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Check out this video from Carmen!

When you envision a Bayshore Christian Ministries volunteer, what comes to mind?  A young, Christian professional teaching in our teen Streetworkz or LiT spiritual program?  Perhaps a mom or a retired couple tutoring an East Palo Alto student or delivering a meal to a Vacation Bible School camp?  Maybe a musician leading worship music for one of our camps?  Or a tech worker taking time away from the job to lead a robotics workshop?   Yes, to all!  And, if you fit into any of these categories, please consider volunteering. 

But, how about a high school student, who has lived her whole life in East Palo Alto, joining a Bible Club team in her own neighborhood to translate for Spanish-speaking parents, lead music, and disciple her younger neighbors?  This perfectly describes Carmen Zurita, a 17-year-old senior, about to graduate from Woodside High School, and a highly valued member of BCM’s Westside Bible Club leadership team! 

Carmen’s first exposure to BCM was as an 8-year-old student attending a BCM Bible Club in the very apartment cluster where she still lives on the west side of Highway 101 in East Palo Alto, near the Four Seasons Hotel.  There, she leads a BCM Bible Club that could not function without her help, given her deep understanding of the culture and language of the families sending their children to our weekly gatherings.   

“My older siblings, cousins and I all enjoyed BCM programs beginning in elementary school.  We attended tutoring sessions, Vacation Bible School and Bible Clubs.  I fondly remember my leaders from that time, especially Miss Tammy and Mr. Steve,” said Carmen.  “I transitioned to volunteering last summer, working as a VBS leader in the Belle Haven neighborhood.” 

Worship music with hand motions was the best part of VBS, in Carmen’s opinion.  “It was exciting to see how much the students enjoyed worship.  Once we suggested that we were running short on time so we would skip the singing and dancing, but the youth insisted that we make time for the singing.  Because the lyrics stick in their minds, positive Christian songs are excellent for students’ mental and spiritual health.” 

Carmen is surprised to find herself remarking that the most impactful time she spends with the Westside Bible Club is picking the students up from their apartments and then walking them to the Bible Club and back, conversing in both English and Spanish, as they slip between the two languages, one which they speak at home, and the other at school.   

“This time of casual reflection is the best way to make personal connections,” opines Carmen.  “The boys and girls share with me when I ask them questions.  They tell me that their teachers at school are not as open with them as their Bible Club leaders. 

“Some of the kids leave home with thoughts that are not the best, but once they reach Bible Club, they find a safe space to talk about how they feel about things going on at school.  Once, when walking home with 3 students, I asked how Bible Club is different than school.  They replied, ‘We feel comfortable.  Whatever we learn here we go and share with our friends.  Some don’t believe, and some do, but we still share.’ 

“Another child told me, ‘When I’m scared, I pray to God and the fear goes away,’” continued Carmen.   “It’s encouraging to see children relying on God at such a young age.” 

Shelter in place has given Carmen the unique opportunity to help our Bible Club Program Manager, Leslie Tuakalau, connect with the parents in new ways: 

  • Explaining how to log their sons and daughters into our Zoom Bible Club meetings, 

  • Introducing parents to our weekly pizza contest, and,  

  • Gifting them with care packages filled with grocery gift cards for the family, plus educational materials, games and snacks for the students.

“I have seen parents’ hearts soften towards us as they receive the gift bags.  At first, when we would knock to pick up students for Bible Club, some parents were not particularly friendly.  But, the gift bags -- a sign that BCM cares for these kids -- shocked them.  They see that what we do is important.  They want their children to keep God in their hearts and thoughts,” Carmen reflects about the west side parents.  “They realize that the program is helping children do just that.  Since shelter in place started, every single mom has had a conversation with me that they believe in God and trust God to get them through this pandemic.  Ironically, these strange times are good for BCM’s relationship with East Palo Alto parents!”   

Carmen is uniquely created by God and placed in her volunteer role for such a time as this.  Ephesians 2:10 seems particularly appropriate: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” 

BCM is rejoicing with Carmen that she will be leaving East Palo Alto in the fall to attend her dream college, Fresno Pacific University, a small, Christian college.  There, she will study music performance and composition to continue her passion of leading Christians in worship, something she currently does both in BCM’s Bible Club, but also at Puerta del Cielo – her church in Menlo Park.  We will all miss Carmen but thank God for choosing to lead Carmen to BCM for this season of her life.  She has blessed so many as a volunteer! 

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"Thank you very much for this great support in these very hard times that we are going through. Blessings to all the people who did this to help us." -BCM Parent

With everything going on surrounding the pandemic and shelter in place order, our programs have had to adapt to ensure our students are supported, but oftentimes adversity creates new growth and beautiful examples of God at work.  We have seen this repeatedly in LiT (Leaders in Training), our high school mentorship program.  

Our LiT students have shown tremendous resilience, creativity and leadership during this time.  The foundation that has been built through the investment of the students, staff and volunteers over the years is bearing fruit as they make positive choices in their own lives and lead through example among their families and peers.  Students are stepping up and sharing their talents, including make-up tutorials and painting techniques, during the Friday hang out hour they initiated.  Others are finding opportunities to support friends and neighbors who are struggling, choosing to be generous with their own time, money or other resources.  As part of our self-care challenge, students are exercising, eating healthy and getting outside; it’s exciting to see them finding creative ways to take care of their bodies, minds and spirits.  

Each week our students, volunteers and staff continue to gather on Zoom (thanks to a generous gift from a church partner) and both attendance and engagement has been high.  The weekly meeting is an essential time for check-in, group learning as well as some fun and games.  The students have been able to decompress and laugh during competitive group games like Pictionary and Catch Phrase.  The current series on relationships has proved to be even more relevant than planned, as students are spending exponentially more time with family members due to sheltering in place, in addition to navigating other relationships in new ways.  

Academically, this season has been most challenging for our juniors and seniors.  We have been in awe of our seniors, who have managed to have an incredibly positive attitude about missing graduation, especially as students for whom high school graduation is not a given.  Thankfully, college acceptance letters have arrived and we have been able to celebrate with our seniors as they get into their top choice colleges and universities!  Our juniors’ perseverance in college preparations is humbling, given the many unknowns regarding the future.  They have been attending online workshops, searching for colleges and learning about career values and opportunities.  The determination they are developing now is growing them into strong students and leaders.  

While our students are exemplifying creativity, leadership and resilience during this time, the weight of the challenges they are facing is great.  Economic pressure is substantial as most households have lost one or more incomes and families are struggling to pay for basics like food and rent.  Many of our families live in small residences along with extended family members or other housemates, making it difficult to find quality study space.  With family pressures and mental health concerns, depression and anxiety are common.  We also have several students and families with pre-existing medical conditions, and getting treatment during this time is difficult.  

Due to the generous gifts of friends like you, BCM has been able to provide direct support through our Family Assistance Fund. We have provided money towards rent and utilities payments, grocery cards, love kits and Chromebooks to students and families. Please continue to pray for families being affected financially, physically and mentally, that they would know God’s peace and presence during difficult times.  

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

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He changes times and seasons;he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. Daniel 2:21

Dear BCM Friends and Family,

Given the current coronavirus threat, it is challenging to find a good time to communicate this personal news, but I need to prepare our ministry for the change that lies ahead. After fourteen years on staff, I have decided to transition from my role as Bayshore Christian Ministries’ Executive Director, effective mid-June 2020.

This decision has not come easily given my love for and commitment to the work God is doing through BCM amongst the youth and families of East Palo Alto and Belle Haven. I began this discernment process many months ago and informed our Board early in the year. After decades in the nonprofit world, I am looking forward to pursuing other professional interests.

I thank God for his faithfulness as He continues to uphold BCM’s ministry through this challenging season. As an organization, BCM is in a strong position. I am encouraged by our devoted board which provides spiritual covering as they are guided by our Christian faith in combination with BCM’s strategic vision; by the seasoned executive team in Andrew Hartwell and Amy Joh, who bring decades of experience in BCM leadership roles; and, by the dedicated staff and volunteers, who bring our mission to life as they love and serve the youth of our community. God’s provision has afforded us a strong balance sheet and I trust He will continue to provide for our ministry during this turbulent time caused by this pandemic.

The Board has already created an Executive Director Search Committee that has outlined the search timeline and hiring process. Unfortunately, the current Covid-19 containment strategies have forced us to modify these plans. As a result of the uncertainty we are all experiencing, we will delay the posting of the position until we can safely and reliably move forward with the hiring process. Once we post the position, we welcome your assistance in sharing this job opportunity with your networks. Upon my early summer departure, if a new Executive Director is not yet hired, an interim executive leadership plan will be put in place.

I am grateful for the privilege God has given me to serve at BCM. It has been a gift to work alongside so many dedicated, committed and hard-working colleagues over the years and to receive the support of so many of you. I will treasure the many moments of "spark" that God has allowed me to experience personally, in the youth we serve and in BCM as an organization. I thank you for your prayers and ask that you please continue to lift up our youth, their families, the BCM team and our organization as we tackle this leadership transition and this viral pandemic. I may not have been able to reach you personally with this news, but I do hope we can connect soon. Please feel free to reach me at I would love to set up a time to chat over the phone and provide you with a more personal update.


Rolando Zeledon

Executive Director

Bayshore Christian Ministries

(650) 327-9942

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