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.

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