Friday, July 20, 2012

The Fragrance of Family

If you will walk in My ways,
And if you will keep My command,
Then you shall also judge My house,
And likewise have charge of My courts;
I will give you places to walk
Among these who stand here.
‘Hear, O Joshua, the high priest,
You and your companions who sit before you,
For they are a wondrous sign;
For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH.
For behold, the stone
That I have laid before Joshua:
Upon the stone are seven eyes.
Behold, I will engrave its inscription,’
Says the Lord of hosts,
‘And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts,
‘Everyone will invite his neighbor
Under his vine and under his fig tree.’”
Zechariah 3:6-10

The LORD has marvelously answered prayers for me this week.  On Monday I prayed a prayer from the heart, for God to "let me out" into a place that His Spirit already is, because of the teachings of 1 John from Sunday school and the Forgotten God study on Monday morning.  I am beginning to see a wide distinction between asking God to live Christ through me to others, and getting "out" into the place where God is working powerfully all the time.  I believe that Jesus is the gate and it only opens by pursuing Him.  I don't desire new people, I don't desire to go new places; I desire to see God create revived interest in following Him.  That is what I see happening this week and it is an answer to my heart!

What happens next?  I suppose I should take this open door and "interview" Animal.  I realize that the situation might not correspond with my hopes or ideas, and I'm okay with that.  A lot of following the Spirit for me, has been walking by faith through one door and into a dead end.  But the dead end usually has a side door and it goes on and on just like that, so I never really have an idea for sure of what God is up to.  Knowing is not the point.  Praying, is the point, praying with people and telling them my testimony of God's power, loving them, accepting them like Jesus does.  And most importantly, looking to see what activity in the Spirit is happening in the lives of those I meet - calling it for what it is, and encouraging more of the same.

I'm not perfect at this, sometimes I feel God leading me to hold my tongue out of grace, oftentimes I don't see anything happening spiritually so I testify in the mess and move on.  Sometimes I even disobey what God is telling me because in the moment there is something that discourages me or bothers me.  It's not about me.  God can use my failures for His distinguishment.

I spoke with an ex-Crip yesterday and he told me that the juggalo life is nothing like gangs, and even the gangs here are nothing like they are in places such as southern California.  This was encouraging.  I'm sure after reading the last post you feel much the way I do; it was a fearful discussion of hatchets and machetes and so on.  But I have found that details can always overwhelm the natural man if I let them.  Let the day's trouble be sufficient for the day.  By faith I will cross the disturbances each opportunity presents.  And I trust God to lead me or close doors, having already counted the cost of my very life in prior experiences.

Think of all of the things J.K. has opened up about.  They want to gather together for the feeling of a unified family.  They welcome outcasts.  They share everything in common.  Sounds like Acts chapter 2!!  The image of God is just calling out from inside of these people.  What if all it took was a season of investment to scratch away the facepaint of the sinful nature??

I can go by myself.  I think it would be neat if there was a Christian who is operating out of the Spirit who wants to go with me.  This is a real appointment that needs a reply soon, to investigate what God is capable of doing at this time.  It is not really that daunting; our church downtown has many men from the Mission who come in to worship on Sunday.  We're returning the favor and accepting an invitation to visit this turf.  I would love to learn about their families and see what God's Word has to say about family and unconditional love, and see how God might want to work a sense of family according to God's design, into our lives.  Of course I wish I had a family network who I could invite them into or better said, a family network who would engage the juggalos.  That's my dream.  It would take a team of believers who feel sent.  Our base of operations would have to invest time in and utilize a location in downtown Salem.


Not everybody is called to do death-defying mission.  I don't want readers to compare themselves to me, but to look toward the Savior who did it all for them.  How might Christ empower those reading this post, so that the juggalos might have eternal life and walk with God?

If God is not tugging at your soul to be sent to this people, who are you sent to?  Who is under your vine?  Who is under your fig tree, as Zechariah says?
who would come under the Branch?
'DQ Wall Vine' by EarthChildPhotography
How can I partner with you to reach your neighborhood and networks in an incarnational sense?

Mission is important - everybody is a missionary, everybody is making disciples in the places where they spend their time, whether they understand that about themselves or not.  You, the reader, are sent at least wherever you already are.  Where are you reading this blog post right now?  You are on mission right there.  ;)

Incarnation is equally important.  People are not targets.  Telling people the gospel in two minutes is good, but it won't reach everyone.  Most people need to "get" the gospel by seeing it demonstrated in a safe atmosphere of acceptance and intimacy.  This is the way Jesus made his 12 disciples.  "Belong first, believe second."  It's not a model for figuring out who is going to heaven, or who is "the church" theologically speaking - but it is the method by which Jesus did discipleship.

I hope that the reader will catch the scent that is blowing.  It's His Family.  God wants to do something amazing.  He is asking us to step out by faith and scratch the surface facepaint on all of us, not just the juggalos.  It's inside of us, made possible only through the Spirit.  He has big plans for joy and power in life, and His glory.  All we have to do is walk in to it.  I am so blessed to have many pastor friends who inspire me, but Jesus Christ is my pastor.  He has been pouring meaning and purpose into me at the seasons when no one has been there to uncover the Kingdom in me, when the enemy's spiritual forces have blocked the dream He gave.  I am longing to be reminded of who I am, too.  I don't want those reading here to be without a cheerleader in their adventure, and being a part of their mission would satisfy this longing in me too - win win.  God makes Family.  He wants to make Family for everyone under our vine.  Luke 17:20-21,
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’  For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

Please tell what the Spirit has put in your heart, in a comment below or while face to face.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

J.K.'s Story

This is my friend's story.  Her name is Jamie Barquest and she and I and her mother have reviewed this material before making it public.  Jamie is 20 years old and her nickname is J.K.

Q:  Are juggalos only family networks, or are they also a gang? 

A:  I have a street family downtown, but family is different than a juggalo. You can be part of a juggalo family. You can be family but not be part of a juggalo. It all depends on the respect you have toward people.  Once you give enough respect you start to call them your brother or your sister, moms or dads. Sometimes people just keep their family, family. Not everyone downtown is a juggalo. In order to be one you have to pretty much have to get approval of it. You can't start your own juggalo; you have to have been in one for almost a year, sometimes even longer. Then you can get permission to start one on your own. I had permission.

Some people will consider it a gang in some ways. Juggalos claim territory. Down town is a wide open. You don't want to claim a wide area like that, so we share it with two other gangs. I don't even want to mention their names because I don't want any trouble between juggalos and them. With those who are gangs, they have respect for us and we have respect for them. I don't know everything about juggalos and how they are or are not like a gang.  In the area by 20th between D and Center St., there lives a juggalette who knows more and has had multiple families and has been through that for about two years now. There is one juggalo family whose territory runs from Portland Rd. to Lancaster Ave. where it crosses Ward at the Arco station. That's Jesse's juggalo. Justin's juggalo has all of Keizer.

Q:  How do they defend their territory? Are they challenged to defend it?

A:  I don't think so. People don't care if you're in the territory unless you try and fight them. You're more and welcome to walk on their territory.

Q:  Is the juggalo family there to support you? 

A:  My street dad, Animal, is the head of the juggalos in all of Salem. He watched my ex-boyfriend very closely. They all chased him away when he put his hand on me. Your family always has your back. You're not supposed to kick anyone out of the family unless everyone votes. But, I was kicked out of a family without a vote. Elmo decided I was out because I am all about myself, she said. I said that's not true. I share my money to get other people things that they need, when it comes to drinks or food, I will give it if I have it....

Q:  How old were you when you started becoming aware of the Juggalos in downtown? 

A:  I heard... bits and pieces at the age of 12 or 13. It never came across my mind to join up with one till after I left my mom's house and she completely disowned me. I was 19. When I was 17 or 18 I really knew a lot about them, but now that I've been a part of the juggalos for almost two years, I have more knowledge.

Q:  How do you get out of the family? 

A:  You can leave a family at any time. Not all juggalos are gang informed. One of them made it into a gang. His name was Jay. Animal and Farah ran him out of town. He is not allowed to wear the hatchet anymore. He was trying to take over Salem and leave no place for anyone else which is not right, and claim Animal's family. He's pretty much done for here.  The way I was brought into this, is not a gang. Jesse knows more about whether it is a gang, he wanted me to join. He was going to join Jay's crew. But Jay told him that in order to join he had to be shot in the head with a bee bee gun six times. But Jesse said no, and he walked away. That's when Jay started to lose his influence. No Sex Affender can wear any hatchet gear. Animal put that out as a rule. You can't be a juggalo and have hurt someone in any way. They'll fight I won't deny that, they'll fight over the right reasons though.

Q:  Has it been just like a family to you? Did Animal give you drama when you came in? 

A:  Animal has not given drama he and the rest opened up their arms when I joined. They've offered me drinks and food when I needed it. They'll help as much as they can. They help you with pretty much anything, warm places to sleep, anything. Yes Animal lives at the mission and yes Animal has been to jail; he is on probation. Just because they have been to jail that doesn't mean everybody who has been to jail has started a juggalo family, or is a bad person. But I don't wanna go down there anymore. Farah won't come downtown at all, either. Why - pointless. I would rather die before something bad happens again. It ain't worth it again. "A Place Called Hope" is where I will go, or at the Mission. I don't want to hang out with a lot of people anymore. My ex-boyfriend has tuned a lot of my friends against me. He could still be in Jesse's crew (juggalo). (It's more professional saying juggalo family than "crew.") I still have family down there. Two street moms, now I have three. Lots of street brothers. They became my family before I became a juggalette. Other than that why should I go down there? They don't really care about me. They are not calling or texting to show me they really care.

Q:  Tell me about the teenagers who hang out down there and join juggalos. 

A:  Most teenagers have parents who are drug addicts or alcoholics or don't care what they do or do not do. Like my friend Anna was told by her mom, "I don't care what time you come home tonight just make sure if you have sex you use a condom." In some ways I look at that and try to understand what kind of mother wants her daughter to go out there and have sex, at such a young age. But then you have other parents. Parents that kick their teens out and tell them to live on the streets to survive on their own. Same thing, why would a parent want to do that? Sometimes parents drive around looking for their kid at night. All these kids are growing up to do whatever they know to do that takes away their anger and aggression and depression and anxiety. Yes they do multiple drugs, some of them are always on something when I see them. They always are high I never see them sober. I stand by my friends' sides. I know how it feels. I'm not saying I'm the perfect person and not tried anything because I have. I've gone from smoking pot to sniffing spray paint, doing ecstasy and smoking meth once. One of my close friends I had in my past, Jules, told me, "why put something in your body to take away the pain. It ain't worth it, those problems are still going to be there the next day."  I've learned that; it took me three years. I feel sorry for everybody that I see and that I get to know who are homeless or trapped in a gang or have parents who want nothing to do with them. The reason why I joined to become a juggalette is to be more than just a family. It's because of all the outcasts that my heart is moved. There are some people who have no family, they don't even talk to their regular family. I want to be there to welcome them with open arms.

Q:  And are there homeless people downtown in juggalos? 

A:  Some of the people down there are also homeless. Outsiders look at the homeless that they aren't as good as they seem and that they don't need any help. They don't realize that a lot of them that I know are always there. Last week one of them made a necklace for me. There's a lot of people out there who actually care and would do anything. Literally give me the jacket off their back when they barely knew me just because I was cold. One let me use his duffle bag as a pillow and watch my stuff for me so I could nap.  I can have anything that I need as long as someone has the money or food stamps to get it. But that doesn't mean I can take it for granted. "Hey can you get me this can you get me that" - it doesn't work that way. I try to do what I think is right, and lately trying to keep to myself and not do much outside of the house.


At the time I had interviewed Jamie for this post she had made several statements about how disillusioned she was about juggalos and going downtown again.  She had made a resolution to me and to herself to be done with much of those relationships.  She told me it was change in her life that she had somehow misplaced her hatchet necklace and couldn't wear it anymore.  She was keeping to her room and reading novels as a demonstration that she was finally making some choices for her own welfare as distinct from the community downtown.

However, three days later we hung out.  She was wearing a bright purple and black hatchet shirt, and had a new boyfriend, and had been downtown earlier in the day.

Her mother is disappointed to learn about this.  We both feel that Jamie underrecognizes her family and upbringing that has been faithfully given to her all her life.  Therefore the conversation between daughter and mother continues, and they bless me because they are both friends and a part of my life and I theirs.

Thinking Strategically

The first and last thought I have for Jamie is to see her leave the juggalos in order to find Christ in a deeper way.  But I am learning lately, this is a fallacy.  I used to want to help Christ followers find fresh relationships within the church walls and I was quite fine with the thought of replacing their old friends with friends at church.  But like the teacher in this video below, I realize how much a mistake it is to think that way.

I believe we need to stop pulling people out of their contexts.  Rather I desire to see them remain in it, and teach them how to be disciples whereever they happen to find their community.  "I do not ask you to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one" (John 17:15).  In the next post I hope to continue discussion on strategies for bringing Christ to juggalos, and hope that readers will join in.

This video is alright but if you might watch from minute 11:45 till the end (about 3-4 minutes from that starting point), this is what is so helpful.  Patterson gets offstage and gives a visual demonstration from members of the audience.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Juggalos in Downtown Salem

Over the last month I have had the opportunity to learn a little more deeply about a friend of mine.  She had been using the word "juggalo" occasionally and I finally asked her "Don't you mean 'jiggalo'?"

"No, I don't know what a jiggalo is.  I meant juggalo."

Juggalos are the name given to fans of the music band Insane Clown Posse (ICP).  "Juggalo" is the term the singers of the band gave to their fans as a way of saying you're part of the family, part of the fan base.  ICP is a horror-rap underground band with violent and sexual lyrics.  The fans love singing these extreme lyrics as a way release pent up anger.  The fans consider themselves a family - and family is what they practice together in the places where they live.

I'm still learning a lot about the juggalo systems of family.  So perhaps some of what I write here is not truly accurate.  Some areas in the country have identified juggalos and juggalettes (male and female fan counterparts) as a gang.  They have been declared a gang by the FBI in Modesto, California; Detroit, Michigan; and in the states of Arizona, Utah and Pennsylvania.  But most fans dispute their being a gang.

They are typically an easily identified group.  They don themselves with "hatchetwear" - depicting a running man with a hatchet, or else wearing clown facepaint as the members of the band do during their performances.  The memorabilia can be purchased at the retail outlet "Hot Topic."

What is most interesting about the juggalos is the sense of family and belonging they have developed.  As far as I understand it, these people rally under the identity of being extremely poor, homeless, or outcasts in high school or society.  A sense of family is forged and members will watch out and care for one another.  There are many juggalos and juggalettes in Salem especially the downtown area.

Juggalos have a yearly national "Gathering."  It is four day festival not dissimiliar to Woodstock back in the 1960s.  They come to hear the band and revel in the unity of family coming together into one place.

I asked to publish my friend's story a few nights ago.  She said yes.  Her story will be the material of the next post.  Some of my questions made her feel the need to check answers with other juggalos.  She told me she would talk to "Animal" who is the leader of the juggalos in the Salem area.  She asked me, "Would you like to interview Animal yourself?"

"Um, I don't want to interview him," I replied.  "But I wouldn't mind talking to him.  I just would like to get to know him and his story.  That would be cool."

Two days later she and I talked and she said, "I asked Animal if he would like to be interviewed, and he said yes he would."

I replied again saying, "Well I don't want to interview him only for a blog post.  Maybe we could talk, over a meal.  I would do that."

The Significance of Juggalo Families

Juggalos on the street
I am beginning to understand that all of my friend's friends are connected the juggalo system of families, which is perhaps a soft gang.  This explains why she spends most of her time with them.  They are always together.  They are hardly ever apart.  They live life together and share their financial resources.  They are always there for each other when something goes wrong, deeply intimate with the lives of one another.  They sleep together, eat together, solve problems together.

There is an important reason I'm treating this to a blog post, and bothering to dryly interview my friend:  I find their example to be a high challenge to the Church.  Yes we believers have something to learn from those outside the faith.  Certainly we can invite outcasts and the poor into daily family of comparable intimacy as this - where they could learn the hope of redemption in the blood of Jesus?

Let's dream for a moment on what Christian community could look like outside the church walls....  Imagine if we had small families of believers dedicated to being disciples - we would be living out our lives with each other with gospel intentionality - and also be engaged in the rhythms of life of the people we want to reach....

Life in The Crowded House from TCH Sheffield on Vimeo.

More information on ICP and Juggalos:


"Beneath the Greasepaint, The Roar of 'Fam-i-ly!'" (an article by the New York Times) 

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