Sunday, August 31, 2008

How Great the Father's love for us

How great the Father's love for us...

It struck me this morning just how great God's love for his children is - those who are following him and those who are running, but all his creation, regardless. Well, I can't begin to actually understand how great his love is, but I got a taste this morning, which was enough to overwhelm me.

To watch someone run after sin, buy into Satan's lies, make bad choices, and then see the repercussions of those choices to engage in sin is tragic. Of all places, I was working out at the gym this morning when it struck me again after last night, and I began to cry (I went to the locker room to get it all out so people wouldn't think I was crazy) :)

I met a teenage boy almost one year ago on Santa Monica Blvd, a runaway who had been in and out of group homes. His story changed a few times, I know he lied to me about a lot...but I don't doubt that the tears he cried the first night I talked to him were real. He felt he'd lost hope, had no dreams...and I wrote about him on here as he gripped my heart and I couldn't stop thinking about him. A few months ago he showed up back on the street after we hadn't seen him for months. Last night I got the chance to talk to him more...he was high and apparently that makes him much more friendly. In fact, all of he and his friends who were drunk and high were very friendly, including one who initially said he'd never met me before, lying straight to my face. I called him out in a joking way and he finally admitted he knew me, and then he was fairly friendly.

"Evan" as I've referred to this boy before, is generally elusive, hard to pin down and talk to, hesitant to share his emotions or life. But he's always been on my heart and mind, and I feel a unique love for him, despite how often he ignores me...which was what made me think of God's constant pursuit of us this morning. Even when we're running, making bad choices, ignoring him, giving him nothing about us to love, he still loves us just because of who we are...regardless of what we do or how we treat him. He loves us, and nothing can change that, and he'll keep loving us no matter what. I can't say my love for Evan is that unconditional, but I'm not sure I've ever experienced giving a love quite like that before-where I get nothing back, but for some reason I never get tired or frustrated of trying.

But Evan opened up more about his recent diagnosis of HIV/AIDS, how hard it is, how he's thought of taking his life, how he drinks and smokes to cover over the pain, and how he wants to be a dad for his son and for his son to have a better life. But his baby's mama won't let him see the baby. Now keep in mind this is coming from a homosexual boy who had just told me that I missed his 17th birthday, just days previously.
"It's so hard" he said several times on the brink of tears as we hugged and I tried my best to listen and encourage him. I hugged him, but not for long since he started to tear up and didn't want to cry.

Amidst that, we were trying to convince his group of friends, standing at the bus stop smoking weed, to come join us for free pizza and bible study. It took a whole lot of convincing, but they eventually came and some of them even stayed for at least part of the service.
Backing up, Francisco and I had earlier been walking along the street inviting others to the service and let 2 guys know that we were having free pizza. We chatted with them for a while, and they both seemed interested in coming. One talked more with us, and we found out that he had been in Hollywood for less than a year, but had been homeless here and in New York for about 6 years. He came out to meet his birth mom, but can't stay with her because she's in a senior's home. They both showed up to the bible study later, and while his friend left, he stayed for it all, even volunteered to read some of the scripture. At the end of the service, it was clear that both he and a transgender I've seen out there before were both thinking about what was said. "Mya" was hard to get to know, didn't say a whole lot, but just shared that he needed to make some changes, knew what they were, and just had to do them. "Manny", the guy from New York, however, had lots to say and was open to all that we had to say, and ended up shedding a few tears...tired of his life and hopelessness. In the midst of the service, some guys he knew from New York were drunk and interrupting the service, trying to get him to leave and cause trouble, and saying things like, "they've got you, man", referring to us. And yet he never seemed tempted to leave. He was solid in knowing he wanted to be at that service and hearing what God was speaking to him. By the end, we had all exchanged numbers and MySpace addresses and had plans to try and get him into a Christian sober living home that we know of. He said that he believes in God and prays every day, but the relationship is completely developed yet.

There were several others who came to the bible study that night that i don't know as much about, but won't go into to keep this from turning novel-length. But the other thing that struck me this week about ministry was the amazing body of believers we had gathered, and how much those people mean in my life. We had invited visitors out this week, anyone who's interested in the ministry to come and experience it. So about 15 of us gathered at the home of someone from a local church that we refer people to for it's solid theology and amazing spirit of servanthood and love for the lost in Hollywood. We met to pray and discuss the night ahead, and shared what church we were all from. About 4 churches represented, from South Orange County to LA, all gathered for a common purpose and able to accomplish much more as a group than on our own. And our common goal brought us all together in a way that nothing else probably would. We were comfortable with each other, got to know one another quickly, and then got to share God's word together. At the end of the night, I tried to spend a few minutes with everyone who had come, the Friday night crew I rarely get to see, and supporters visiting from other churches. I could have been out there for another hour or more, bonding with what feels like another family to me. The ease and ability to connect and enjoy one another astonishes me when I step back and think about it, because I barely know these people and we have little in common besides our reason for being out in Hollywood. And yet they bring me joy and lift my spirits and represent God at work in my life. I wasn't tired of being with them or being on the street, even at 2:30 in the morning, 2 nights in a row.

Overall, the night just flowed smoothly, brought lots of needy people, and gave me opportunity to make new friends and to encourage people on the brink of despair and utter hopelessness. The things I do and say, and comfort with which these types of nights go just show me how much God is at work here and in my life. I couldn't do this or be this way without him, because it's so unnatural for me. And yet at times it just comes so easy....and that's when i know that it's God at work through me and desiring me to be there, and simply making a way for me to serve Him. What an honor and privilege to be chosen and used and get to be his hands and feet, even if just for a few hours in the middle of the night. His love is astonishing and the power that he has in our lives is mysteriously wonderful. I feel like those two nights these week brought me life, fed me, and gave me greater passion for doing his work, even when difficult.

I pray that my heart continues to break and hurt for those out there, that I might never grow weary of doing good and serving him who is able to accomplish much more than I can ever hope or comprehend. Amen.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Last night was a good one in Hollywood. Some of our Biolans were back, David's mom joined us, and we had several good conversations...and pizza. :)

Oddly enough, I ended up at the same table in Donut Time as last week, once again talking to a 30-something Christian black man, doing his own thing and trying to avoid the fray. He said he knew who we were, he'd seen us around, and knew that we were Christians and what we came to do. When people say things like that, it just makes me more excited for the day when we will have our own building there. Because people recognize us for being there 2 nights per week...but if we were there every day, offering help and hope, so many more would know who we were, what we were there to do...ideally implying that they would also begin seeing Jesus on the streets and coming not only to hang out with us, but to get to know Him.

"Seth" was stuck in a bad situation, he said, homeless even though he had family nearby, but planning to move home to New Orleans in the next few weeks. He decided to join us for the bible study, and while I didn't actually talk to him after that, found out later that he had recommitted his life to Christ after the service!

Antquan was diving into our study on Romans this week, worried and asking for prayer knowing how harshly Romans 1 deals with sin, in particular sexual immortality (including homosexuality). It would have been easy for people who hadn't met us before to take it the wrong way, think we were coming just like all other Christians, to point out their sin, focus on their homosexuality, and leave it at that. But the service went very well, our visitors barely seemed to notice, and one even gave his life back to God.

On the way to the service we let everyone we passed know that we had free food and invited them to join us. 2 of those, who I assumed would not come because they barely responded (like everyone else), ended up coming. The guy took off after getting his pizza, but "Lindsey" decided to stay. Why, I'm not sure. Well, that's not true. I would venture to say the Holy Spirit...but if there was a reason that Lindsey could point out, I don't know. I just know that he was sitting on the curb in his short skirt and heels, enjoying the free pizza when I got there. I sat down in the open spot next to him and began to get to know him before the service started.

Afterward, we had small group time to get to know each other, pray and share. We heard a lot more about Lindsey at that point...he's been on the streets for almost a year, wants to get off of them after years of abuse from men, a drug addict, lives in his car, wants help, but doesn't seem to want it bad enough to actually make the change. But Lindsey isn't completely hardened yet, and in fact said that he sees himself becoming that way and doesn't want to be. That he has to be mean and act tough to handle the life out there...and as he said, "I go around looking angry and mad enough to beat someone, but inside I just want to cry." Maybe one of the most honest comments I've heard out there.

And he did cry, as we prayed with and for him, assured him that this is NOT what God has for him, and continued to fight against his feeling that while God exists, he's not sure he totally believes the bible or religion or that God answers prayers. It was clear talking to him that he doesn't fully believe that God has more for him and didn't create him for this life, as much as he'd like to believe it. And probably never has anyone encouraging him and letting him know that he is valuable and that God does care about him.

I'm finding that what can be hard is getting to the point of understanding that God cares and loves them...but they are still serving their sin and addictions and living for themselves. Until they recognize their need from him, God may be letting them succumb to their "evil deeds". And so I've been praying since that God would reveal himself to Lindsey in a new and powerful way, show him that he cares, and allow the Holy Spirit to do a great, renewing work in his life, and provide a way out of this lifestyle. Because at the end of the night, Lindsey had to leave to make money for gas to get to Palm Springs to pick up his stuff so he could come back and find a shelter to get into....

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A week for celebration

I think I've said this before, but my lack of posting lately is not an indication of a lack of things happening on the streets or things to write about, but just my own personal lack of time to record it all.

This past week we didn't leave the Del Taco parking lot the entire evening (all 3 of us who went out this week). As soon as we hit the pavement, "Ravi", a guys we had met a few weeks ago, met us excitedly, explaining that he had been looking for us since 9pm and was about to give up when he came to look one more time. And while a lot of people know that we come out there, or maybe hope to see us, very few pursue us with as much determination as he did. It was encouraging to think that for at least one person, knowing that they can expect us and seeing us during the week is of so much importance. That's our hope, that people know when and where to expect us, ad might look forward to that point in the week when they can talk to some people who will listen to them, who care about them, and who are ready to share some encouragement and truth.

His thoughts were consumed with what God had been doing in his life and with some ideas he had put on paper about dealing with people and situations in his life.

On the other hand, another guy we've known for a while also found us, but had more interest in getting a free drink from us than from actually hanging out. Months ago I wrote about him, and how well he was doding. He would spend hours talking to us on Thursdays, sharing his life and struggles and wanting things to get better. And though he's in school, he's back hanging out on the streets and acting very different than he used to.

So, one meeting of great encouragement, coupled with one of disappointment.
Which played out at the end of the night as well...when we dropped off Ravi, who was incredibly excited about moving into a shelter the next day. But he got out of the car with his two backpacks and said he'd be staying in a spot underneath a bridge that night. Thank God he now has a place to stay...

Then on Friday, we had the joy of taking Big Mama out to celebrate her many accomplishments over the past few months. A few months ago we made a list of tasks with her for her to do, such as getting her fingerprints, having her eyes checked, stop smoking weed, and checking out a shelter or transitional living center. Not only has she done some of those, but accomplished much more and is currently living in a Christian transitional living center to recover and get back on her feet. She is learning more and more to rely on God, pray instead of worry, and is trying to get her friends off the street as well. God is changing her using her to bring about change as well. So a small group of us took her to an Italian restaurant in Hollywood to celebrate her and how far she's come. Praise God for the tangible ways he's moving in her life!