Today, Chani speaks to us about using loss to make us stronger, her art and growing up in LA and Compton.
Tell us a bit about how you grew up and your childhood: I am grateful to say that I had the best parents on the planet, when it comes to knowing that Jesus Christ is our Saviour. [R]aising us up in the Word, in church, and understanding what it is to love others where they are – our parents should win the equivalent of an Oscar in the parenting realm.
I quickly recognized that we really had an advantage over some kids who didn’t get those values instilled in them. I also felt blessed to have had a balance in life– growing up in South Central Los Angeles and Compton, starting early school years in Watts at 99th St. School – later we made longer trips and were “bused out,” as they say, to schools in Carson and Torrance.
Living in South Central, we experienced a lot of things that gave us perspective and made us more street-savvy. We lived in the center of the riots. Our apartment would be closed off due to a murder happening right outside of our building. Something that changed my life greatly was when we lived in Compton, hanging out with our neighborhood friends who ended up being the direct target in a drive-by shooting in our front yard. We ended up running for our lives through a spray of bullets that, by the grace of God, pierced only our house, car, yard and only grazed one of our friends, but no one was hit, otherwise.
Years prior, we also were hit in a head-on collision with my mom and sister in the car by a drunk driver, with no license or insurance. I had a fractured spine, stitches on my eyelid, hand and knee, my face was so unrecognizable they wouldn’t let me see myself in the mirror.
Praise God, we all survived. Moments like these showed me that God was keeping me, sparing my life for a purpose and building up a faith so unshakable that literally nothing could challenge it. I now am grateful for these moments and the people/the “village” (my parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, church family) around me that helped me keep it all in perspective.
“We ended up running for our lives through a spray of bullets that, by the grace of God, pierced only our house, car, yard and only grazed one of our friends, but no one was hit, otherwise.”
Inspiring biblical passage of the moment: “So that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.” Philippians 2:15
Also, my husband and I are loving the Bible App devotion “Why Didn’t I Rebel” by Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach, right now! Amazing.
Spiritual growth focus at the moment: My spiritual focus right now is the balance of work, being a mom of 3 active and amazing boys, wife to my one of a kind husbie, ministry and my art. Each of these are vastly important elements in my life, and although each take time, focus and energy – each are ways from which I grow immensely.
Profession: I have the joy of being the Corporate Administrator for a non-profit organization called Christ-Centered Ministries. Founded by my Pastors Troy and Darlene Vaugh, we partner with the county of LA to provide transitional housing and Community-Based Recovery to individuals w/ mental-illness, chronic homelessness, human trafficking and are reentering the community from incarceration, including pregnant women.
We help them get stabilized on medication (if applicable), provide 3 meals a day, connect them to benefits/resources and groups that will help them be a more productive member of society going forward. We are pleased to say we currently have 14 homes with about 240 residents, as well as a catering business we run to provide food to all of the homes, called Manna Feast. I feel so grateful to serve our community, our ministry and to walk in purpose.
If you wrote a memoir, what would the title be? “This little light of mine”
When did you first encounter God and how did you encounter Him? I grew up in the church with parents that were youth pastors and teachers, so I knew of God and collected many encounters big and small over the years, but some time in my senior year of high school, my sister and I joined the worship team at my church. I believe from there, my connection with the Lord definitely became much more personal and intentional. This is why I think people should always try to volunteer and support ministries because many times, this is where God really begins to use you and work in your heart in a mighty and engaged way.
What has helped you grow spiritually in this season? Being mindful of who I surround myself with, what I let enter my space and how I guard my heart and the “gates” to my soul (eyes, ears, mind).
Just read/currently reading (and what has it taught you?): I’m really into cultures and languages, likely based on my multi-cultural ethnicity (Black, Filipino & Caucasian) – so I am currently “reading” an audiobook called Linguistics A to Z by John McWhorter. I just finished prior to this, Becoming by Michelle Obama. And I am also working on Called to Create by Jordan Raynor. Love them all!
Top three essentials: Bible, laughter, love (if I could add 3 more (art, makeup, Hello Kitty).
How did God speak to you recently? He recently spoke to me through Pastor Ron Brown at the Teen Challenge Ministry Institute Alumni retreat [that] we went to for my husband. Essentially, he conveyed that so many of us are trying to climb up that mountain struggling and fighting to get to our goal or the vision God has set before us, but sometimes, we need to realize that God gave us the power to SPEAK TO that mountain and command it out of our way! The message reminded me that the Lord is almighty and omnipotent, and we negate the power we have access to sometimes by thinking we need to do things out of our own strength or our own way.
Hobby: I love to do lettering (even before it became so popular). Art, making chalkboard signs for people, and giving them as gifts. I’m all for any form of expression: art, poetry, singing, dance. This may be because I’m a worshiper and can connect with any form of worship. I believe God gave us these gifts as ways to worship and praise Him, and then to use them as a place of peace, solace and restoration to our souls.
Top three practical tips for staying spiritually strong: a.) Don’t forsake the assembly. We need the build up and encouragement from those of like, precious faith; b.) Be honest about where you are, don’t be hard on yourself for the heavy emotions, but don’t allow yourself to remain there too long; c.) You’ve never “arrived” spiritually, so don’t ever stop seeking to grow and reach for the next level of faith/glory. Always remember to stay humble and give the glory back to God when someone credits YOU.
Favorite person in scripture? Ooh. So many. Let’s go with Esther since we are honoring women of faith.
What do you want people to learn about God when they look at you? That He is not a respecter of persons, that He can use YOU in a mighty way or anyone for anything to accomplish His will. God is a promise keeper – like Job, I’ve lost SO much in life, but ultimately, my faith has only turned out stronger, simply because when I lost – the enemy wanted me to see the material loss, what my eyes always saw – but glory to God I always was able to see that those losses ALWAYS made me stronger, it made my marriage to my amazing husband Sal stronger, it made me stronger as a woman, as a mother, as a sister and daughter, and as a leader. Then of course He ALWAYS multiplied His replenishment, even if it took a little time.
How do you leave your mark on your community? Don’t seek financial gain, but seek to be effective in your work/ministry. Seek to grow, seek to never settle. Ask the Lord to reveal the need to you, and then ask Him to place the burden on your heart so that you may be an effective leader.
“Don’t seek financial gain, but seek to be effective in your work/ministry. Seek to grow, seek to never settle.”
Favorite holiday? Christmas of course, not for the gifts, though. We in fact try hard to teach our kids the true meaning, and although they will get a gift or two, possibly– we are sure that they understand that some it’s not about the getting but the GIVING.
A goal you have? To produce more of my art and maybe put it up on Etsy or something – pieces that utilize the word of God to lift people up and even doing it in other languages.
A special tradition you and your family engage in or keep: I like to ask them individually, from time to time, what ways I could be better to them – I’m usually surprised (pleasantly) by the answer, and I try to incorporate that thing, reasonably. We also like to ask each other at dinner sometimes, what was the best part and worst part of our day. We like mini road trips when we can, and we like to do devotions together on the weekends.
Question you will ask when you get to heaven? What was something that was beyond my understanding on this earth, that I may be able to grasp now. (In effort to still more effectively serve Him). Also, I will ask how I got so blessed, and thank Him for making me a goofball, too.
Thing you want to raise awareness about: How we can be better about understanding mental illness. Also, if we could know more and understand more about fighting cancer, particularly pancreatic, brain and breast. Also, awareness on what we put in our bodies/consumption.
What does your morning routine consist of? Devotion, hopefully peace, a kiss and prayer over my family, and COFFEE.
What is on your nightstand? Water, art supplies, daily go-to jewelry tree, lamp, bullet-journal and pens.
Define Christianity in a sentence: The eternal journey of faith, walking with Jesus-Christ as my lead, trying daily to be more reflective of Him.
For more Chandra:
YouTube: “Life After Sunday“. Life After Sunday is about us sharing real life, what believers deal with and how we respond not just on Sunday, but how we carry it through to EVERY day of the week.
Until next time, keep witnessing!