Friday, June 20, 2008

I'm not quite sure where to was a long, eventful night on Santa Monica Blvd...about 5 hours and 5 or 6 conversations long. I had a feeling as we pulled up to the Del Taco that it would be an evening full of opportunity for good conversation. Between the warm weather and school being out, the streets were full of more people than I have seen in a long time. What made me most excited - besides being able to wear short sleeves and not freeze - was that I saw several familiar faces which I have not seen in a long time. Faces and stories who I have thought about many times in recent weeks and months, the people I've been praying for and hoping to see again. (Well, hoping to see because I want to build a relationship and know how they're doing, not hoping to see them still living on the street). And not only did I see them, but they actually wanted to talk and seemed semi-excited to see us! You never know, sometimes people get in moods (often drug-induced moods) where they basically ignore us, even when we know them well. So easily entering into conversation is always a blessing.

I saw Alex, whom a few of us had a great bond with several months ago but hadn't seen since. He was happy to catch up as we talked about his plans for school, my haircut, and our clothes. A good conversation until a guy in a car got his attention and had picked him up before I knew it. After he left, a guy we had talked to a few weeks back picked up the conversation with us. The first time we met he introduced himself as "Ryan", and we talked about his family's Buddhist beliefs and how he believes it too because they do. He didn't have much knowledge on Christianity, but we were able to discuss it for a while, as well as just find out more about him. This time he came up to us as soon as Alex left asking, "Do you remember me?" with a friendly smile on his face. Though there was something vaguely familiar about him, I had no idea who he was. "I'm the Buddhist," he told me, which brought it back to me. And though that previous conversation was easy to recall, placing this new face in front of me was not. His hair was long, held back with a headband, and his small shirt and skirt a vast difference from the t-shirt and jeans he had worn when we first met. Sadly, this is not a rare know someone as a male, then one day have to adjust when you recognize that face underneath a wig a girl's clothing. The good news was that he has gotten a job, is going back to school, and said he had started looking into Christianity. He told us that he'd been reading the bible, even though it doesn't make much sense to him at times. I told him to come back with it and any questions next time and we'd talk about it.

That conversation then led into one with a kid who I have written about on here before, a 16 year-old runaway who had been living on the streets and selling himself for money. We haven't seen him in a long time, so I was very excited to see him again and hear that he is not living on the streets and doesn't plan to be out there next week.

When that group of friends headed off, we started up conversation with some guys who were visiting LA, from other states and outside of the country. My longest and most meaningful conversation was with a young guy about Jesus, God and the bible. He didn't have much knowledge of salvation, heaven, hell, or what the bible has to say about any of that. He said he hadn't thought about it much and didn't really believe in religion. It was a good, productive conversation, but I think the weed, or whatever drug he was on, was hindering his thinking a bit and he was having trouble connecting thoughts. I convinced him to come to our bible study... but unfortunately he left with his friends before it began.

Only two people outside of our group came to bible study, "Big Mama" and "Frank". Frank had met us when we started our night off with prayer at Del Taco. We had met the friend he was with before, but not him. When I introduced myself and he realized we were Christians, the only thing he said was, "my uncle's a Christian....I don't like Christians, they're judgmental." Based on his gentle voice and feminine characteristics, I had a pretty good idea of what he might be referring to. I didn't see or speak to him again until our bible study. His friend we had seen him with before came to get him so that they could get a hotel room for the night, but surprisingly, Frank stood his ground and decided to stay with us at the bible study. Though seemingly small, it is a rare occurence that someone will choose to hang out with us over doing what they're friends want to do...and in my opinion often a clue that the Holy Spirit is at work.

After bible study ended, the conversation pretty much went straight to Frank, his need to change, and many other issues. Most of our team stayed around while he talked and listened, though as time went on some of the team spread out again to meet more people and begin new conversations. I think one of the coolest parts of the next hour for me was watching Big Mama talk to Frank, and tell him how he needed to change, what he needed to do, and set him straight. She'd been there herself, she'd been in his shoes, she lives in the same place as he does. So she is able to say things that the rest of us can't quite get away with. And when he cried, sharing about his relationship with his mom and feeling like she doesn't love him, she also told him about her love for her own children - kids that she can't see and who won't speak to her, but who she loves more than anything. She was able to preach, and reach out to him in such a unique way, and it was so awesome to see how God has changed her and been shaping her, and even through some foul language and harsh words about people in her life, he is now able to use her to reach someone else. Several times she asked him the question that is perhaps the most important to ask, "Are you ready to change? Do you want to change?" Because without that, there is little that we can do to help those on the street.

I could go on and on about all he shared for the next 3 hours....hatred for his mom's boyfriend, lack of love from his mom, the amount he was paid for a sexual favor earlier that day, the love he seeks from other men, his anger for many people, the lack of being accepted for being a homosexual, his emptiness and dependence on drugs and alcohol to numb his pain, his addiction to prostitution and sex. It was not a PG conversation, but it was real and honest, and he had so much to share with us. It ended with us trying to determine tangible ways that we could help him in the process of getting an ID, a place to live and a real job, and praying for him. Of course, when God is doing as much work as he was at this moment, Satan is frightened and begins his attack right away. Walking back to our cars, Frank began to have an anxiety attack and we had to sit down so that he could catch his breath and calm his nerves. "Life is so hard...this is so stressful," he gasped as he cried and tried to breath. As he started to calm down again, he told me that he needed to make some money tonight so he could eat. Satan doesn't waste any time....

So I asked him to call Antquan that same day to arrange to get his ID and get some food, and begged him to borrow from friends for just the next few hours, be a "freeloader" for just a few more hours (an issue we had also discussed earlier), until we could help him get back up on his feet. To go for just a little longer without selling his body or services so that we could help him.

I haven't heard the update yet from Antquan or Big Mama on how he's doing, but please join me in praying that his soul will be saved from the streets before it's too late...

No comments: