Sunday, August 19, 2007

Last week I sat at my desk at work, trying my best to hold back random spurts of tears as I thought about our friend we had lost in Hollywood. The weekend started with passion to tell people about Christ before it was too late…and Satan used that time of sadness to instill fear into me, and discouragement that it’s hopeless and too much work and tiring and made me not even want to go to Hollywood last night.

This week, I sit at my desk, again thinking back on the events of the previous night, this time a smile coming to my face as I recall these words, “Father…..Thank you for allowing me to meet these people….I’m going to sleep better tonight than I have in weeks, ecstatic…I am so happy to have met you…Thank you for making me feel like I’m a part of something.” The words of a man we met on the street this week.Wow.

Satan is good, but He is no match for God. Last week was difficult and sad, we lost someone with so much despair and hopelessness. This week God brought a specific person across our path who truly believes that he was brought to us for a reason, can’t wait to come back next week to our bible study, and was probably more happy to meet us than anyone I have seen down there. His heart is already open and softened and ready to hear more and be loved. Several people had great conversations with him, we had a great time of prayer and sharing together, and it was so evident that God had been at work and this person had been greatly touched by his time with our group. I can't wait to see him, as well as a few others, next week. Satan had me doubting, and God brought us encouragement and hope.
God never fails to make me laugh with his irony. As I parked at the house that we meet at to go up to Hollywood together, I thought, "I don't really want to go tonight. Something is making me scared and worried. At least there's no "GO" trips coming, I can just hang out with the regulars so I don't have to use so much energy meeting new people." When we arrived in Hollywood I saw the large group standing outside of Del Taco and realized we had another "GO" trip out tonight. Meaning, I would be in charge of leading 2 other people that I had never met. However throughout the night I saw how God gives us responsibilities and tasks that we are not ready for sometimes, but always gives us what we need to handle it. A few minutes into the night I was excited to spend more time with a guy I have been getting to know, and the chance to get to know some great people from church, and introduce them to this friend. We all hung out at Del Taco for a while chatting and getting to know each other better and hearing more about "John".

A few minutes before midnight we headed over to our bible study. Once again, we were blessed with a large group of people because of the "GO" trip. I had the chance to meet some new people and then sit and listen to the message for the week which once again had few distractions or interruptions, and people seemed to listen pretty intently. After a short talk, we broke into small groups to share and pray together.

This was where I saw God at work, as I grouped up with the people around me, one new person from Hollywood, the rest Rock Harbor folks. They asked, "so, what do we do? who's going to lead our group". Oh, I thought silently. I'm the only Broken Hearts person here. I guess that makes me the leader." Funny, because I'm not much of a leader, and this evening I had hoped to stay in my own little box and not venture far out. But God placed me in this position, and it really was no big deal, not hard, and actually pretty cool. So I started us off by sharing some of what I'm going through and struggling with and asking for prayer, and set the precedent for others to share. This was the time that our new friend, "Ian", shared that through his conversations with some of the Rock Harbor and this "chance" meeting, he felt better than he had in weeks, he was going to be coming back next Thursday, and he thanked God during prayer time for bringing him to us and that he would actually sleep well that night. Someone with such a smile and such joy in meeting us is rare...God was doing a great thing in his heart that night.

I wasn't looking forward to the evening when it started, and by the end I had had many great conversations, laughed, smiled, prayed for friends and felt hope, and wasn't even very tired or anxious to leave. And now, I can't wait to go back next week!

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Tragic Loss

This week in Hollywood was an eye-opening night. Many things went well, many quality conversations were had, and some very sad news was also delivered.

The night started out like all others, and this week we also had another group from church with the “Go Campaign”, which makes for a more interesting evening and more “fishing” opportunities. I once again had the chance to show a couple from church Santa Monica Blvd and our hang outs and have a few conversations with people on the street.

We all met up at Del Taco as usual to prepare for our night out and pray and divide up into groups. Before we got to the point of praying, a friend of ours that the team has known for a while informed us that one of the transvestite prostitutes that we often see and talk to in that area had been found murdered. I am holding back tears as I write this…that news hit me rather hard and I don’t often fully grasp and feel things as big as that, especially being that I was not incredibly close to “Sam”. I wouldn’t even classify us as friends. But I did have a big burden on my heart for this person ever since meeting him. I believe I have even referred to him at least once in a previous blog. Beautiful, sparking green eyes, which I never really saw come alive – they were either full of sadness and trouble, or vacant with the effects of drugs in their place. A runaway from my hometown of Denver, CO, I had a few opportunities to talk to him, and we had discussed God before.

I had so badly wanted to just sit with him and hear his story and share Christ with him. Tears filled to the brim of my eyes as I thought, “He went to hell…we didn’t have enough time…we lost our opportunity – I lost my opportunity, I let him go.” In all honesty, it may have taken a few years to truly reach him, but now we won’t know. This broken young man, confused about his identity and selling his body no longer has the chance to experience hope in God. The one good aspect of his death was that it hit me hard, and I went out that night with an invigorated passion to “seek and save the lost”.

God did open up many good conversations that night. My group wandered for a bit, having trouble finding people to talk to. Eventually we ran into a friend that we see often who I was very excited to run into, although he seemed very distracted. “I would have never known that was a guy,” the girl with me said. A few minutes later, seeing a female figure in the distance she asked, “is that a real woman? I would be shocked if it’s not.” I ended up approaching this person as he sat at a bus stop, and yes, it was a man. He was not willing to talk to us, so we headed across the street where we saw the friend from earlier with a few other friends. We introduced ourselves to them and chatted for a few minutes. When one of them ran across the street to talk to someone, we entered into conversation with a man sitting on the sidewalk waiting for a bus. He spoke only Spanish, however the couple that I was with both spoke enough Spanish to hold a conversation with him. He said that he doesn’t really care much about God or church, he sees God as being absent from these streets when he looks around. He was a very nice man, but had to catch a bus to go home, so our conversation couldn’t continue for very long.

So we headed to bible study, where once again we had a large group because of all the people from church who had joined us. Several people were in intense conversations with people they had met. Before bible study started I met a young Hispanic man named “Al”, who was drinking at the time, but was able to converse very coherently about God and his beliefs. He believes in the holy spirit, but doesn’t believe the bible, and says that being good will get him to heaven. He steals from stores, but only the ones that “deserve” to be stolen from, and then gives the stuff away to friends. Clearly, being such a good Samaritan and not doing anything really bad will keep him from hell…..

This young man was also very attentive during bible study and had tons of questions throughout the entire service, which was new. Most people zone out or walk away, but he was highly involved, which was exciting. Matt, who did the sermon, seemed particularly passionate that night and spoke in a way which commanded attention and kept people focused. The cars were not that loud that night, no one interrupted our service, no one even left. It was one of the best yet that I have witnessed.

Afterwards I talked with a young man I had met a few weeks ago, “John”, and his friend “Frank”. A good reminder that people have some strange beliefs…and from what I can tell, it’s because they don’t really know what to believe, so they just come up with their own ideas with nothing to back it up. This led to an interesting discussion about reincarnation and hell being only for Satan, but not a place that anyone else goes to.

I made sure that night that all discussions got to God and salvation quickly, realizing that our time with each person is limited and cannot be wasted. And yet each of these conversations were also filled with some laughter and small talk. We got to know each other and connected on some level. In light of “Sam”, I know when I talk to each person it may take a very long time for them to recognize their need for God and to be brought to their knees; but I cannot waste my time there, I cannot let conversations go by and not steer them back to God. We are not guaranteed another conversation with any of these. I can no longer pray for Sam, I can’t pray for his family because they don’t even know where he is, I can’t pray for his friends because I’m not sure that he had any. But there are lots of people I can be praying for and that I can devote my time and compassion to. If there’s hope for even one person to get off the streets and escape the same fate as Sam, then I believe all of our team will do all that we can to save them.