Monday, October 15, 2018

Jill's Letter on her Latest Housing Justice Work and her new Cancer Journey

I am pleased to share this letter that Jill wrote for her supporters in which she talks about her cancer journey as well as unwavering commitment to housing justice, racial reconciliation, and the good news of Jesus Christ. I am glad that I am not only her husband, but also her partner and co-founder of a new nonprofit called Making Housing and Community Happen. To find out how you can support this work, see We are looking forward to the launch of this nonprofit on Sat, Oct 27 at Throop Church in Pasadena. Hope you can join us!

Pastor Kerwin Manning
Carolyn Williams with Jill
This morning I visited eight African American churches in my neighborhood to hand out flyers about an upcoming City Council meeting dealing with important affordable housing issues. As I walked into Pasadena Church, Pastor Kerwin Manning noticed me, stopped in the midst of his sermon and said, “Jill Shook, don’t leave. We want to pray for you.” He had heard about my cancer diagnosis. Our marriage mentor Carolyn ran up to me and held me tight as the whole congregation lifted up their hands towards me. The pastor prayed and prayed and prayed until I felt tears from the deep love surrounding me. He said, “Jill Shook is not only an advocate for affordable housing. She lives it. We need her presence in our community.”

When I got to the car to head towards the next African American church, all I could do was sing praise to God. I felt lifted up in a powerful way.  At each church just the right person came to greet me and wholeheartedly said they would make the announcement about showing up at the City Council to support Inclusionary housing tomorrow. Some asked permission to put my name on their prayer list, trusting that this cancer would be healed.

When I got to New Guiding Light I joined them in song, and felt so deeply moved with the loving embrace of Pastor John Steward, who is also asking for God’s healing from his cancer. 

At the last church, they had taken down the sign and my heart dropped, thinking they have closed their doors as many African American churches have done, in part because the rising cost of housing has driven their congregants from the town where they grew up. At one church I know, the Pastor documented 17 members leaving his church in the past year because they could no longer afford to live in Pasadena. But as I opened the door of this struggling church, two brothers, Sam and George, greeted me wholeheartedly and thanked me for bringing the announcement. George told me he was in the midst of reading my book and knew all about me. I felt so vulnerable in that moment, and also deeply privileged to be loved and received by so many of Pasadena’s African American Churches. This gift I don’t take lightly. And the gift of your friendship, support and love I don’t take for granted.

Some of you may be not be aware that I have been diagnosed with a type of slow-growing, “indolent” cancer called follicular lymphoma. The tumor is almost 1.6 by 1 inch in my armpit and tiny bits have spread to my gut and to my clavicle. Because there is pain and it has spread, the doctors at City of Hope want to me start six months of treatment as soon as possible. Since this diagnosis, I have become aware of how prevalent cancer is—everyone has either had cancer or know someone who has been cured, or didn’t make it, like Anthony’s wife of blessed memory, a Methodist pastor who died of an aggressive form of lymphoma ten years ago.

I have an excellent prognosis, with 94% survival rate with treatment.

I am concerned not only about cancer in our bodies, but also in our society. My dear husband Anthony who has been a tremendous support since he has gone through this before, knows a lot about cancer cells and how they operate. Cancer cells can be described as greedy, selfish cells that want to take from the body without giving anything back in return. They are unlike the rest of our cells that God has designed to cooperate and work together for the good of the body. Anthony tells me that even the non-human “foreign” cells in our body are mostly beneficial. Some of these “flora” live in our gut and help digest food. The parallels are obvious.

In all my work as a housing justice advocate, to make affordable housing happen, it’s all about cooperation, and seeing the value of all, especially the “least of these.” Here are some of the ways that we are working together with the churches of Pasadena, to put a check on the greed and take some units off the speculative market:

·    We have started a new nonprofit called Making Housing and Community Happen so we can pass on and multiply the housing justice work that we have done over the past twenty years. The launch of MHCH is Saturday evening, Oct 27. We hope you can take part in this gala event. Even if you aren’t in the area, please make a contribution so we can make our goal of $10,000. See:

·    In January, we will launch a One-Year Housing Justice Cohort for those who want to learn how to do this work in their own communities. So far, we have students from Texas and Colorado. Link here to learn more:

·         Our local advocacy has done excellent research and organizing around inclusionary housing, permanent supportive housing and accessory dwelling units. All this will be discussed in public meetings this week where our members will show up and testify.  We had one-on-one meetings with our Mayor and most of our City Council members this past week. Our Mayor said, “I want you to know how much I appreciate your efforts. It’s obvious you’ve done your homework.” He even said that some of our ideas were “very clever.”

·         An ordinance allowing “derelict” hotels to be converted into homeless housing will probably be passed tomorrow. Due in part to the strong support of the faith community, Council members are so eager to make this happen that a public hearing about the first motel to be converted will take place this Wednesday.

·         Over the summer, our intern Sarah from Azusa Pacific University did research on “safe parking,” a program whereby those living in their vehicles stay in church’s parking lot at night. They are provided with security and case management to help them to get housed. Tom, one of our team members, met with a large nonprofit, Foothill Unity, on Friday and they agreed to write a grant to host this program in the 11 Gabriel Valley cities that they serve. Please pray that this grant is funded and that all aspects of the program come together. Typically, those who have experienced homelessness have burned their bridges and by connecting with a church, they can begin to reweave those relationships needed to rebuild their lives.

If you haven’t yet supported me as a missionary here is the link to do so:

If you wish to support Making Housing and Community happen, follow this link:

Thank you for supporting this work, for your prayers in our efforts and healing for my cancer and the cancer in society.  

With love, Jill Shook

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