Tuesday, October 28, 2008

It's amazing in this type of ministry how the smallest thing can be such a huge encouragement. This past Thursday was...well, just kind of blah for me. I didn't feel like I had any productive conversations, didn't feel like the bible study had any major impact, and it was one of those days that I left feeling discouraged and useless.

Then today sitting at work, I got a call on my cell phone from a number in the LA area that I didn't recognize. I ignored it, as I usually do with numbers I don't know. But then they called back about 10 minutes later. Knowing there was a minor chance it could be someone from Hollywood, I answered. I couldn't have been more shocked to hear, "Hey Holly, I don't know if you remember me, but this is "Andy"...from Hollywood?..." I met him two weeks ago and wrote about him on this blog. He had been out on the streets for 2 days when I met him.

I can't even remember how many times I've given my number to people in Hollywood, told them to call if they needed anything or just wanted to talk...and never heard from them. Especially 2 weeks after the fact. I haven't seen him since, and two weeks later he called to check in. I'm still in shock. He wanted to let me know that he'd gotten into a shelter and wanted to say hi.

Two things stood out after we got done with a brief conversation. One was that our conversation must have actually had some impact. To remember me 2 weeks later, and actually to have kept my phone number and name and not lost it, and then to actually call me must mean that something stuck out to him about our talk. People rarely call even when we have deep conversations...and yet he called after about an hour conversation. Did God actually do something in that time? Crazy! Of course I like to think and believe that God is at work in those moments, but so often am truly in doubt because I never see anything come out of them.

The other thing that stood out, but on a much more somber note, was that he's staying at the gay and lesbian center. And if I remember right, I think someone else we know is staying there now as well. This also happens to be a place that several teens go to finish their GED, find housing, gets AIDS tests and find other kinds of help. It's a place they know will help them, and where they know they'll be accepted. It's a helpful place to this community, and it always breaks my heart that the secular world, and a place that embodies things we as Christians stand against, are the ones actually providing service to people and giving them a place to go. Shouldn't Christians be the first ones down there, providing for the needs in the community and being known as a safe haven and refuge for these types of people? A place that they can depend on for assistance, relationship, and acceptance? Why do we so often avoid this community, while the gay and lesbian culture provides a stronger light and hope than we do?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Wow, lots to write about since I missed writing for a week. In fact, as I'm thinking what to write I'm blanking on a lot of what's happened.

Last week I went out on Thursday night, as well as with the group that goes out on Fridays. Thursday night I had several brief conversations...with regulars like "Ravi" and "Manny" and "Tony" and his friends, and the guys who work at the new Hoagies and Wings place that took over the Mexican food joint. But our bible study was full of people. Several hyped-up prostitutes, several new visitors, Tony and his boyfriend and friends, and "Mya" who's been coming for several weeks in a row. I also met "Sam", a good friend of "Alex", who I've written about regularly. Right after the service was done and the food was gone, most of the group took off. But we talked to "Siggy" and a few others for a while afterwards.

On Friday night, it started out slow and I planned to leave early, and had a feeling that I wasn't going to be having any good conversations. It was also freezing, with blowing wind, and a TV pilot was being filmed in the Del Taco parking lot, so there were a few obstacles to start with. But as we were walking around after getting coffee to warm up and trying to stay out of the way of filming, I heard, "hey you!" And realized that our friend "Alex" was trying to get my attention. So we ended up sitting at H&W for a while, chatting and catching up, although I was sad to hear the place he'd been staying at didn't work out and so he was back to staying in a motel.

After that conversation ended because he was going to be used as an extra in the filming, we met up with "Cassandra" on the other side of H&W and talked to him for a while. The black lacy bra and small gold jacket he wore was barely enough to withstand the freezing weather and wind outside, but he didn't seem to notice much as he chatted with us about his recent debut in a transgender calendar.

We ended up back in Del Taco after that for some warmth, and talked again to "Tony" for a while as they stood in line for food, before sitting down with Ravi and catching up with him while he ate. Cassandra ended up coming in and sitting down with us. This was around the time I planned to leave, but his loud, charismatic and over-the-top speech and personality kept me there for a while, wanting to get to know him more and being fully entertained by his stories. Again, around 1:30 or so when I planned to leave, the conversation turned more to spiritual things when he asked, "why do you guys do this?" We talked about Jesus and God, and he said he loves God and believes in Jesus, but generally associates Christians and the church with gay-haters. We talked about his bad experiences with church people, and we tried to explain why we're out there and how we're trying to show love and be different than stereotypical Christians.

Finally around 3am the conversation ended and we headed home. Sometimes it's hard for me to leave, feeling like I haven't been able to speak a lot of truth or biblical wisdom and proof into people's lives, or go deep about their stories. But I'm also realizing that to truly make an impact, sometimes it just takes time and patience of buiding trust and relationships, and showing our consistency in order to display God's faithfulness. Which seemed reinforced the following Thursday when we saw Cassandra again and he told us that there were some other Christians walking around and how he and his friend had been running from them. His story-telling was hilarious and had us all laughing, picturing them running in their heels away from the "Christians" as he said, "Girl, run away, they're gonna try to save us!" and "I believe in you guys and what you believe, not them". Which was an odd statement, and I'm not sure exactly who those people were. But the fact that this person - so incredibly different from us and isolated from the world in general, but definitely from the Christian community - trusts us and calls us his friend when he wouldn't do that with others. And that takes time and persistence and the Holy Spirit...and when the time is right he'll know exactly who to come to for help, with questions, and when he's ready to make a change. We just have to be there and ready.

The rest of the night, after hanging out on the corner with a couple of drunk transgender prostitutes, and having a mini-dance party on the street, I mostly spent talking to a young guy who had only been on the streets for 2 days after being evicted because his roommate had been stealing the rent money. A successful PR manager in the area, this was the first time he'd been on the streets, had little to his name, and experienced a totally new way of life. He was very down and incredibly tired and didn't know where to go. He had already put his name on every shelter's waiting list and was just waiting for his monthly paycheck to be able to pay for a hotel room until he could find a new place. He shared some of his story with me, and that he does believe in Jesus and trusts God, and how he won't prostitute even though several people were suggesting that's what he do.

While that conversation was going on, the guy Darius we had met a few weeks previously was there talking to Tessa, and "Mya" was talking with Tanya. By the end of the night, Mya had prayed with Tanya to receive Christ again and admitted he didn't want to prostitute, didn't want his gay lifestyle to be an abomination to Christ, and wanted to change!!

Please pray that the lifestyle of Hollywood and Satan will no longer have the power to suck him in and lie to him, but that he'll be able to fight the temptations and stay strong in this new decision!

Friday, October 3, 2008


As usual, we met many colorful characters last night while also getting to deepen existing relationships in Hollywood. But instead of talking about every conversation I'll just focus on one for this post.

We are currently going through Romans at The Refuge...a book which hits on so many issues that people are dealing with there. Last night was Romans 6, mainly focused on being slaves to sin vs. slaves to righteousness: "Do no let sin control the way you live, do not give in to sinful desires...Don't you realize that you become the slave of whater you choose to obey? you can be a slave to sin, which leads to death or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living..."

We are all slaves to sin, slaves to something besides righteousness that pulls us away from God. There's few stories that exemplify that more clearly than a young Italian man we met last night. 22 years old, "Giovanni" says that he's a computer programmer and biochemist (grows pot in his house) and makes 3/4 of a million dollars per year. But that he comes to hang out on the street because it's interesting...and because he wants to meet women. He was born in Italy, hates his parents and was adopted by a couple living in America and now he lives in the Hollywood Hills and knows tons of celebrities. Not sure how much of that is true. But most of our conversation centered around his massochisitic tendencies, his many scars from enjoying pain...which crosses right over into his sexual life. Between the f-bombs, and his admittance that he enjoys vulgar conversations and talking about things that make people uncomfortable at times, everything pretty much had to do with sex. He said he doesn't even really enjoy it anymore, but has tried everything and loves talking about it, but has been single and celibate for a year. He definitely hit on Tessa and I several times and made more inappropriate comments than need to be discussed. Oh, and his other favorite topic was pot that he uses to relieve his constant pain from a blood disease and well as the feeling of wellness he has when high.

A lot of people out there are slaves to sex and drugs, we see that all the time. but when you can't stop talking about it and everything is XXX rated, it's clearly a problem. And one so bad that he has no idea he's a slave to it.

But he came to our bible study and listened and was willing to discuss, even if it was mostly arguing. By the end of the night he had actually agreed to be prayed for and said he might come back again. Why, I don't know, but whatever brings him back is fine with me.

It's so hard to meet people like that and know how much they're missing out on because God has allowed them to be given to their sinful desires, as it says in Romans. Pray for him, as well as others like him on the street who believe every lie Satan tells them and are completely enslaved to the world around them. That their hearts would be softened to Christ and his pure joy and hope.