Friday, May 2, 2008


As temperatures start to rise outside, the sun shines longer, and summer approaches, the numbers on the street late at night seem to rise accordingly. The bitter cold is no longer threatening to people who usually like to linger outside of the shops and restaurants into the early hours of the morning. Last night seemed to indicate this, anyway, as there was a significantly greater amount of teenagers, prostitutes, drug dealers and homeless out on the street. The energy levels were much higher than I’ve seen in weeks, and that sense of “community” was beginning to percolate once again.

And with those winds of change came an exciting night of ministry. It started off at the donut shop, after prayer, where many people were congregating as usual. We ran into a friend, “Matt” who we’ve known for a while, who had just come from a job interview, saying he was ready to spend less time hanging out on the street and hold a credible job instead. While talking with him we met a guy who, when we asked, gave us no name besides, “Stayin’ Out of Trouble”. A pretty entertaining guy, but has clearly reaped the consequences of too many drugs, too much alcohol, and a messy life. He rambled on and on, making little to no sense at all, but with a great spirit and lots of laughter. As we talked with him, a cop car pulled up and began asking Rob questions (which happens occasionally, when the cops who don't yet know our group wonder why there's a gathering of people on the street).

After his conversation he informed me that they let him know that if they're ever doing a round-up, or a sweep, and we're with drug dealers or anyone else who might look suspicious, that we might be cuffed or arrested. We agreed that would make for an awesome story to tell. Knowing that we are not doing anything wrong (and also a bunch of white kids) the worst that would probably happen would be getting cuffed and interrogated, then let go. We have God on our side, so there's nothing to worry about....but it's also a reminder that getting mixed up with the wrong people, or being at the wrong place at the wrong time can be dangerous when we're there.

Eventually we decided to make better use of our time inside the donut shop, and invite some people to our bible study. About 4 other people from the team were already inside, and by the time we left we had a large group of about 12 people walking down the street together, headed to bible study. On the way, Greg talked with "Bobby" about how he wanted to change his life and get things together and maybe get into a program or shelter. Being on probation, however, there are few places that will take him at this point in his life. After the bible study, we broke up into smaller groups as usual to talk and pray, and a few of us sat with Bobby and his friends "Charlie" and "Lillie". Charlie and Lillie are both teenage boys, a couple, so young and pre-pubescent was Lillie that it wasn't until the end of the night I discovered she was actually a he. As a 15 year-old taking hormones and wearing a pink "dress" which left very little to the imagination, he's so convincing as a girl that I had no idea until Krista told me. The way he avoided all of our questions, answering with a simple 'no' or 'yes' and refusing to give details, and the way Charlie also avoided direct conversation was troubling to me. Most people on the street will give you a fair amount of details about their situation, but for these 2, it must have been so bad that they were that unwilling to talk. To see a kid, probably entirely confused and disturbed and scared, so lost hurts to see. And hearing a question like, "what's wrong with doing crystal meth?" because he literally doesn't know what's wrong with it. We will need a lot of prayer for them, and lots of intentional love and time for them to even possibly open up.

However, despite their stand-offish behavior, their friend Bobby wanted nothing more than to talk and talk and listen and hear and soak it all in. He told us much of his story - gang banging, armed robbery as a teenager, juvenile hall, jail, friends who'd been shot, a 1-month old son he's not allowed to see, a sister and brother-in-law who kicked him out because of the trouble he caused in their home, homeless because his mom won't let him come back home, the meaning behind his many tattoos, witchcraft, and even a past in the church and working with youth. He's pretty much done and seen it all, at least when he wasn't in jail. He also explained that his plan that night was to go steal from someone so he and his friends could eat and have a place to stay. But because he's on probation and trying to get his life back together, he made one significant choice not to do what would get him in trouble. And his other option, because he had stayed around and sat in the donut shop, was that he ended up meeting us. In other words, God spared him from one bad choice, and instead chose to reveal Himself as the one who relentlessly pursues all of us, no matter how far we've strayed.

Bobby said he'd like to go back to church, but it afraid of failing again and losing everything, not ready to face the people he'd failed once already. He admitted he wants to kill himself, is completely hopeless, feels like he's screwed up his life...but is trying to find a way to hang on, for his be there like his father was not there for him.

I rarely meet people who are so sincere, so ready to change, so aware of their brokenness and need to change their lives. He was asking for it, he was sharing his whole story with us, his eyes showed how desperately he wanted it, how he would pursue it even in his state of hopelessness. "I don't want to fall" he said, "I mean, I've already fallen, but I don't want to fall farther."

I have a friend at church who recently got out of jail and became one of the most passionate Christians I know while in jail. His advice to me several months ago when I told him about this ministry is to look for people who are broken. Who are aware of their brokenness and are ready to change. if they're not aware, and not ready, it's not of much use. And I realized sitting before me was someone I had been praying for...each week I pray that God will bring us people who are ready, who are willing...and here was Bobby, looking so young and innocent, thirsting after any ounce of hope and encouragement and soaking it up like a sponge. It's hard to believe, talking to this sweet 21 year-old guy, the things that he's done and been through...but that's the power of God. To give someone a hatred of their former life, to recount his stories of locking himself in his car for a week smoking crystal, completely addicted and paranoid and lost...of disappearing from his gang and knowing his life is still in danger if he runs into anyone from his gang or rival give someone the clarity to see what they have been doing and how it has messed up their lives, and to give them a shining hope of something more, in the pit of despair.

I could go on and on about all that we talked about...but at the end of the night, Greg took he and his friends to a motel room and paid for it so they'd have a place to stay. When his friends were anxious to leave, he said he could stay and talk much longer, wanting to hear all he could because it was of so much help to him to hear everything we had to say. He gave his number to Dave, whose plan is to pick him up today in Hollywood and see if he can get into a program at a Christian transitional living center, and to pick him up on Sunday to go to that he can get back into the body of Christ without the fear of facing what he had failed at before. To start anew...

There is little in this life that brings as much joy as seeing someone ready to give up their old life and start a new one with Christ, full of hope after so much despair.

...Even when light is shining in one spot of Hollywood, however, there is always darkness surrounding us, as we were reminded walking back to our cars. We ran into Krista and Rob at the Mexican food joint, along with a few cop cars and a few other people. As it turned out, during our bible study, some guys that they were talking to were laughing and joking about something from earlier in the evening. But a transgender prostitute who was also sitting there thought they were laughing about him, and it quickly turned into a fight as he went after one guy and threatened Krista when she called the cops. He was arrested and the guy was pressing charges as we walked up. Thankfully, everyone was safe and fine, and no major harm was done. Praise God for protecting our team, and keeping their spirits high and faith strong even in those circumstances.

All in all, a very eventful night on Santa Monica Blvd..I have no doubt that last night, and even now as I write, there is a much bigger battle that we cannot see going on between the demons and angels, fighting and wrestling for each soul on that street. And praise God that another team is out tonight, harvesting what God has planted in those souls!

1 comment:

Cynthe said...

As always I'm so encouraged by hearing you recount stories of your team's presence there on the streets of Hollywood. I'll be praying for Bobby for certain.