—climate change impacts immigration, food scarcity, weather, etc.”

And it is in the Bridges Support Group that Barbie is following her calling and exploring some of her ideas for workable, local solutions.  

Barbie is asking questions like, “What if each church had a composting space for the church and surrounding communities? If we keep composting sites local, we could reduce landfill waste streams. And ultimately, I’d like to create a model community that lives ecologically well together, right here in Altadena. At least that’s part of my longterm dream!”

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To contact Barbie, send her an email!

To support Bridges as we provide support services for Bridge Leaders like Barbie, you can donate securely online.

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Bridges: a non-profit that trains neighbors to help neighbors

PUBLISHED IN LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE’S “NEIGHBORS” MAGAZINE (SEPT 2016).
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Bridges is a La Canada-based national non-profit that equips neighbors to care for each other in practical, meaningful ways.

Jim Milley founded the organization in 2010 to equip community leaders who want to make their neighborhood a better plJim Milley (small)ace to live. It was the natural next step for Jim, a pastor, and his wife, Debbie, a nurse, after decades of service among the most vulnerable populations locally, nationally, and globally.

Jim says of Bridges, “We train people to care for their neighbors during times of crisis like a death in the family or a loss of a job, and we help people who want to start ministries and programs that better the community.”

The range of needs these Bridge Leaders meet in their neighborhoods is wide and varied. Take a look at just three of the leaders that Bridges trains and nurtures:

Susan-GPSusan Fudge leads Growing Pains, an outreach to pregnant and parenting teens. Through 10-week sessions at local high schools and special events like baby showers and beach outings, Susan and her team build loving relationships among the group of new Moms and Dads. Growing Pains also provides baby items like diapers and carseats as well as training in CPR, Parenting Skills, Financial wellness, and educational goal-setting. Several of the parenting teens who have joined Growing Pains are not only going to college and finding the empowering relationships they need to succeed, they are now serving as mentors to other young women navigating similar situations!

Cissy-and-Lisa-PileggiCissy Brady-Rogers (Right) founded Alive & Well Women, a non-profit that offers holistic programs and tools to women at all life stages to navigate toxic cultural messages about health. With a background as a Marriage and Family Therapist, yoga teacher, and spiritual director, Cissy helps hundreds of women lead healthier, happier lives. Whether through self-care workshops or mindful eating dinners, or spiritual retreats, participants are learning to love and accept themselves, make healthy choices for their lives, and reach out to other women to help them on their own journeys.

Jaime Lazarov - home depot parking lotJaime Lazarov (Right) spends six hours every Monday building relationships with day laborers in an East Los Angeles Home Depot parking lot. He gets to know the men, listens to what they need, and is able to direct them to resources and provide encouragement to them. Jaime also organizes regular small group meetings for immigrants to share their skill sets with each other and break down some of the isolation that many immigrants experience.

Over the last 7 years, Bridges has supported over 100 “Bridge Leaders” for high-impact service in their communities. Bridges offers these leaders ACTS services— Assessments, Coaching, Training, Support Groups, and Support Grants. Leaders are also provided the legal and administrative infrastructure to fundraise for their cause. And Bridges is spreading across the U.S., with Bridge Leaders now serving their neighbors in Maryland, South Carolina, and the Pacific Northwest.

Bridges has come alongside more than 100 leaders like Jaime, Cissy and Susan to support them in the personal, unique work they’re already doing for their neighbors and communities.

For more information on Bridges and how you can get involved, email Jim Milley: Jim@BridgesUS.org.

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Bridging school and church worlds: field report

What might it look like to build a bridge as you walk on it?

Bridge Leader Clark shares where he is in the process of building bridges between the worlds of school and work:

with-craig-williams

Going to School

“Things are going well here. Our kids went back to school last week. We went across the street to the high school and took breakfast to the teachers there. I hung around in the teacher’s lounge for an hour before school started and got to talk to a lot of teachers and the assistant principal. The teachers were very appreciative. Some told me about the churches they went to. Some knew about the prom dinner we did back in May for the special ed students and said how excited the kids were about that. Some knew about the tutoring we had tried to do last spring, as well.

So, it feels like we are building some good bridges there.

The School Going to Church

Then, on Sunday morning, we did Back 2 School celebrations at both churches. We invited our teachers and students to come up in the worship service and tell what school they were at, what grade they were in, or what they taught. At Northside, we had the North High School principal speak, and at the Emmanuel Church, we had a local elementary school principal speak. Then we prayed over everyone as they begin the school year. The teachers really appreciated it and I think the kids really liked it to. It felt like a good step to connect with our educational community.

Plans & Brainstorms

I am getting ready to start some new fall small group Bible studies soon, and then we are making plans for October to hold a Community Brainstorming Session at the Emmanuel Church.  We want to host an evening to invite in community people and community leaders to talk about what is going on in our area, what the needs are, and what needs to be done.

I have also joined two community groups that are working on improving the local community here and am beginning to build some good relationships with some community leaders.

It will be interesting to see where that goes…

bridges church planting

Bridge Leaders cross barriers to build bridges among those outside church culture. Bridges nurtures and equips Bridge Leaders who make disciples, start ministries, and form communities.

Hope within isolated housing facilities

Bridge Leaders CROSS BARRIERS to engage people outside of church culture.
Bridge Leader Greg shares, “We are crossing barriers to build relationships with those in and around nearby low-income housing facilities.”
Greg is a pastor in Freemont, California who is also training a group of chaplains (below) to build bridges of friendship among residents of local housing facilities. These residents, for various reasons, are often isolated from those outside the facility. That’s where Greg and his team come in. This team also connects with people in the areas around freeways and libraries who may not have housing at all.
How do they cross these housing barriers? Through various forms of hospitality, conversation, and service.

One chaplain named Charlie spends time with residents during Free Breakfasts on Monday mornings:

“I share my life story–hospitalized with mental health issues, drug addiction, and alcoholism. Now I am 23 years clean and sober, and I met Jesus Christ while in the hospital.”
Charlie’s life story really connects with residents.  He has been able to encourage them to get connected with Hope Van for medical services and to invite them to church or offer to go to another church with them.
This is just one example of how Greg and his team are turning barriers into bridges of hope and community.
Bridges equips Greg to invest in chaplains like Charlie who are coming alongside residents to build bridges of hope and friendship.

Called to the classroom: vocation as a primary place to bridge

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On November 5th, Bridges will hold a day-long training conference in Los Angeles focused on taking next steps in our callings. Learn More & Register. Here’s an inspiring example of how our friend, Julie, is pursuing her calling:
julie-teacher-photoJulie is bridging among dozens of public elementary school children and their families as a Master Teacher of Spanish Immersion in Pasadena, CA. It is her calling. There’s no other way to explain how she could find the energy and motivation to fulfill the role. On every level, it is simply one of the most challenging —yet rewarding— jobs. And it wasn’t her first plan.
While in college studying to be an architect, Julie was was exposed to someone teaching in the field of bilingual education. And she was intrigued. She switched majors, graduated, and then moved to Guatemala for three years to do mission work through education while deepening her language skills. While there, she and her team had such an impact on the children, that the community asked them to organize a school. And that’s what did!
Returning to the U.S., despite her experience and passion, Julie found it extremely difficult to find a teaching position. But she persisted in the calling and eventually was hired to work with English learners in Pasadena. Julie and her husband moved to Colorado for a year where, after volunteering and then substitute teaching, she was hired to teach dual language immersion. Despite the school’s abundant resources, Julie felt called to return to to be one of the founding teachers for Pasadena’s new dual language immersion program. So they returned.
Julie, in fact, embraces what others would consider a demotion from what could have been a more lucrative, “glamorous” career path as an architect. As well, she has found the courage to say “No” to well-meaning encouragements to climb the ladder through school district administration. Despite the long hours and salary range, she feels the classroom is where she can have the most impact.
julie-teaching-in-classroom
“Seeing the growth in the kids makes it all worth it. I have parents come up to me who have had kids who had challenges, and they’ll say, ‘Thank you so much for helping him learn right from wrong and become a good person.’ I pray for them and think about them and worry about them all the time. It’s such a privilege to be in this role in their lives.”
Thank God for Julie’s inspiring example of following her vocation to pour herself out in love to those around her.
Interested in brainstorming for the next step in your calling? We’d love to come alongside you! If you can’t make the November 5th training conference, contact us to discuss other services we provide such as Coaching, Support Groups, and other trainings throughout the year.