Friday, November 30, 2007

Good News

I am so happy to be able to write again this week, and once again share GOOD GREAT news. Last night was a slow one on Santa Monica Blvd - no one outside of the donut shop, few people waiting for the bus. From time to time there are nights that very few people are out on the streets, and groups from our team will continue to pass each other as we walk around the area, seeing each other without anyone from the street to talk to. These nights can be discouraging and feel fruitless. That's how it felt last night, unable to find anyone interested in talking.

But after some praying, we found someone sitting at the local Mexican joint, where I find that it is often easy to enter into conversation with people. We'll call him Josh, although he goes by a female name, as he is transgender. He was very easy to talk to, receptive to what we had to say, and is friends with someone that I met a few weeks back and have had some good interactions with. It was both informative - as he told us some things we didn't know about transgenders and prostitutes - and also fruitful in that we were able to steer the conversation in the direction of Christ pretty quickly.

It was the first time I've had a conversation with someone there who didn't really know much about the bible or Jesus, and was interested in hearing what we had to say. I felt like we were actually able to share the gospel with someone who had no context for it and few pre-conceived ideas or arguments. It was incredibly exciting to share that Jesus died for our sins because he loves us with someone who had no idea. To explain that there is a heaven, and there's only way to get there. Quite naturally, the conversation came to "why does God allow all of this suffering?" which is a hard question that we only had a little time to begin to answer. We weren't able to continue a long dialogue, because 'Josh' was meeting a friend and couldn't come to our bible study. But I am praying that God would water that seed that was planted last night, and bring back Josh next week so that I can give him his own bible to read and learn more. I really want more time to talk with him. We tried to find him before our bible study started, so we could at least give him the gospel of John, but were unsuccessful.

At our bible study, several people showed up: Big Mama, who always shows up now, and a few new people. During the service, I noticed Sarah sitting with a girl who was crying and talking as Jerry shared his testimony. Afterwards, as usual, we grouped up to share, pray, chat, etc. We sat with "Lisa", a 16-year-old girl who had been drinking way too much and had been left by her friends when she wasn't allowed into the club. So, she ended up stuck with us for the next few hours! And at the end of our bible study, when Antquan led people through a prayer to accept Christ if they were ready, she prayed the prayer, and became our family member!

She broke down, feeling terrible from all the vodka she had drunk, bothered that she had used drugs over the last few years, frustrated that she's disappointing her loving and trusting mother, and extremely upset about an older guy who had been using her and said some very hurtful things to her, but that she felt that she loved. I almost cried watching her weep as she recalled the mean things he said to her, knowing how words can crush a girl's spirit, and reminded of hearing hurtful words and the feeling of all the nice things said to me being taken away; those nights spent crying over it. But because I'd been through some hurt, I was able to relate to this girl and encourage her in who God says that we are and what he thinks of us, and how any man is going to fail us, but that God NEVER fails. Words were just spilling out of my mouth like crazy as I rubbed her back and looked into her teary eyes. It was one of those moments that you think, "wow, I'm saying really good stuff right now without even thinking!" and realize that God's doing the work. Looking into this girl's big eyes as she watched me tell her that God says she's beautiful and perfect the way she is and that she doesn' t have to settle for men like that, how highly God values her, and seeing a slightly shy smile cross her lips....I don't even know how to describe it. I learned recently that sometimes it is by sharing our faith and ministering that the glory of God is revealed to us, and that's how it felt last night. Seeing hope in someone's's an amazing thing. And how would I have been able to minister to her in a genuine way had I not felt some of that same hurt and learned the lessons myself?

Our bible study had been about letting go of control of our lives and giving it to God. I think back to the question of suffering that 'Josh' asked. While there are many reasons for suffering, I don't think they are something to blame God for. But when it happens, we learn to relinquish control, to lose desire for things that aren't God's best, and to find hope in Him. We value the better dreams in life, the delight in a Savior who created us without mistake, and who longs to walk with us through the hurt allowing us to know his peace that surpasses understanding. Without the bad, how can we appreciate the good? Hurt, worry, pain, and disappointment are not things we have to hide from or run away in fear of experiencing them. They are a refining fire that brings us to a greater depth of knowledge of who God is and his power, mercy and grace. I wouldn't pray that these people can go on to live pain-free easy lives, not at all. That's not good enough for them. I would pray against unneccesary suffering in their lives, but the bad is what makes us more like Christ and sanctifies us, and that is better than anything else in this world has to offer. What joy to tell a young man that this earth is not all we have, that it is fleeting, and when we trust in the crazy story of God come down to earth as man, that we can spend eternity in a perfect, tear-free heaven with our Father.

Please pray for these 2 invidivuals, that one would now live the life of a follower of Christ, and that the other would come to know Him.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Latest

I haven't posted anything in a while...and quite honestly, it is partially due to some weariness, frustrations, and many questions that I have been asking God. The fruit of our ministry is not always visible, and often takes a long time of sowing to do any type of reaping. So, while I won't go into all the personal details at this time, God has been doing some amazing things lately and answering many questions and putting his power on display. So... 'How can I keep from singing?' (or writing).

A few weeks ago I saw a friend of our, 'Mark', who knows God but knows he's doing a lot of wrong right now and doesn't believe he would go to heaven at this time if he died. He is very quiet, very reserved, and seems to have a bit more awareness and shame at the life he leads. I saw him dressed as a girl (I knew he was gay but did not know he dressed in drag), looking very awkward and shy, hanging out with a pimp, then tried to talk to him a bit....and then watched him get in a car with a guy. That is just about the worst thing you can watch happen there. A 17 year-old kid, obviously lonely and confused about life, waste it like that.

Last week, however, we saw him again, this time dressed like a guy, saying that he had been 'trying out' the prostitution thing and it wasn't for him. He wants to move to Utah to get away from the city and find a job and get out of the life he's in right now. He was full of emotion (anger and passion and laughter), which was amazing because he rarely shows emotion, and he was more talkative and open than I've ever seen him. Granted, he had been drinking a bit, but he was very honest and chatty with us. It was so good to see him like this, so much easier to talk to him and share our lives. That was a huge blessing.

Recently, probably the most amazing story that I've heard since being in this ministry, is that our friend Precious, who wouldn't even talk to the group when they first met him, became so weary of his life that he finally laid it down for Jesus. He accepted Christ and left to go home to a family who wants nothing to do with him. He got on a bus and left behind hard drugs, prostitution, homosexuality and the rest of his life in Hollywood!!! This is a miracle that only God could do. It may have taken years, but it happened, and encouraged us all in the ministry that we are doing. PRAISE GOD! We are praying for him like crazy now, as this is a great opportunity for Satan to attack, and where Precious has little support.

The ministry is growing, more people are joining up, familiar faces are returning to our bible studies, and we have a website coming soon.

Not only all of this, but this ministry is one of the most amazing things I've ever been a part of. It's like another family, and while we are so different and have such varied backgrounds and experiences, we are bonded through Christ. Last night several of us sat around the Thanksgiving table, sharing what we are grateful for and breaking bread together. What an amazing time! People of all ages, races, cultures and pasts, sitting together and praising God for what he has done. And one of those people, now part of our ministry, used to live in Hollywood, doing the drugs and Escorting and porn. Now he sits at a table with us praising what God has done in his life. HOW GREAT IS OUR GOD?