Amy Joh has been the one setting up and approving blog posts for many years at Hope Horizon as Director of Partner Engagement, but this time, she finds herself in
the position of the interviewee. I sat down with Amy over cups of boba at Mr. Sun to reflect with her on her past 23 years of ministry and the unique impact that she was able to give through Hope Horizon.
A few months ago, Amy transitioned from Hope Horizon to what she now describes as a "fieldwork" part of her career as a classroom aide at Costaño elementary school in East Palo
Alto. Amy felt that God had called her to a different stage in her work, but she insists that for now her mission continues to be serving the youth in East Palo Alto: "God calls us to represent his kingdom and his love everywhere, and especially among the marginalized and everywhere there’s injustice. East Palo Alto is where he has shown me to be. Over time, I’ve fallen more and more in love with East Palo Alto, and it’s where I live, it’s where I continue to invest my time and energy and it has brought me joy to get to know new students and families at Costaño."
To Amy, being able to dedicate herself entirely to East Palo Alto through Hope Horizon was the best way that she could act out God’s calling. Amy acknowledged that within a single community, or a single student within East Palo Alto, there are so many larger issues that could be intersecting, such as educational inequality, racial injustice, poverty, housing insecurity, and immigration; and they can all fit in one person. Although it is possible for Amy to have focused her work on addressing any one of these worthy causes, Amy explained that she partly saw her role at Hope Horizon as storytelling—really knowing and walking with her community and then sharing the wholeness of their stories to others who might be ready to join in sharing God’s love, peace and justice.
"Most of my more recent work at Hope Horizon has been focused on the individual, trying to make sure that they are included and represented. I hope that as I am sharing about the
people I love and care about, others would move the advocacy forward on specific issues. Part of my own story was that I didn’t know the story of communities like East Palo Alto, and learning those stories was very transformative to me in terms of my faith and my ministry at Hope Horizon. This is part of why I especially enjoyed teaching the justice sessions alongside co-workers."
In terms of Hope Horizon’s role when it comes to larger efforts to address issues that communities like East Palo Alto might face, Amy chooses the "bridge" metaphor. Hope Horizon has the ability to "connect people that have something mutual and reciprocal to offer across divides," which ranges from connecting with partner organizations, volunteers, internship programs, schools or churches. Hope Horizon’s holistic approach to community needs that is specifically rooted in Christianity is able to connect churches and Christian organizations to so many areas of community life outside of stereotypically spiritual arenas that God is also powerfully at work in. "Jesus met real, physical needs of people, seeing them live their daily lives, while simultaneously revealing deep spiritual truths and inviting them to trust in God’s love for them."
Amy ultimately saw her previous role and Hope Horizon’s role as being present with students in their everyday moments, week after week: "Hope Horizon attempts to value and see the whole student. There are all these pieces and needs that are of great importance, but to actually be fully present with that student in that moment… To let them know that you love them, you care about them, you’re curious about
what happened in their day, to be patient with them as they react to all these other things that are going on in their lives, to represent that consistent loving kindness of God towards that student, to be with them week after week, can be really powerful. We are not going to be able to fix everything, but I think there’s something really powerful about being with students in their actual moments of life, and to show them that they can experience and know God’s love, in their worst days and their best days, in the midst of whatever life is like in the day-to-day."
Just as Amy strove to show God’s loving kindness to students every day, she too felt the loving kindness of God working all around her during her time with Hope Horizon:
"Throughout the whole time, I felt like I was constantly able to see God, whether in my own self, our staff, in Hope Horizon as an organization, in the people coming to volunteer or intern, or in moments our students encountered God through prayer or mentorship. To me, that will always be one of the most special and consistent things I experienced at Hope Horizon - the ability to tangibly see and experience Christ’s love. As I continue on my journey, I am filled with gratitude for my time at Hope Horizon, for the way it shaped me, for the beautiful people I was able to be in community with and for the privilege of working in a ministry devoted to exemplifying God’s love for the world."