Friday, September 30, 2011

Words Can't Explain

I’ve always hated one thing about journalism and storytelling.

As a writer, you get to hear the full story of someone’s experience that you’re writing about. Then you have to condense it, choosing what’s “most important” and sharing a recap for your audience. The audience never knows the difference. The writer remembers the shared emotions, tears, laughs, and entirety of the story that makes the “most important” points so significant.

It’s something only you and your interviewee get to share, and cutting out any of their story feels so unfair. You know your audience will never fully understand...and that has always made me sad. Every single article I’ve written, it frustrates me beyond belief to keep cutting and shortening the story, wishing I could convey all that I’d heard.
That’s how I feel about Thursday nights…and all Broken Hearts experiences. Especially last night. There was so much that happened and many levels of significant that I can’t possibly share in a blog. Yet, as always, I will do my best to convey the “most important” moments and enjoy the rest for myself, with God.
This week was “White as Snow”, our monthly free laundry service. Last month was fairly slow and chill, so I wasn’t expecting to walk in this week about an hour after it had started to see the Laundromat filled with people.

By the time I got there, we were almost out of quarters. That has never happened. In fact, we always go home with extra. This time, two hours before it ended, we were frantically trying to round up the leftover quarters for laundry, even as more people were coming.

One guy, who I’ve met a few times but don’t know, stopped me to ask a question. He acknowledged we didn’t really know each other but he’d heard a lot about me from one of our other friends that I see and help out frequently. He was looking for a job and place to stay, and that conversation led to an opportunity to hang out for a bit and hear about his life. All I had to say was, “so, what’s your story?” and he spilled a whole lot.
Let me tell you, I am constantly encouraged and inspired by people I meet on the boulevard. They have been through things you wouldn’t wish on your enemy, and yet have so much strength and faith in God and are content in so many circumstances, it blows my mind.
 I can go out upset about something happening in my life, and after one conversation, I’m just ready to praise God! Yet the beauty is that they need incredible encouragement and continual pointing back to God, so we get to serve one another. Like this guy, who was so happy to take a bible for free as we talked about the life that’s found in just reading and dwelling on the Word and in prayer.

As our bible study closed – and we hadn’t left the Laundromat to even tell people about bible study – we settled into our “seats” (on the wall and sidewalk) for The Refuge. There were probably about 17 of us to start, and the more kept coming…and coming. I counted 22 who actually came and stayed for all of almost all of the message!

As I watched, I nearly teared up (which is a lot of emotion for me). For months, we’d had just a handful of people at bible study, often ones we’d had to persuade slightly to come hang out. These recent weeks, people just flood in by their own accord and knowledge that we’re there. It blows my mind every time.
What really threw me this time, though, was that one guy who is strongly agnostic, who I’ve had religious debates with came. He generally says hi and rolls on, not wanting to be a part of what we’re doing. But he came in this time…and stayed. This is one of those times you can’t ever know the fully story. But the fact that this drug dealer and anti-Christ came and stayed completely baffled me. In fact, he hugged Antquan at the end and told him it was a great message. What?!

This particular week, Antquan decided to do something completely different. He spoke about living for Christ and not the world – in action, not just word - as he has been in recent weeks…but then invited people to come up,  to receive prayer for breakthrough.

We’d been talking about seeing breakthrough in some pattern in our life. Several people had shared thoughts that I knew were just what others needed to hear… and about five people went up there for prayer. Then we all circled around and prayed together simultaneously and out loud for these people and each other.
All I know is, the Holy Spirit was moving in that moment. Nothing like that has ever happened. I looked up near the end and one guy I’d invited last minute was tearing up. Then, one of our long-term friends who we haven’t seen in weeks, prayed for us as a ministry. That rarely happens. And for me, in the midst of weeks of weakness, trial, feelings of inadequacy and worry about provision, his prayer was so ridiculously encouraging to me.
 It showed me that God is moving. That God DOES want me here. That he’s going to provide. That we ARE making a difference for his Kingdom here. And I cried (which is not normal for me out there).

Afterward, I chatted with two men, one the guy I’d invited who had received prayer and been pretty emotional. He kept saying how inspired he was, how God had brought him here. His continued tears and  stories showed that, while he is a Christian, he was struggling and was being encouraged to fight the good fight.

Another guy who had randomly showed up because his car had broken down talked with us, so passionate about Jesus. They were both SO excited about what we were doing. They were encouraging each other. We were praising Jesus together. I felt like I was at church, honestly. 
Then I looked around at the other conversations, laughter, prayer, etc that were happening. I was so struck at this family that has formed. Something has changed. It’s hard to pinpoint it…but it feels as much like family and the messy body of Christ that my church does. Community is genuinely forming here.

The man whose car had broken down expressed that this “thing” is going to get bigger and really take off. The other man was excited to invite others to bring that about. Mine and others prayers from our team, prayer team lately, has been for that increase. For God to really multiply these efforts and expand our territory.
When he said that, my faith grew. When they talked SOO excitedly about this night and how grateful for it they were, my faith grew. I’ve never wanted to cry so much (for happy reasons( in one night at Broken Hearts.

Maybe it’s just me (hopefully not) but I felt a change Thursday night. We’re on the cusp of our 7th Birthday Celebration Fundraiser, remembering all that God has done and looking to the future. At 7 years (kind of an important number, if you know your bible), and preparing to hire two of us next year for full-time ministry. It’s incredibly scary, but this night showed it’s all worth celebrating and anticipating.

I went into the night feeling inadequate… doubtful. I left the night seeing the Holy Spirit move on Santa Monica and Las Palmas, calling people back to him and to change. I left encouraged and assured that this IS worthwhile. That God IS moving. That pouring our life into this IS important. That lives are being changed, and that every minute of sewing in tears will be reaped in joy – and are already. PRAISE GOD!

(if you'd like to attend our fundraiser, please visit our Facebook event:

Or website:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Big Homie and Tinkerbell

For weeks and weeks, our Thursdays have had a bit of a different flow. Rather than get there at 11, pray and hit the streets, talking to anyone who happens to be standing outside of the donut shop or the surrounding intersection, we often get stuck at the laundromat, and people come to us instead until it's already time to start our Refuge service. That in itself is pretty amazing. Yet it lacks an element of what makes Broken Hearts what it is.

Last Thursday, most of our team couldn't make it to the street. Our "regulars" who usually join us from the beginning of the night weren't there, and we had one visitor with us. So the  three of us walked around the area so Antquan could explain more about the ministry...and it began to feel much more like BH of the past.

We ended up circling around and landing just outside of the adult book store where a few people we know were gathered. After many "hellos" and brief catch up, we engaged in conversation with a guy we'd never met - wearing shades and showing off wheelchair tricks.We started talking about his knee injury and time in the military, and ending in a discussion about Islam and Christianity and who Jesus really is and what the Bible says about Him.

Enter pimped-out ghetto car, with blue and silver shiny rims, bling, and rap music bumping unnecessarily loud. He rolls into the parking lot like he owns the joint, and my judgmental thoughts commence. I know I'm not alone in this. How often do you see something like that and either physically or mentally roll your eyes and "oh geez..." in your thoughts.I feel no need to have to deal with that type of ego, and assume it's the type of person who wouldn't want to deal with people like us, either.

Big Homie (we'll call him...because that's what he is) had come to visit his friend in the wheelchair we were talking to (among other shady plans lined up for the evening) and quickly jumped into our conversation. As usual, my snap judgements begin to change. He's loud, but very friendly, and his big silver chain holding a cross quickly becomes the focus of conversation, as we'd just been discussing the others guy's necklace with the Arabic for Allah.

He acknowledges it, saying he needs all the blessings he can get because he lives a dirty life. He then says something about just wanting to know the truth. I tell him what he's wearing about his neck is the truth. A few minutes later he's over by me, getting into more serious conversation after talking about his passionate love for money and his dirty living. The conversations split again, Antquan and Eric talking to the first guy, while I continue this conversation which turns to eternity and the need for making specific choices here and now because it effects eternity (this is all based on some comments he'd made about choices only mattering here and now).

We eventually get ready to head down the street for our bible study, and invite everyone there. Big Homie promises to be there though he never attends church, only to inform me later that he normally runs from anything like that and stays away from church stuff, but that he'd learned not to turn down those invitations because something bad usually happens after if he doesn't. And a background in church later comes spilling out as he divulges his past to us...

But first, "as it happens", Antquan is talking about John 3:16-20:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed."

I sat through the whole thing with a smile trying to pull at the corners of my mouth, realizing it completely addressed what we had been talking about earlier. God laid a message on Antquan's heart that couldn't have been more perfect to conclude the conversation we'd started.

Now, I'd love to say that following the message, Big Homie felt the Holy Spirit and laid down his life for Christ. He did not. However, he spent the next 2 hours with us, sharing his heart, his past, and how he'd once given it all up to follow Jesus. Then a few bad events and choices, and he'd turned away to the life he's currently living. He chose to stay with us that night, however, knowing that it would keep him out of trouble. This man knows the Bible as well as any of us, and has spent his time in churches, in fellowship and living by the Word of God. He told me he knew God doesn't like lukewarm...yet rather than choose hot, he chose cold.

The conversation was fun, to be quite honest. You know those passages in scripture about lukewarmness and putting one hand to the plow while still looking back? It was like watching that in action. Something in him was calling him to step into the light, but that tangled chains of the dark life were causing him to look back and hold on for dear life.And he was basically admitting the same thing about himself, between stories of the past in church, being shot, shooting people, drug dealing, family to take care of.

At the end of the night, after Antquan giving him his card and me giving him church info, he grabbed my hand and looked me in th eye and said, "Promise me something. Pray for me every day for the next 30 days." I said I would, and asked him to pray for himself for the next 30 days, as he'd already told me he doesn't incorporate that into his routine and set of goals for success each day, and yet is upset when God doesn't ansewr his random prayers.

One of my favorite parts in the midst of this, is that I'm wearing a flickering tinkerbell necklace he'd given to me since I'd invited him to church, while he says at the end,  "I don't know why, but I feel like you're going to be very special to me one day". Apparently a little girl had given it to him, saying it would keep him safe. Yes, Big Homie with the pimped out car carrying drugs and pulled over every other day by cops gave me a tinkerbell necklace and is thanking us. Only late at night, in Hollywood, with God's presence, hahaha....

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jesus Just Makes Sense.

Jesus just makes sense.

I get that people have had some really jacked-up experiences with church and Christians. But the more stories I hear and situations I see, the more is just makes sense to surrender it all to Jesus. Life sucks without him. The answers we're all seeking are only found in Him. Why fight it? Wordly "freedom" is not freedom at all. It's an illusion of freedom that covers up the chains of sin that bind us.

This Thursday, one of our friends from the street brought out an older man who he's been hanging out with. Similar to an "escort" type of relationship, minus any physical stuff. Basically, the guy is so lonely, he pays people to hang out with him. Or at least pays for food, drugs, and whatever will keep them around. Such a sad conversation I had with him. Quickly admitting remission to the crack pipe after 2 years of sobriety, he also explained how lonely he is, how he's been through therapy, practices new age religions, and is in a dark place because of this addiction. How the crack addicts he's been hanging out with have stolen money and used him...

Yet, after a very brief argument about Jesus and the Bible, he got very upset and refused to talk about it. The tidbits of a Catholic-school upbringing and pentecostal grandmother and other tough points in life made it clear that he has some  major issues and has probably been hurt by the church.

Despite his lack of attention to our bible study and interest in the transgender prostitutes down the street, at the end of the night, he thanked me for advice about someone and said he'd enjoyed himself. Now, we're a pretty cool bunch, I'm not gonna lie - but when one odd night with us seems to have the impact on someone like him that it does, it actually makes me sad. It wasn't like we were casting our demons or healing him or saw him give his life to God. It was a pretty normal evening. Just a teensy, tiny drop in the HUGE bucket that is life in Christ.

"Say no to drugs" is not a cute saying. It's for our own good. Just like God's laws. It's there to protect us. Ask any drug's not a pleasant place to be. It screws up lives. And it does a damn good job of numbing pain. But so does Jesus...and his body. That's why a simple night of listening to someone and giving them a hug has an impact. If only his anger wasn't in the way of all that is SO GOOD awaiting him in the Kingdom of God.

Two days later, a friend asked me to bring some food to their hotel room. A hotel known as being cheap (and equally NASTY), where many prostitutes and drug dealers stay. He wasn't there, but I dropped a bag of food off to a room where about 5 young men were sitting in the foul heat, prepping their wigs, smoking weed, sleeping, and, likely shocked to see a random white chick at their door with a bag of food.

It reminded me of those scenes in movies about crime, drugs, or sex trafficking where a bunch of skanky dudes are sitting around sniffing crack, with half-naked ladies walking around, smoke in the dark air and watchful of cops or anything that could get them in trouble. Granted, it wasn't that extreme, but that vibe oozed out of the barely-cracked door after I knocked on it.

Then I saw a guy I know from the street, and he came outside to say hi. We ended up talking in the parking lot for about an hour...about how he's tired of this life, how he wants a woman, wants to go to church, yet all of the reasons to keep living the dope-dealing life. We talked about the reason for forgiveness and how it's good for you, not just to pardon someone else. How he has so much more to give and do than deal drugs and rarely see his child. There's a part of him that knows he needs Jesus, but no part that's ready to surrender it all and really change.

The same thoughts ran through my mind, however. Jesus is not a hindrance to this life you're not even enjoying living. He sets you free and makes it all better! He hears your prayers when you're in relationship with him...not just when you're praying to get out of jail. Follow him because it makes things better! Not because I'm a religious fanatic who thinks you need to convert!

I probably shouldn't have been at that motel alone. I knew several people there, but it's the kind of joint where you would imagine someone getting shot. Which also makes it really fun to be the girl who SOO does not belong there, hanging out with the type of guy I would normally steer WAY clear of. And because I know God's with me, and when I thought I was just dropping off a bag of food, ended up in a long conversation with someone about the need for a healthy life and Jesus.

Don't shy away from telling people about Jesus. They need it. We all need Him. In the midst of some really depressing situations, I can still walk away knowing God is more powerful  and reminded to keep spreading the Truth, because it will set people free from the chains of loneliness, addiction, and a life of hotel-room hoping between blow jobs and chemical highs. It's all a cover for the voids we all need filled.

I'll just end this with a clip of some spoken word I watched recently that preaches this beautifully:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Community Building

It's hard for me to decide exactly what to write about this past Thursday with Broken Hearts.

It was so good, and there's so much to choose from in regard to what to say to convey it all. In short, it demonstrated growth and the achieving of goals for this community.

We had our White as Snow laundry service for the month, which has been happening for less than 1 year, so we're still getting the word out and learning. But this week there wasn't an empty washing machine or dryer, and I don't think I even got to say hi to everyone there, it was so busy. Loads of loads of free laundry was being done and people from across the spectrum were connecting with each other.

Not only that, but I think the activity around the laundromat which is normally closed at that hour of the night brings many of the people we see on the street to congregate and hang out. Another 5-10 people were hanging all night outside, not even there to do laundry.

For me this meant connecting with people from other churches, my church, continuing conversations with friends from the street I'd been interacting with throughout the week, and a few conversations about permanent housing.

But even better to me was the fact that about 25 people stayed for our bible study, including 3 little kids who'd come with their aunt to do laundry (that was a first!) We had to explain to two different set of cops over the night why we were there and that we weren't loitering or doing anything wrong. I sat on that sidewalk, observing the group, and realizing how cool it is that this community continues to form and grow. People actually take time out of their nights to come listen to the word of God, eat, and pray with us. They're interacting around a different context from just drug deals or hanging out on the street corner. It's legitimately a church on the street, drawing in all kinds of people out of curiosity. 

As usual, Antquan gave an amazing sermon regarding not looking back once your "hand is to the plow" (from Luke) and going against the desire to keep one foot in the world when you choose Christ. After breaking up into groups, people conversed about the sermon - and life - for about another 2 hours.

We desire to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people on the street. Our free laundry is growing to the point that we start earlier and may have to start coming with many more quarters...we're working with people to find permanent housing, giving away clothing and blankets, and feeding them every Thursday. We're challenging them spiritually through the Word of God, exhorting through prayer, and asking serious questions about life and how it should be lived. Transformation is being seen as individuals are discipled and more volunteers want to join whatever this crazy thing is that's happening every week.

It sure isn't easy...but I can't think of anything much more exciting.