When MOTION decided they wanted someone to go with the Broken Hearts ministry to L.A. and Hollywood to tell God's story, I knew I didn't want to be that person. It was at that same moment I felt God tell me, “Go”…
12:10am: “Aren’t you scared?” I nearly laugh, looking into the eyes of the man asking me this question. He is an African-American male, about 6’2”, roughly 275 pounds, and looks as though he could be working as a body guard. But his eyes are wide open, a “dear in the headlights” expression across his face. He explains that he is a limo driver from Rancho Cucamonga and has never seen anything like this strip of Santa Monica Blvd before.
11:00pm: Nearly an hour earlier, a car is pulled over and a man arrested as we stand across the street. Throughout the night, many more police cars drive by on patrol. Most of the women walking down the street are not real women, but drag queens and transvestites. Drug dealers and addicts congregate at the local donut shop, just across from the flashing neon sign of the adult video store.
11:20pm: In the same parking lot as the donut shop, a few members of the Broken Hearts team chat with an employee of the adult video store, as well as Jose and Anthony, friends they made ministering at Santa Monica and Highland.
12:00am: The whole team meets up in a parking lot outside of 7-11, where a small table is set up with donuts and bibles, the location of their weekly “church service.”
12:10am: Pondering the question that the limo driver had asked me, I glance to my right where Robin Lauterjung, a 20 year-old Biola student, runs and squeals excitedly as she sees a familiar face. She jumps up into a lingering hug with Romeo, a homosexual male she has known since beginning this ministry, and who has just found out that he is HIV positive.
12:30am: “Persistance pays off...This is 3 years in the making” Robin explains. “When we first started coming down here, no one would talk to us, there was no acknowledgment.” It is hard to believe, observing the numerous cell phone calls that the team receives from people they have gotten to know, seeing the hugs and conversations with those who have become their friends. Drug dealers and addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals, homeless, transvestites.
While trying to begin a ministry and gain trust on the streets, Antquan Washington says, “God was showing us common points within each of these different groups of friends. First, that we all started on the same level playing field when it comes to being a sinner. And second, that there is an area of brokenness that needs to be healed.” Now he spends Thursday evenings in East L.A and Hollywood, discipling men like Juan, who gave his life to Christ a year ago, and Peter, who recently left the homosexual lifestyle and sought out sober living. “I have seen God transform both our team as well as the lives on the street. We've been able to have church on the streets of Hollywood every Thursday night for the last year.”
1:00am: The rest of the morning is spent in conversation, as the team is disbursed among different groups. I spend the next hour and a half with a young man named Eric, a Christian who struggles with homosexuality and left the church after seeing too much corruption. While he tries to find a full-time job, he performs once a week at a local club, usually dressed as a woman. He shares with us that he has been homeless, deals with judgment for his lifestyle, and has a past full of nightmares.
“It’s not like Orange County,” explains Robin, “where you try to tell someone that they need God and they don’t listen because their lives are great. Here, they already know their lives are miserable, and it lends itself to sharing the gospel.”
So, am I scared? Surprisingly, “No, not really,” I tell the limo driver, because it is clear that God is at work here. Yes, there are gay nightclubs, gangs, weapons and drugs nearby. But God is here on the streets, protecting those who serve, developing relationships and giving hope.
While seemingly scary at first glance, I am reminded that these are the same people that Jesus spent his time with - the outcasts, the lowly in society, the “sinners”. People slapped with labels and often viewed as creepy or weird. Yet God loves and cares about these ordinary men and women who live with broken hearts—and he is calling me to do the same.