Incoming intern Eleanor Straight reflects on how God bridges divisions in the unequal context of Silicon Valley
Eleanor Straight is an incoming two-year intern to the Servant Partners San José site, where she participated in a short-term internship last year. While she initially wanted to volunteer abroad, the COVID-19 pandemic moved her internship placement to Silicon Valley—the wealthy tech capital of the world. In this place, God spoke directly to her about bridging divisions and grappling with wealth. She shares her story here.
In San José, California, I worked closely with a partner ministry of Servant Partners called San José Bridge Communities (SJBC), which focuses on building friendships between people of different cultural backgrounds and socioeconomic classes.
Annabel Leyva, Servant Partners San José staff, a SJBC director, and my friend, is Latina and grew up in the underserved and predominantly Latino Eastside of San José. Annabel embodied the bridge aspect of the organization very clearly. After college and a master’s degree, she could have left the neighborhood where she grew up—but she chose to stay. Through the years, she has made connections with politicians and pastors of rich churches, but remains well-rooted in her home community. She is able to walk between worlds and introduce people who are very different from each other, so that they can learn about and love one another better.
Annabel helped me connect with a past Servant Partners intern, who is now a software engineer at Google. Instead of tithing 10% and living on 90% of his income, he gives away the 90% and lives off just 10%. There are many ways Christians use wealth for good, but this example was so refreshing to me. Jesus’ parable of the rich fool in Luke 1 makes it clear that we are not to build larger barns when we already have enough. Giving away 90% so simply rejects our temptation to hard wealth for ourselves. His example and Annabel’s showed me ways that I want to live my life.
Annabel pointed out ways that I, too, was a bridge between different communities in San José. Being white, having U.S. citizenship, and having a computer science background connected me to a wealthy part of the city—while speaking Spanish and choosing to live on the Eastside connected me to a marginalized part of the city. Just as Annabel could better bridge her home community with other communities by staying in her own neighborhood, I connected diverse cultures and communities in my home context of the States in a way that I could not have internationally.
Though I was originally heartbroken that God did not take me to another country for my short-term internship, I am so thankful that God took me to this place and these people whose life examples gave me some long-term direction—and I plan to move back to East San José in the fall.