Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Eve in Hollywood

I wasn't able to go home for Christmas this year, so in lieu of that and a free Christmas Eve,  I decided to make the most of the day and head to Hollywood with a few other Broken Heart-ers. We didn't do our regular ministry even though it was Thursday, but instead went up much earlier in the day to hang out with some of the people we normally see on Thursdays and Fridays.

We started out at an AA meeting with our friend "Jake", who was receiving a chip for his 30 days of sobriety, the longest he's had since leaving rehab. After celebrating there, we all went out for a bite to eat before we headed to church. Conversation quickly turned to Christ, and his ability to heal and restore and the ultimate power that he has, that not even things like AA can compare to. Because Jake doesn't entirely agree, he and Nick discussed for a while their paths of sobriety, and Nick shared about how he'd experienced coming out of a crazy lifestyle only through the saving grace of Jesus. It was a pretty cool conversation, and even if we disagreed, I think both sides heard each other out well.

Then we headed to Del Taco, where 3 guys were supposed to be meeting us. Turned out to be 5 of them - Bryan, "Ravi", "Rich", Chris and "Tyler". I wasn't sure if Rich would show up, but he came and brought 2 other friends with him. The good thing was that there was a bunch of people, the bad was that we couldn't all fit in Nick's car. So Nick took a few people to church and dropped Jake back off for another meeting, and then came back for the rest of us. But while we were waiting, Rich decided he wanted to change clothes and would hurry back to meet us. We doubted he'd make it back...and I think he made it back in time, but thought we'd already left, so he went to the donut shop where he ran into some other friends. So, when the rest of us met up with Nick, we drove around looking for Rich, couldn't find him, and then just as we saw him and turned around to pick him up in the donut shop, Nick got pulled over for a fix-it ticket! So as he was waiting for the cop to write the ticket, we saw Rich leave with some people, and we couldn't get out and grab him because we were surrounded by cops (apparently fix-its are the most important thing they have to do on a street surrounded with drug dealers, drunk drivers and prostitution).

So, even though he was the person I was most excited about coming with us that night, we ended up losing him. But the rest of us set off to the Hollywood Church anyway for their Christmas Eve service. After church we all headed to the store to pick up some food for dinner...stood in an incredibly long line...and then headed to Antquan's place to make dinner and watch a movie.

For quite a while I've been wanting to have more time to just hang out with people we  meet, to do regular life stuff and share food and homes and get to know each other better than just a couple hours each week. So this time to just be friends and hang out with both people we know well, and some that we don't as well, was awesome.  A great way to spend Christmas...even  if there was all kinds of craziness all day from losing parking tickets, to getting fix-it tickets, to running late to church and losing people and not being able to get the TV to work, to watching the twisted Donnie Darco. I didn't include all of the mishaps...maybe Satan was trying to mess up our day...but it turned out well either way, trying to share the love that Christ came to bring to all  of us. Definitely not my typical warm, cozy, family Christmas Eve in Colorado...but just maybe one of my best Christmas Eve's yet. :)  

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Underestimating God

Usually God stops the rain when we hit the Santa Monica boulevard pavement. Not this week. It poured down almost the entire time we were there. But rain or shine – we’re there!

So, with a plan B and C for where we could do bible study, we headed out to quickly gather anyone on the street we could find, then hurry over to Magee’s Donuts to ask Jack if we could hold The Refuge in his shop. When we got across the street, several of us headed to the security station to say hi to some of our friends there. They weren’t able to join us…but as Kayla talked with them, Jorge, Charlie and I got to visit with “Ravi’s” friend “Oz”, who none of us had met before. He was fairly quiet, but we heard about how he has a music label and is just working to do more with that, because he’s passionate about any kind of music. He had joined Jorge and Ravi for bible study that night, but doesn’t typically attend church. Both of them also joined us for Refuge later on.

As the rain slowed a bit, we headed down the street and ran into some other people from our team as well as some people they’d begun talking to. A young man walked up shortly after, recognizing one of the guys our team was talking to. They’d been roommates in a mental hospital together for a couple of weeks, apparently.

Maybe it was the influence of alcohol, or maybe it was just the right time and place, but this young man quickly opened up about how he’s making bad choices, being stupid (his words, not mine), addicted to drugs and alcohol, and wants to do more with his life. He acknowledged that he’s lost and wants more, wants help, and that God clearly brought him there at that moment for a reason. It was incredibly easy to talk about God, the bible, the peace and freedom that He brings, and relationship with him. But I think the alcohol also affected his ability to really listen and let it sink it, because though he agreed and was excited, didn’t seem to be completely responding. But he anxiously joined us for bible study (though he left a few minutes in…apparently the addiction won out this time).

By the time we actually got to Magee’s, my boots and light jacket were pretty much soaked, and I (along with many others) was freezing. But who would’ve expected that walking in we’d see about 10 people already sitting there. So, after a quick bible study out of the rain, we sat in groups and discussed what we’d heard for quite a while (I was with Han, Bryan, and Jonas, a guy we’ve known for a while but only see from time to time).

I know that at this point it shouldn’t surprise me that God can work under any circumstances…yet it truly does surprise me that even when it rains, we always find people to talk to. In fact, as I think back, I don’t think we’ve had one rainy night that didn’t produce a really great conversation…and those are always the days I expect nothing to really happen, thinking no one will be out in the rain and cold. Maybe it’s time I stop underestimating God.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Small Changes Can Be Big Things

Though the weather outside was (slightly) frightful last night in Hollywood, it did not prevent us from engaging in some great conversations and having many people at The Refuge service.

As soon as we strolled over to Donut Time, a tall, mid-aged black man walked out with his coffee and donuts in one hand, Popeye's Chicken bag in another, and said hi to us as soon as he recognized us. After a quick mention that he sells hats on Hollywood Blvd, I remembered him from months ago…maybe even a year ago. I had met him right around the same corner while he was waiting for a bus. 'Ron' reintroduced himself and it didn’t take long for him to recognize that God had apparently set this appointment.

He explained that he feels God calling him to “do what we do” - going out and telling people about Him. He’s a Christian, and talks to people about God when he gets the chance, but feels that something much bigger is coming with the start of the new year. That God’s calling him to something greater, and he’s starting to accept that, while realizing it’s a huge responsibility. “I don’t know if I’m ready,” he told us, also expressing excitement for what was to come. (ha, I know the feeling). When we told him about bible study, he knew he needed to come, even though it wasn’t the most convenient time, because he felt like this had to be from God. He said he almost never comes to this Donut Shop because it’s out of the way and normally he goes to a different one on his way home. But for “some reason” he’d decided to come to this one tonight, and that had put him in our path.

While Han and I were talking to him, Jeremiah began talking to two other guys in the donut shop (one who we’d met a few weeks ago who loves arguing against God), and at midnight the 6 of us walked down to bible study together. Shortly after arriving, we were joined by two of the security guards we talk to each week. That was incredibly exciting, because they’re normally either working, or heading home, or just don’t wan to come at midnight. They even both participated in the service by sharing some of their Christmas traditions, as Antquan was speaking on the topic of Christmas and who/what we should really be celebrating. At the end of the message when we broke up into groups, one of them said he's trying to learn more and would be sure to return to our service. And the other, who Kayla's been trying to get to come for a long time, said  he'd also return, and asked to take a Bible home!

As we talked with them, several others engaged with the same guy Jeremiah had been talking to, which meant a lot of debating. But his friend he'd been with hung around and talked with others on the team. After the security guards left, two other  guys showed up - one who I know, the other who I'd seen but hadn't met before. They stopped by for some pizza and conversation, and Kayla and I talked to Eric for a while, tossing around light conversation. Soon after that, our friend "Alex" showed up with another of his friends. He was in a better mood than I'd seen him in a while...and also in a shorter dress than I'd seen him in before (and I didn't really think it could get any shorter. But it did). We just talked briefly with the two of them, but I think his friend "Blaine" was one of the nicest people I've met out there. Also two of THE prettiest men I've met out there...I honestly forget that they're not women when I'm talking with them. 

Alex and I exchanged numbers for the millionth time (he always seems to have a new one), and said we'd call each other soon, acknowledging that we all need to hang out more. 

So many people, in addition to those already occupying my thoughts, gave me much to pray for on the ride home. Nothing profound from the night, necessarily, but  as  Kayla and I had talked about earlier, many people here require that we prove our commitment and trustworthyness, and with time and the planting of seeds, things begin to change. 

There was a new level of interest last night from several individuals, and that in and of itself is a huge thing! Please pray those seeds take root and begin to grow deeper and wider.  

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving 09

Another Thanksgiving celebration in Hollywood is behind us. Once again, Broken Hearts hosted a meal with the help of Hope Again and their home on Sunset. Several of their residents joined us, along with a few people from the boulevard, some volunteers from Basileia and The Hollywood Church, as well as a small army from RockHarbor (okay, maybe not that many, but there was an outpouring of people who wanted to serve on this holiday).

About 50-60 of us crammed into the dining area, talking about thankfulness with strangers and catching up with old friends. Big Mama and her baby, Jorge, were there along with her boyfriend Bear. And a guy, "Mark" that we'd met on the street last Thursday. Additionally we had several people who live at Hope Again who probably wouldn't have had a place to go for Thanksgiving otherwise.

To me, it was a great blessing to see everyone intermixing and excited to serve however God wanted. Family from various churches were getting to know each other, people from different backgrounds, ages, ministries, etc all participated and got to shre in the experience of God's family. I know I came away from the day knowing several new people from my church I'd never met before and excited to see them get a glimpse of what's happening in Hollywood.

After we cleaned up the meal, several of the volunteers from RockHarbor stuck around and we took leftovers to the street. Because we were there so early, it was VERY quiet. There were about a handful of people on the street, so it took a few hours to hand out the leftover food. We met a man I hadn't seen before by Donut Time (which was closed. The first time I've ever seen it closed!) and chatted with him for a while about his day. Then we headed down the street and saw several of the security guards we know, and with some convincing, were able to give them some of the food. As we headed just a few steps further down, we ran into Zoe, who I've written about just a few times, but WAY back in earlier blogs. Zoe was one of the first people I met on the street, and then saw again about 6 months ago. But other than that never see him anymore. So, I was shocked to see him, to say the least. Me and a few others including Big Mama and Bear stood with Zoe for the next 45 minutes or so, catching up and hearing some hard stuff about life.

He told us that his dad has just passed away, and his mom is in the hospital expected to die fairly soon. He said he planned to commit himself to a mental hospital when his mom dies. He already feels like he's losing it and thinks that'll just make him insane. He told us he'd been in and out of recovery places and rehabs as well as jail, and is back on the street to make an easy buck. As Big Mama said, "this one's a rock. It's like talking to a wall." Bear and Big Mama offered help, as well as the suggestion to get into church and off of the street. But Zoe isn't ready. Hasn't been yet. He said he hasn't been scared into changing, and that he has to be scared to stop. Essentially, he has so little value for his life and so little hope, that the life he's living seems perfectly fine. Why not stay high and make easy money prostituting when you have nothing else? What's the point of setting goals or making plans or trying anything else?

I didn't go too much into the hope God can give, because we've had that talk more than once before. And I reassured him that the BH team is always there for him if he needs anything. But truly, he's like talking to a brick wall and until he's been softened or even more broken or is ready, he won't hear any of it. It killed me to see that, to hear that he's not grateful for anything and always sleeps through Thanksgiving and Christmas. But that he won't accept any help and won't change, even though he hates his life. That's how hopeless he is. Please pray for him!

I think one of the coolest parts of the night for me was how, during that conversation as well as two others later with people we met walking around, that Bear and Big Mama were able to offer help, encouragement, and wisdom based on their own experiences. I had a lot of time to get to know Bear better and hear about his life. 15 years in prison for murder, cage fighting, uncountable acts of extreme violence towards others, drug abuse, etc.  And now he lives in the Open Arms program, running a transitional living home and helping others get in and through the program. He and Big Mama (who has quite the story of her own - living on the streets, years of being beaten, prostitution, etc) are planning on moving into an apartment soon to raise Jorge and their new one on the way and getting on with their changed lives. Both attend church regularly with Open Arms  and when I asked Bear about what had changed him he said, "God changed me."

He and Big Mama were able to share their lives and testimonies and experiences with others who are in that same position and tell people that they need God. Which I think can often have a bit more impact than coming from someone like me, who many feel they can't relate to.

In all, a good night, although slightly bittersweet seeing that there is still SO much pain here that simply can't be healed apart from Christ. And so many people running away from their one source of healing. But praise God for the encouragement from other people from church who were able to experience another way of life, and the encouragement of those lives he's already changed and will continue to use.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sometimes we say the craziest things someone's ever heard on the street

This week we had a smaller group on the street, four guys and myself. So two of them went to get pizza while three of us went to invite people to bible study. I've written before that when there's only a few of us and the streets seem quiet, things just don't seem to go well, or go as planned. There were maybe 15 people on the street total  ( and only that many if you count the six people who the police had lined up against the wall on one of the side streets). On the surface, things didn't appear promising.

As we crossed the street from Del Taco to Donut Time, we passed a man on crutches. We made eye contact and exchanged smiles. After arriving across the street and glancing around to see who was there and who we might talk to, a young man hanging out outside quickly said hello and we began a conversation.
 "A" recognized us quickly as "the church people" and told us that he's been going to church his whole life (until he was 18). We told him about our Thanksgiving meal we'd be doing next week and he quickly promised he'd be there. He was easy to talk to and get to know, as the world seemed a very happy place to him that evening (clearly pretty high as he was also doing some drug deals in the donut shop).

After several minutes of chatting, he insisted that we meet his friend, the man we had passed in the crosswalk. He was sure that his friend would want to come to Thanksgiving as well. Eventually, he came back from Del Taco with some food and we were introduced. He scoffed at the idea of joining us for church, but continued talking with us. "A" told him about Thanksgiving, and he began a rant about how he doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving or any holiday. We weren't really trying to convince him of anything, but he argued his point and defended himself and kept trying to convince us of how wrong our traditions and plans seemed to be. It only took a few minutes for me to realize that, without him saying anything, he's harboring a lot of anger and has probably had some really bad experiences with holidays, likely related to family. So I left the topic alone, but we bantered back and forth about it all evening.

It was an interesting contrast with A and Lou, the guy on crutches. A was laughing and happy and excited about everything from free pizza that night to Thanksgiving. Lou wanted to argue with just about everything that came out of our mouths, but luckily not in a mean way.  We persisted in mentioning church and free pizza, even though Lou said he wouldn't go and it was too far to walk. But God must have been having a similar yet unseen conversation with them too, because just as we were on the verge of walking away  they decided to come with us and bring another friend.

Jeremiah gave a sermon about the bad patterns of behavior that we get ourselves into, and then we all talked more afterwards. I expected at least two of the guys to leave, but they hung around for a bit. We had some good conversation, along with more banter. Once again, Lou brought the conversation back to frustrations he seemed to have pent up...telling me we don't have street smarts and that I wouldn't make it a day on the street. "Yep, you're right. I'm not saying I would" was basically my response. I mostly agreed with what he said, because it was true and I'd never stated otherwise. He just seemed to want to argue about how different we all are. Then he brought it back to Thanksgiving and how he thought our dinner was the craziest thing he'd ever heard.

"I've never heard anyone say something like that to me before. That's crazy. There's something not right about that. I'm gonna have to marinate in that one for a while. That's got me thinkin," he went on. The idea of us asking strangers to Thanksgiving and offering to pick them up sounded to him like some weird, unsafe, sketchy situation. I assured him we were safe, but that he didn't need to come and was free to feel freaked out by it if he wanted. So...not sure where that might lead, but hopefully some trust will be built with him as we hopefully  see him more.

 I spent most of the evening talking with them as Jeremiah spent time talking to their friend Mario. I'm not sure what happened there, but I know they talked about him getting out of a bad cycle he was in and they seemed to be in a really good conversation. A and Lou then decided to bust out their dope and  roll a joint. That was about the time they decided to go, as we told them to put it away and  as our security friends rolled up to say hi.

After that we chatted with the security guards for a few moments, who have been coming more and more. Please pray that they'll continue to enjoy visiting us so we can get to know them even better. And for the three  men who came, that we'd see them again and be able to build good relationships. And that while they consider themselves Christians, that they'd really experience Jesus and be filled with his spirit for transformed lives.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Catch and Release: do we mean it when we say 'friend'?

Last Thursday, Charlie and I walked around the block and met a few people, then circled back around to a large group of young guys we'd seen earlier. I hadn't seen some of them in a long time, but had thought of them often and was anxious to say hi.

"You guys are still coming out here?" 'Rick' (who'd been gone for about 3 months) asked.
"Of course!" I responded "We've been coming for 5 years. And we're going to keep coming."
"Why?" he asked.

I said something inconsequential, and then Charlie answered: "We have friends out here."
"Friends?" he responded in a negative, skeptical tone. "Friends call each other, friends hang out. They don't just come up once a week..."

That reaction has stayed in my mind throughout the week. Now, in this instance, it actually turned out fairly well because in fact, I had tried calling and emailing him a few months ago when he'd showed interest in going to church. I had driven up to Hollywood to pick him up, only to be stood up. And I reminded him of this. So he kind of laughed it off and it smoothed out the conversation and we were able to continue on finding out where he'd been and what he'd been up to. And invited him to another hang out we have coming up this weekend.

Now, I do keep in mind that even if we all lived in Hollywood and were there all the time, there are a lot of walls. People don't want to be our friends. They don't want to share their lives or trust people or be open. So even if I called him everyday, he might ignore me. But I think that God requires us to keep trying, keep loving...and often times do so without result. More often, there will be a result of a relationship, but it takes time. We have to keep pursuing - just as He does us - keep caring about them, keep investing, even if we never get much in return. Because they see our efforts and consistency and recognize it. Even if they don't respond, they're aware (this applies across the board wherever we are, not just in this particular ministry).
But how many other people think what 'Rick' vocalized? Obviously, we care about relationship. That's why we're there...that's why Antquan moved to Hollywood, and why others of us hope to. We know real relationship - not just drive-by evangelism - is critical for sharing Christ. Especially in this neighborhood of darkness, skeptics and distrusting individuals. If we can't share our lives, they won't ever be able to see the gospel fully lived out as well as discussed with us (although hopefully God would put someone else in their path to do so!)
Though we know the importance, it doesn't mean we always act on it. We spend the majority of our time in Orange County, only giving them a few hours each week. Our hearts are in the right place...but if they don't know that, it loses a lot of importance (again, not specific to Broken Hearts).

I also spent time in the last few days thinking about the influence that our true friends from the street have on those whom we are trying to befriend. They have influence because they're there, they share their lives, they see each other around and know that, at least to some extent, they can trust and listen to each other. When we actually befriend someone and they hang out with us and trust us, others are much more willing to do so as well. And ideally, our hope is that those we help get off the street, get through rehab, give their lives to Jesus, etc, will then be able to go back and inspire others to do the same while sharing the grace and truth of the gospel just as we strive to do. But we actually have to be friends with people for this to occur. Not make them a project, not see them as a mission to accomplish, but actually love them, pour into their lives, and let them pour into ours as they choose.

As I was reading a book today with these thoughts far from my mind, I was struck as I read a page and realized it perfectly captured this idea. It's a true story called Same Kind of Different as Me that, up to the point that I've read, is about a couple who began serving meals at a mission and took an interest in those they interacted with. The husband is trying to befriend one of the coldest, toughest people they know. And after expressing that he desires friendship with the man (because his wife wants them to be friends), the man (Denver) responds this way:

"I heard that when white folks go fishin they do somethin called 'catch and release."..."That really bothers me," Denver went on. "I just can't figure it out. 'Cause when colored folks go fishin, we really proud of what we catch, and we take it and show it off to everybody that'll look. Then we eat what we other words, we use it to sustain us. So it really bothers me that white folks would go to all that trouble to catch a fish, then when they done caught it, just throw it back in the water...
..."So, Mr. Ron, it occurred to me: if you is fishin for a friend you just gon' catch and release, then I ain't got no desire to be your friend....But if you is looking for a real friend, then I'll be one. Forever."

When we walk out on the streets of Hollywood and tell people we want to be friends, or when you go into your workplace or neighbors home or mission to serve food and say that you want friendship in order to share the we think about what that means? Can we introduce our 'friends' to everybody that we know and use our relationship to sustain each other? Are we ready for 'forever'? Because if not - if we don't have that real love - aren't we just resounding gongs or clanging symbols?

This is something I have to catch myself on a lot, and will continue to do even more now, so I'm not saying I have this down. Hopefully others will read these thoughts and we can walk through this Jesus thing together, gathering up friends as we go...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"Meaningless" Conversation

It's taken me a while to write about last Thursday, because my main thoughts were around other parts of the evening, which I put on another blog (Thursday Night Thoughts). So, that has more detail about various going-ons, but I will briefly write about our evening on the street.

Once again, only a few of us out there (please pray for more members to join our teams), but the boulevard was pretty quiet as well. We saw a guy in the donut shop who we'd talked to before, who works in the area and has come to a few of our bible studies before. Jorge chatted with him for a few minutes before he had to leave to catch his bus. We said hi to those sitting in the shop and hanging around, but few were interested in talking. So we lingered for a bit, then continued down the street. When we got to the block with 7-11, I noticed  a cop car was in the middle of the street, blocking traffic and pedestrians. Down the street a bit several more cop cars were parked by 7-11 with their lights flashing. The officer at his car instructed us not to go down the street for at least 10-15 more minutes.

"What's going on down there?" I asked him.
"Robbery suspect," he replied simply. Came to find out about 30 minutes later after we'd been able to get through and had been hanging out for a while that apparently there'd been a robbery by someone with a gun, of someone parked in the parking lot. Antquan commented that the crime always seems to go up the closer we get to Christmas. Great.

The rest of the night, as last week, didn't quite go according to plan, but then again how often does it? Though no bible study actually took place, mostly due to lack of people, some cool conversations ended up taking place. A guy I mentioned last week who had kind of stumbled into our service before it got interrupted, ended up back in the area for work and heading straight to talk to us. Once again, Jeremiah was able to talk to him for a long time, bonding over some of their shared stories and experiences. Though nothing incredibly deep was talked about, it was  a valuable time of building a relationship and opening that door to us and The Refuge wide open...where inevitably the door to God will be wide open. Sometimes not talking about spiritual things feels like we might have missed an opportunity. But I think that so often jumping straight there without even knowing a person can be more damaging. When you've built rapport and trust, then real and meaningful conversation comes much easier and a person is much more willing to listen.

Which seemed to be the theme for the night. While Antquan talked to a somewhat mentally-unstable guy who often joins us (wearing a Dodgers uniform, no less), I ended up chatting with 3 security guards. They work down the street, doing security for the area, and  I'd met one of them before and we'd had some brief conversations. People on both teams have relationships with several of the security officers. They rarely come hang out at our bible study, although we often get brief conversations with them elsewhere...mostly because they're always working and can't stay and hang around. But for whatever reason that night, the 3 of them who had just started their shift didn't seem to have anywhere else to be. So they joined us for pizza, and since an official bible study never happened, they stayed until around 1am. It's possible if we'd done bible study they would have left...and it's times like these that it's better that dump our plans and be available to what God's doing right in front of us.

Though our conversation never turned particularly spiritual either, we had  a good 30-45 minutes of interaction, of getting to know each other, laughing, and building relationship that I know will be easily built on in the near future. In fact, right at the end I found out that one of them is Muslim, and has had some good chats with Nick about religion. He repeated more than once that it was good talking. He took Antquan's card. And he and the others made sure they knew our names. I felt that it left off at a perfect place to allow me to pick up next week and dive into deeper discussion. Or if not, to just keep getting to know them and build that trust that allows for deeper discussion.

And to top it all off, I'd gotten  a chance during some down time to talk with Jorge about his passion to follow God - and everything the bible says, not just some of it. We talked about his experiences in Skid Row recently (witnessing a drive-by, for instance) and how he's hoping to take some of what we do to those streets. His passion just made me that much more excited to serve God and follow wherever he leads me.

I had other down moments to get to know the guys who'd come to videotape what Broken Hearts does for a promo. The giving of their time, interest in what we do, and fact that they stayed out until around 4am hearing stories and recording showed me that they are passionate about God's work as well...and hopefully those are more relationships that will continue.

I heard a sermon recently from Chris Barksdale at the Hollywood Church wherein he mentioned that if you don't like people or being around people..well, now I'm forgetting exactly what he said. But essentially that it's something wrong with us or our need to separate ourselves and not how we were created. I can't agree 100% because for us introverts, we legitimately can't be around people all the time. And yet, for someone who is (or was) really introverted, I find myself enjoying and craving more and more time with people. Especially those that are walking through this life pursuing Christ and trying to model him. I rarely get tired of my brothers and sisters and would rather be with them than alone almost all of the time. God made us relational. So from those in BH to those on the street that couldn't be more opposite, every conversation is a blessing and moment to be seized and treasured. 

Sunday, October 25, 2009

You Never Know What's Gonna Happen

Interrupted bible studies. Lack of engagement. Violent crime on the street. For some reason, whenever there's a small group of us on the street, you never know what's going to happen. I can head out to Broken Hearts pumped about what's going to happen and how we're going to see God move. And when I see a circle of just 4, 5, or 6 of us, I get a little deflated. Not because the Holy Spirit can't use just a few, or that we're unable to accomplish as much with a small group. Maybe it's lack of energy from each other or just a weird vibe that comes from feeling outnumbered by the darkness...but it seems that very often when just a few of us show up to minister, all bets are off. Of course sometimes that small group can be unique to minister specially to one or two people and really have deep conversation. Last night, that was not the case.

We met up in the Del Taco parking lot as usual to find only 5 of us there, and right about then it started to feel weird for me. The streets seemed quiet and it was one of those "what's going to happen tonight?" nights. We briefly spoke to "Jay", a guy who's met several of the Friday nighters and some of our team, but he didn't want to join us for prayer because he'd been smoking weed. So we prayed and then headed out to the corners where eventually more and more people started showing up. I saw a few familiar faces that I hadn't seen in a while, including one who was actually excited to see me. One who, just a few months ago, would barely talk to us. He even asked if we were having bible study and said he'd be there.

We lingered around the donut shop for a while, observing and praying and trying to decide who to talk to or whether to walk around. There weren't a lot of people we knew and it seemed several people were busy with transactions of some sort. So after some quick hellos to various people, we walked a few feet where a man standing by himself said hi and asked what we were up to.

We stopped and talked to Luis for a while. I couldn't really tell you what the conversation was about, because after about the first 3 minutes, nothing made sense. He said he liked church and would want to come to our bible study at one point, later deciding he didn't want to come this time. Jeremiah and I politely listened to him, trying to follow along, but his thoughts were incoherent and unrelated from one point to the next. We asked if we could pray for anything before leaving and he just said to offer a praise of 'hallelujah'. So we bid him a good night and set off for The Refuge service.

Once there, we met up with the rest of the group plus Jay, who had come back for bible study, and one other guy who was sitting on the sidewalk. I met him, but didn't get a chance to talk to him; but according to Jorge, his thoughts weren't particularly coherent either and apparently he'd just gotten done shooting up. Jeremiah started talking to a guy who was getting out of his car, probably to go to 711, and ended up talking to him until we started bible study before he had much of a chance to leave. :)

Though the night had picked up some and didn't feel so quiet anymore, the conversations were a bit odd because of the mental conditions of those we met. 

Then, about 10 minutes into Jere's talk, some commotion started to arise on the street in front of us. 3 young men ran and jumped in the car parked next to us, squealing out of the parking lot amongst shouts and people beginning to swarm; nearly hit Antquan's car as they drove over the curb onto Santa Monica Blvd and away as fast as they could. Quickly, more yelling and ruckus caused commotion on the sidewalk, and more and more people began to congregate to see what had happened. Antquan had been keeping somewhat of an eye on the situation, sensing from when he'd seen the car (which looked stolen) parked there, that something was up as he watched the guys hanging out on the sidewalk while 2 others sat inside the car.

So his first thought was that it was  drug deal gone bad and someone had been stabbed. Jay, who had left bible study and ended up in the middle of the chaos, came back shortly and filled us in on what'd happened. Apparently the guys had tried to steal a car nearby, and the owner of the car caught them. Getting caught, they somehow had the steering wheel of the car and hit him over the head with it, then took off, leaving him on the sidewalk, bleeding. Jay had stayed with the guy until the ambulance came and took him away. Several other police cars arrived, and our bible study was officially over as a helicopter flew over head and it was all we could focus on. We prayed briefly, again because focusing was so hard, and ended up hanging around for a while to help police with details and their reports.

Strange night overall. One of those that, after things calmed down, and after we handed out our leftover pizza to our other friends on the street, we were just trying to process all that had happened. The night felt weird from the beginning and just got worse, ending with that reminder that this is dangerous territory...but also that we need to be here for that exact reason.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sowing in tears, reaping with joy

Broken Hearts often refers to our ministry (and often our lives in general) as being a 'link in the chain'. For any Christian, at various times in non-believers lives, we plant seeds, we water, we sow...but God ultimately gives the increase in his way, his time, and in his power. Getting to be a part of any step in the process is a privilege...but I'd say few of us enjoy the sowing as much as we do the reaping. The reaping is exciting and faith-building and 'glamorous'. Being a link in the chain of that process just doesn't have the same hype or recognition. It's not always clear that God's at work, that our obedience to share Him is even doing anything.

It can be downright discouraging. If people ask about your ministry and you can name the number of people on one hand who've come to know Christ in several years, it seems to leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth of the person asking. When donors give to an organization, they aren't particularly inspired to give to a ministry who can't show numbers of lives changed or quantify impact.

More than once (or twice... or ten times), I've asked "what am I doing? What are we doing out here?" We see people take big steps towards change or towards Jesus, and then see them relapse into their old lifestyle...and it all feels pointless. But God will often do something major after those occurrences that leave me humbled and pretty embarrassed when I realize he was at work the whole time - I just couldn't see...and I was questioning him and his sovereignty!

God knows what he's doing, and if he wants us to be the middle man in the process of a man or woman coming to know him, then that's up to him. We just have to be faithful. But when we actually get to see someone through the process and see the end result...well, words can hardly describe how exciting that is! In fact, because we don't get this opportunity too often, when it happens it's almost hard to believe. Seeing someone change so drastically is nothing short of a miracle.

Ok...that was a long intro to the real story behind those thoughts that arose in my mind today. I went up to Hollywood today to attend church with Antquan and our friend 'Ravi' (which is another story for another time, but he's one who's being discipled daily and getting his life on track and quite the encouragement to me as well as our team). 'Jake' had planned on coming to church, but everyone in their rehab program had been put on restriction and he was unable to leave. So instead I went to visit him after church.

I've only talked to him/seen him a handful of times since he entered rehab. But each conversation astounds me. Especially when I think back to the day I first met him. In fact, as we chatted today in the outside patio/garden area of the home, he referred to that day saying, "I was drawn to you that first day we met. There was something compelling about you guys. And luckily I was still sensitive enough  to that..I was hard on the outside, but I was still soft inside." The context of that was that God had saved him before he'd gone too far down the path of drug addiction and prostitution, and his background in the church made him curious and sensitive to God's spirit working through us.

The rest of the conversation was about his deepening relationship with God, his prayer life, about his past and family history that had brought him to the place of drug-dependence; tears over the pain that he was learning to deal with. He said he's starting to tear down his walls and become softer and more real, and that the guys in the house are seeing him change. He said after talking with me on the phone the other day something had changed and he'd started to acknowledge some of his issues. He noted that he's the only person in the house not taking meds and attributes it to his relationship with God which is giving him peace and allowing him to heal and deal with those issues rather than medicate them. And that he hopes the guys will see that difference in him and want to know about it. He talked about God having  a plan for him, pondered about doing ministry in some way again one day, and about the opportunity to try everything the world has to offer which has brought him back around to realizing that none of it compares to God.

And that's all just a portion of our recent conversations. The words that come out of his mouth with no prompting are amazing; his vulnerability and willingness to get help are inspiring, and I'm getting to see God's work first hand...changing  a man day-to-day for His glory. 

He even told me that no one in the program is allowed to engage in any sexual behavior, either, and so they're all required to practice celibacy and restraint while living in a gay community. At first I was slightly disappointed about the fact that he was entering a gay/transgender rehab program (and there are still issues to be concerned about with that, of course), but never realized how even that might be a blessing for him. He's required to function there like God would require of him in normal life. If he has homosexual desires, God will either change him or help him to refrain from those desires as he's sanctified. And in a secular, gay rehab, he's practicing how he'll have to live when he gets out.

The sweet, thoughtful, focused young man is much different from the tweaked-out, hardened individual whose apathy and self-destruction once brought me to that angry, question-asking place of "What are we doing, God?! What are YOU doing?!"

Apparently God knew what he was doing. And graciously allows me to still be a part of it...while changing me in this process as well. :)

"When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our otngue with joyful shouting; then they said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."
the Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.
Restore our captivity, O Lord, as the stream in the south.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him." ~ Psalm 126

Friday, October 2, 2009

Part 2 - Thursday Night

Below I posted another BHer's story from last night. To expand on that and share my experience of last night, I'm going to start off from when we walked across the street to the donut shop where several guys and a few girls were hanging out by the bus stop...

I was happy to see 'Art', who last week and come to bible study and actually talked for a bit. I'd asked him what he does down here and he dodged my question and took off last week. This week he told me that he comes down for regular clients, and that he's been prostituting for 3 months. I didn't realize it had been so little time that he'd been doing that. He said that prior he'd come down to hang out, smoke weed, kick it with friends, but wasn't 'doing business' at that time. But after a stint in jail and a crazy-expensive ticket from an accident and a suspended license, he'd started out here to make easy money. We actually had a pretty good talk (not only about Urban Outfitters and discounted designer shoes) but about how quickly this area can bring people down and put them in a cycle of drugs/prostitution/jail/etc. I tried my best to convey how badly he needed to finish his GED (which he's almost done with), get a job and get out of this area before it sucks him in completely. He responded, "you're speakin truth, girl, and I appreciate that."

A bit later we all headed down to service together...much of the group excited about it, the rest coming along as a result of nothing better to do. (see post below for more bible study details). Afterward, we broke up into groups as we always do. I was with a girl (a real girl) named Diamond, a guy who goes by Fresh, and another girl I'd never seen before but who knew them both. After a while, Charlie joined our group and the lively discussion about how stupid both Samson and Delilah were (at least that was their take, that they both seemed to be a disgrace to their genders). It was an interesting dynamic, because Diamond grew up basically being beat over the head with the bible by her grandma, and Fresh knew almost nothing about it except that he'd always felt condemned by Christians for being gay/bi-sexual. It opened the door for a lot of truth-sharing, setting the record straight about misunderstandings, and getting to share more of who God is and why we need him.

I was so energized by the conversation with Fresh, because if you look below, this was the guy in the blue baseball cap. He hadn't even really wanted to come, but as we discussed, he was so tuned into the conversation. Even when distractions abounded, he kept focused and kept going with the conversation. Even when his friends all headed off to the donut shop and asked him if he wanted to come, he kept telling them no and that he'd hang out with us a while longer!

We went off on some tangents and some things went undiscussed that would have been really good to clear up, but we still got the chance to share a lot with him. He told us he was glad he'd come and would definitely come back next week...and that he didn't feel that same marginalization that he'd felt at churches before. I also invited him to come to church with us on Sunday and he said he might. But he did want to take a bible and get a chance to read it for himself to see what it actually said. Please pray that he'd come back next week and would continue to have an open heart and mind to Christ.

Enthusiasm for a Parking Lot Church - Part 1 of Thursday Night

Guest post from a fellow Broken Heart member, Jeremiah Jenkins.

Last week, while hanging out on the streets of Hollywood with Broken Hearts, I met a real woman who calls herself Essence. (Many of the "women" we meet on the street are actually transgenders and transvestites.) I had just invited Jamal, a very familiar face, to our church service when Essence overheard and, with an attitude, exclaimed "You aren't going to church!" Jamal and a few others from the street walked to the church service with us. Essence stayed behind. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, I can't explain why Essence actually came to the parking lot where we meet for church service a few minutes later, on her own. She looked very out of place and bewildered as we passed out pizza and welcomed people into conversation. She reluctantly accepted a slice of pizza and then stayed for the message about "Playing the Victim" (the story of the man healed at the Pool of Bethesda and the story of Paul, Silas and the Jailor in Macedonia).

Last night, I spotted Essence in the Del Taco right after I arrived. When we made eye contact, she didn't recognize me immediately and had a look of disinterest. Then her face exploded into a smile as she figured out who I was and exclaimed, "Is there church tonight?!" When I told her that there was and that I was telling another story, she turned to the four or five friends who were with her and announced with enthusiasm, "I'm going to church tonight!"

Some time passed and Essence and her friends headed across the street to the donut shop where the dealers and prostitutes tend to gather. Meanwhile I met with the other Broken Hearts members outside the Del Taco. We always pair up (groups of 2 or 3, at least 1 male and 1 female) before heading out to the street. I was grouped with Holly and Jen Price. I spotted Essence and a few other familiar faces hanging out at the bus stop as soon as we crossed the street and so we engaged them in conversation. All but one person from this crowd dispersed almost as soon as we got there (presumably because they felt that we Christians threatened their fun and/or business), but they almost all came back eventually as Holly and Jen easily made everyone feel comfortable by talking about fashion and such with one (and eventually several) of the gay men. (Essence was one of the people that left for a moment, but only to get some food.) After a while, it was almost as though everyone in this hodgepodge group were old friends.

When midnight came around, we invited everyone around us to come to church with us. Essence and at least one other person eagerly accepted our invitation and began to follow us toward the Refuge (that's what we call our church). The others weren't so sure but several had grown so comfortable with us that they just kind of followed along. It helped that Essence and the other person were so enthusiastic. One of these reluctant people was a gay man who wore a blue Dodger hat. I loved it when, on the way to the Refuge, this man said aloud, "I can't believe that I am going to church right now. I so don't belong here." I was equally delighted when he was shocked to learn that the Refuge takes place in a parking lot. He was expecting pews or something. :) Last night's message was about the Power of Sex (the story of Samson and Delilah). After the sermon, Jen Price, Trang, and I were put in a group with Essence. We discussed the story, how it relates to us, past and present, and more. Essence was very involved in the conversation. When Jen asked Essence what she would like prayer for, she let us know that she expects to get her own apartment soon and that she just wants it to happen, for real, smoothly and quickly. I would like us to pray that she maintains this enthusiasm to hear God's word. I would also like us to pray for more people like Essence, people who are so enthusiastic about attending Refuge that others from the street confidently follow to the Refuge and to God.

-by Jeremiah Jenkins

Monday, September 28, 2009


It's been a good past few weeks in LA.

Though 'Jake' was accepted to rehab, he wasn't able to go in as soon as he'd hoped. So for almost a week we waited to hear from him, as he waited to hear from the program to see if he could get in. I kept my phone nearby every day waiting to hear what was happening, but never knew when I'd get a phone call or from what number, because his phone was disconnected. It was difficult to hear day after day that he couldn't get in when he was holding on with all that he had to try and stay sober.

Yet it was also a chance to experience what it's like to be the church for someone in need. Thursday night he stayed with us the whole time we were out on the streets, just trying to stay clean and keep his mind off of drugs. When we saw him he said, "oh thank God you're here. I was so upset that I couldn't get into rehab, but I knew if I could just wait until you all got out here then everything would be okay."

Antquan and Lorena graciously gave him a bed that night and a place to avoid temptation. He stayed there for a few days, they attended some meetings with him and did bible studies. Every chance I got, he and I would talk and I'd try to offer any encouragement possible, just wishing I could be in Hollywood to help him out. It's amazing to see people giving of their time and comfort and personal space in order to serve someone...otherwise known as living the way God tells us to in the bible. Concern for Jake was greater than any concern for myself for just a few days (amazing, because I'm a pretty selfish person)...and because I couldn't be in LA, I had no hesitation in sending him to Antquan and Lorena and knowing they would help him out. The support they were able to give him was no small thing. They cared more for him than for themselves while he was struggling, and that may have made all the difference.

Antquan took him to rehab on Tuesday and has been talking to him sporadically since. Today, Michelle and I were able to join him at rehab for a bbq the place was putting on. We were all so excited to see each other, and seeing him running down the street towards us to give us hugs brought me so much joy.

We spent the next few hours hanging out with him in what felt like a scene from the musical Rent. His rehab is specifically for gay and transgender individuals...and they know how to put on a party! Clean and sober, the food was amazing, the performers were over-the-top, and the DJ kept the fun, LOUD, pop music going the whole time, inspiring spontaneous dancing in all directions.

Though incredibly entertaining and fun, there was also a bitter-sweetness to the spectacle as it's obvious that - while they may be sober - there is still much hurt and pain and difficult that they've gone through and are still going to have to work through. That's when I'm so grateful for God, because how can you ever get over that stuff and find hope and redemption for your life without him? Sobriety may be great, but unless we've surrendered our lives to Christ, we will never be healed or complete.

So it was great to hear Jake talk about how great things were going, how he'd been reading Psalms, and how he really wanted to go to church. We thought we were going to have to wait a while to take him to church with us, but he should be able to go this week! And that was what he sounded most anxious for.

In addition to God's work there, we also had several nights in Hollywood of busy streets and full bible studies. We had an Exposure Night, so back-to-back nights for me. But we've had at least 5 people at our last few bible studies, including some guys who rarely come. This past Thursday we had 'J' and another guy I met around the time I met Jake...who we'll call 'Art'. He's generally pretty high and uninterested in bible study, but he was particularly mellow this week and stayed for all of bible study. And J brought some friends with him who'd been before and remembered me when I barely even remembered them. We spent a lot of time in discussion after the message getting to know them and talking about being healed by Christ.

We also had our team meeting and got to brainstorm more about coffee shop ideas, t-shirts to come soon, and our additional night of prayer ministry on Friday nights. And praise God for answering Nick's prayers to have more, committed individuals coming out on Friday night. That team is growing with men and women who want to give more.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Our God is Mighty to Save!

God is faithful! Even when I doubt....

This past Sunday, I picked up our friend 'Jake' for church at his request. He almost didn't make it. I woke him up with my phone call Sunday morning to make sure he was coming, and he was so tired he didn't want to come. When he found out I was only coming up to take him, he decided to come. He had to rush, but ended up making it, despite his desire to just stay home and rest. As it turned out, he loved church, enjoyed the people and message and recognized God's working in his life. He thanked me for taking him and was glad he'd come, even though he hadn't wanted to...

Last night I got a phone call from Jake. He excitedly told me about how he'd gotten a grant to go to rehab and that he'd be entering today after he got logistics worked out. He's nervous about it, scared about the huge step that he'll be taking and commitment he's making, but couldn't stop saying how excited he was.
He's already been clean for about three weeks, so I reminded him he could do this and he would make it through those 90 days. He admitted he wanted to party one last time, but knew he couldn't because he'd said that before and never committed to rehab. This time he wasn't going to go back down that road.

He told me about how God has been SO present in his life this week; how he's not doing any of this on his own, how he's trusting God and trying to put his faith into action. He cannot deny the power and presence of God and is so excited about it. He said he's never been this close to God in his whole life, even growing up in the church, and that he's never trusted him this much. And when he gets out of his 90 day rehab, he wants to get plugged into the Hollywood Church because he enjoyed it so much when he was there. He said he wants to dive into the word and spend time reading scripture; he proclaimed God's faithfulness and patience and that He's never given up on him.  He said some of his friends at the AA meetings and help centers he's been going to see how far he's already come and are asking how, and how they can get there. In his own words, Jake talked about laying down his will and agenda for God's.

He also went on to give huge encouragement to the work God is doing through Broken it was appointed by God that he met us and connected instantly and that if it weren't for us he probably wouldn't have made these choices. He was talking about how many people are just a mess down there and that we need to keep doing what we're doing because God's using us. At least for me, no matter how many times I tell myself that, I often doubt if God's really doing as much as I'd like to hope. Hearing that was just crazy proof that it matters what we are doing...that we are having a profound impact through the power of Christ.

He said that we're so genuine and that you never see the church go down there to be with people...and that the people on the street recognize that and know we're for real. He just gave so much glory to God for what has happened through us to change him and encouragement to keep doing this work becuase it matters. And he thanked me profusely for all we've done to help him. He was crying...I was was amazing :)

God has completely answered our prayers for well about my own prayers about confirming my vision to be in Hollywood doing this full time one day.

Please pray that entering rehab today would go smoothly, that there would be no obstacles, and that God would protect him from Satan's attacks as he's getting so fired up about changing and surrending his will to Christ.  Pray for his sobriety and that he would continue to seek strength and comfort from Christ alone.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Another Link in the Chain

Another quiet night in Hollywood. Very few people out on the street, especially considering that it's Summertime, when the warm weather normally brings out the masses. But the conversations we did have were great.
i enjoyed the unique pleasure of walking around with Antquan last night, our director, who normally picks up pizza and sets up bible study while we're out meeting people and bringing them to The Refuge. Antquan is an awesome speaker, which I'm used to because I hear him almost every week. But I forget how amazing he is relationally as well. God has uniquely blessed him with this ministry because he can relate to almost anyone and make them feel comfortable quickly. Within moments of passing a random stranger on the street, we had gotten to know each other and were onto the topic of sinners vs. saints. Eric was completely entertained with Antquan and able to enter into a great dialogue with us - and he even remembered me from months and months ago from a guy we used to hang out with out there.
During that conversation our friend 'Jake' showed up, who had gotten a ride out to the are specifically to come see us. He told me it'd been two weeks that he'd been clean, was going to lots of AA meetings, had a place to stay, and was making friends and surrounding himself with people who are sober and clean. Clearly he was doing much better and was very excited about the progress he was making and how much he enjoyed being in control and realizing he doesn't need drugs or alcohol - and feels better without them. He asked if we were having bible study, as well as if I was going to church in Hollywood this weekend because he was anxious to attend both.
Bible study ended up being the two of them and our buddy Bryan, plus our group of 6, so we once again had a pretty casual, small group type of discussion with Antquan speaking about 'fast food prayers' and Isaiah 58. How fasting and praying and going to God when we need him aren't what God asks of us, because if they don't involve our hearts they are meaningless.
Eric, who had been hesitant to even come to bible study, ended up thanking us afterward for being there and for praying with him and talking with him. He acknowledged that God had brought him there and seemed to recognize something spiritual happening in him.
These types of posts seem so simple. As if almost nothing happened out there. Yet these are no small things. We may not see hundreds come to Christ, but we get to assist and watch people as they start recognizing and acknowledging God, discovering truth about him, and finding hope and freedom in him. We get to see people like Jake leave behind the destructive chains of substance abuse, and talk to people like Eric who otherwise would've wandered down the street with no one to talk to on a mission to get booze. And instead they end up hearing the word of God and being moved by it.
I strongly believe in discipleship and not only leading people to accept Christ, but walking alongside them as they discover what that means. Anyone can say they accept him and then walk away if they have no one to help disciple them. But we get to watch people change from week to week and see them become followers of Christ. It's not a fast easy process, but sanctification never is for any of us. I think God has uniquely created our ministry to be a link in the chain - a link to other organizations with more resources, to churches, and on the path to God - whether planting a seed, watering it, or reaping the harvest. What a privilege!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Like the first time

Nights like this past Thursday fill me with respect and appreciation for the original group of 3-4 that started Broken Hearts. I remember Robin, the girl with the original idea, telling me about opposition they faced in the beginning, how no one wanted to talk to them and how it took a long time to build trust.

Because of their efforts, we now go out confidently on those streets because we've had a presence for so long and people know who we are and even like us. It's not a very intimidating place most of the time because a foundation has been established that we just continue to build on. But I can't imagine how hard that foundation must have been - or must be for others who pave the way for a new ministry. Especially for someone like me that isn't as bold or confident in these types of situations.

All that to say, this Thursday felt almost like one of our first times on the street. There were only four of us out, and nearly every face we encountered was unfamiliar. And the people we did know weren't interested in talking. It seemed to be one of those nights that the strongholds were even stronger and more compelling to those caught up in their lure. It was all about getting business or a fix on the corner of Santa Monica and Highland, and we were just standing in the way of their goals.

We attempted many unsuccessful conversations in and around the donut shop to little or no avail (aside from the guy on the corner with a cardboard sign with writing all over it about Queen Elizabeth needing to retire and a play he was in with tickets costing $3000. He chatted with us for a while.)

Inside of Donut Time, I saw one guy sit down by himself in a booth who I hadn't met before and looked like maybe he was trying to avoid some of the chaos around us. So I approached his table and said, "hey, we're having bible study down the street at midnight if you'd like to join us." I'm pretty accustomed to people thinking we're crazy or stupid or naive, but the smirk on his face he was trying to hide was pretty quality. After a bit more small talk and him trying not to laugh at me (or at least that's the way it looked), I just assured him he was welcome to join us if he felt so inclined and moved on. We hung around for a bit longer, attempting to make conversations which all stayed brief, and so we decided to walk down the street to see who else was around or if anyone would come to The Refuge service.

Just a few steps down the street, Derek caught up with us. I turned around, surprised to see who I'd heard Charlie just start talking to. I was 100% sure when I told him he could join us at bible study that he would not show up. People rarely even come when they tell us they will, and he never gave any indication that he was interested.

We bought donuts when we arrived at the spot for bible study, but no one else showed up, even when Jeremiah went to go ask more people if they wanted to come. But the good part of having so few of us there and only Derek at bible study was that we were able to have a more intimate discussion about hope in God that Jeremiah led. We had plenty of time and attention to give to just him. Time to hear his story and share the story of God with him.

He'd moved out here one year and a half ago for Job Corps, and has been homeless since he moved here and without a job as he's going through their schooling program. He believes in God, but isn't sure who God really is and what's truth after hearing various ideas from growing up. And he talked about being tired of the life he was living - homeless, far from his fiance in another part of the country, and simply weary of it all. He was interested in all that we shared and open to the gospel. He asked us for a bible before we left and we were able to give him a new one, as well as invite him to church on Sunday, which he said he'd be interested in.

Though it had been a tough night to start, there was a newness in it beyond just feeling like newbies out on the street. We got to meet someone new and share Christ with someone who had very little religious background and was almost hearing it for the first time. And that kind of novelty never gets old.

Please pray for Derek and for God to reveal himself to him as the one true God and for his eyes and heart to be open!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Broken Hearts is not a large ministry or complicated non-profit operation, but even for us, being able to simplify and go about things in a more casual, informal manner can be very refreshing.

A few weeks ago we began praying for an hour before we head out to the streets at Antquan's apartment, now that he lives there. Most of our team typically comes, but this week it was just 3 of us. So we shared some prayer requests with each other, talked to Krista who called us from Hong Kong, and then talked some more about things going on in life. By the time we'd finished sharing, we only had a few minutes left to pray. And while that was unfortunate, it was really nice to have that time to catch up with each other and share some of what had been on our minds lately.

Then we headed out to the streets together, where three others met us. Since there were few of us and not too many people out on the street, we decided to go old school and not hold bible study with pizza, but to just hang out and talk with our friends. And if they wanted bible study, then we'd pick up some donuts and do something in a small group fashion. When we got to the donut shop across the street, our friends 'K' and 'J' were there, who we hadn't seen in a while. 'K' didn't look too great, and she told me she'd just gotten out of jail. Apparently her boyfriend 'J' had been in as well. We also saw Brendan, who had let us take him to Victory Outreach a few weeks prior, but left shortly after. Some of the other young guys we've been seeing a lot of lately were there as well. Though conversation with some of them has been hard to come by, the relational introvert in me likes seeing the same people each week and not feeling like I have to meet new people every week.

Before I could get into much of a conversation with Brendan or K, my friend Jake showed up, who I've written about several times. Since he left rehab, most of our conversations have been him saying hi and then leaving before we can really say anything. Most likely because he's high when we see him and either feels ashamed or just doesn't want to hear what we have to say.

This time, he approached us and was ready to chat. One of my first impressions was that he looked good - pulled together, clean, sober...

We spent the rest of the evening with him, hearing that he was staying at a local shelter, doing outpatient rehab and AA meetings, and (except for one slip up) had been clean for 5 days. That particular night he'd gotten into an argument with one of the girls on staff and hadn't wanted to stay there that night, so he was out on the boulevard. The temptations he might face there worried me, but he hung out with us the whole night and was anxious for bible study (although we didn't have one but just hung out as he got to know some of the Biola students who had returned.

The others met a few people at Magee's Donuts and we fellowshiped in there over some donuts. Jake agreed to join me at Hollywood Church the following week and expressed interest in joining the guys' bible study that Jorge is leading.

The following evening I went out with one of the RockHarbor 'GO trips' where we once again had a laid back night on a fairly quiet street. Before I went out I prayed that I wouldn't see Jake (because that would mean he once again wasn't at the shelter for the night) and that we'd see K and J again. I'd been thinking about her more and wanted to get the chance to talk.

And lo and behold, as soon as we hit the donut shop I saw J and he told me where K was. After a few minutes of talking with him, we headed to find K at the liquor store. She was trying to buy alcohol but frustrated that the owner wouldn't sell to her since she is only 20. She was a little distracted by her mission when she saw us, but she ended up wanting to hang out and when I introduced her to one of the guys out from RH, she told him, "this is my church sister" as she put her arm around me and took off down the street. We ended up back at the donut shop, and sat there for about 30 minutes. K had her arm around me the whole time as we caught up and talked about why the two of them are back out getting into trouble, when the previous night she'd asked us to pray for her that she'd stay out of trouble. J is a bit harder to talk to, but he shared a bit with me here and there as I know, in between making drug sales as we sat there....

I also invited them to Hollywood Church, and they seemed to express some interest. Hopefully I will see them again next week and be able to suggest a time and place to meet and get them to come.

The rest of the evening we chatted with a guy in Magee's donuts about his life and things he'd seen and experienced in LA. Luckily, this was a chance for the RockHarbor folks to join in more on the conversation since K hadn't been very interested in getting to know them and they hadn't been able to participate in conversation.

Please pray for Jake, K, and J and the spirit's work in their lives.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Last night in Hollywood was a pretty eventful evening. To start, it was Krista's last night for a year, because she is moving to Hong Kong to teach for the next 11 months. It's a sad loss to Broken Hearts, as Krista was one of the very first people in Broken Hearts and begin ministry in this new territory. She's been faithful in coming for the last five years, rarely missing a night.

We started out in Del Taco, where she could say good-bye to our security guard friend. Also inside were 'Frank' and Naomi, people that we see almost every week. Last week when I'd talked to him, he told me they broke up (which was a very good thing). This time they were sitting together looking like they were having a serious conversation. When we went over to talk to them, we found out they'd been fighting (physically and verbally), because Frank had blood on his shirt. In case I haven't mentioned before, Frank is a straight guy, who has strong feelings for Naomi, a transsexual, even though he normally dates females only. I guess the fights are a little different when both people are actually guys and capable of fist fighting each other.

As I talked more with Frank (who looked horrible), I found out his appearance was partially due to smoking crystal meth over the past 4 days to stay awake at night so he could watch out for Naomi and be around him. Frank deals, but doesn't normally smoke anything beside weed. Which really worried me because he's one of the few people who isn't completely messed up by drugs already and has a good head on his shoulders. And one who comes to bible study every week, knows God, and seems to be taking steps forward in getting closer to God. So, as usual, we talked about the need for him to get out of Hollywood and to stop coming and getting in trouble. He said he was going to stop smoking meth, because he hated how he felt, so please pray that he stops before he's addicted.

He and several others came with us to bible study - 2 girls and 2 guys with them, all very friendly and showed more interest in us and our bible study than I'm used to. After the bible study I had time to get to know the girls better and it seems that they both know God, but are struggling in some areas. One was very quiet, but the other shared a lot about her life, her 6 kids, her desire to go back to school and do something better with her life (she'd prostituted in the past and I have a feeling wasn't just out there to hang out). We all prayed together at the end, and both of them actually prayed for each other and me, which rarely happens. People at the bible study are often too uncomfortable or intimidated to pray, so it was a good experience to all lift each other up.

'Ravi' and Bryan also came out, as they do every week. Gary, an older gentleman we met a few weeks ago showed up as well and told me afterwards that he makes a point, no matter how far he is, to come every Thursday and Friday because he wants to be around Christians more and he needs more of our 'magic' (which I'd say was a way of referring to the light and joy of the holy spirit). He expressed how he wishes he could be around Christians all week because he's wrapped up in so much bad stuff all week. He said he tells everyone that I saved him - or something like that - because I was the first one who met him and invited him to bible study. Since then i haven't talked to him too much, but he's gotten to know other people on our team as well.

After that I also saw Jose, who has been gone for 6 months. He's one of the first people I ever met in Hollywood, so it was awesome to see him again. But I didn't have too much time to talk with him, except to find out he'd just gotten back from vacation in New York and has a place to stay and a job. Then, I saw 'Alex', who I've written about many times. We didn't have much time to catch up either, and though it was good to see one of my favorite people, it's always frustrating to see him back out prostituting.

Overall, a lot of conversations and a lot of old, familiar faces. And the more time I spend with these people and get to know them, the more I just want to be living in Hollywood and investing more time and energy into their lives as they pursue hope and purpose and something better. We're there to show them what that something better is, and they know...but the more time we can spend in their daily lives, I hope that they will see God more and more and when they're finally ready to turn to him, we'll be there to walk with them.