Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"And now I am bound by the Spirit to go to Jerusalem. I don't know what awaits me...But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus- the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God." - Acts 20:22-24

Friday, April 10, 2009

"I think we're gonna see Frankie tonight", Antquan said as we were nearing Hollywood. "God told me when I was praying today that we'd see him...". With that comment, even missing the rest of what Antquan had to say about it at that moment, for whatever reason, I should've known it was going to be an interesting night.

When we set out after prayer, the first person we talked to was a young 20-something year old guy lingering outside of Donut Time, who asked what we did out there. The conversation led to him saying that he believes in God and Jesus and goes to church every week and knows that it's all about Him; that he'd recently gotten out of a 3-year stint in jail for drug dealing, and that he's back to being a regular user of PCP. Which he told us because he was high at the time and though able to hold a normal conversation, said his mind was "way up here" looking up at the sky. After getting more background on him and why he's back on drugs, etc he became so unfocused and maybe aware of how much he was saying that he said he couldn't handle the conversation anymore because of his high and took off inside Donut Time.

We'd already extended an invitation to him for bible study, so we headed off down the street as other BH-ers stayed inside Donut Time talking to a young crew of gang members. When we got to 7-11, only a few people were there, so Michelle and I headed to get some tea to help us warm up. While I was standing and talking to 'Ravi' inside, Kayla came to the door, saying, "Holly, come here!" I glanced at her and back at 'Ravi', trying to keep listening to him as we were in the middle of conversation. I wasn't about to leave, so she said, "trust me, you want to see this." So I left and followed her out to the donut shop next door. Standing inside was one of our good friends that Kayla, Jen and I had bonded with several months ago, "Alex' (a very pretty transsexual who had moved to Oakland). We had last seen him several months ago as he was struggling with wanting out of prostitution, wanting to pursue his dreams of fashion designing, and frustrated that life never seemed to go well for him.

We both loudly greeted each other in excitement as we hugged. I was completely shocked to see him, thinking he was living out of the area. But I think about him often and had wondered how he'd been. As he pulled out some cash to hand to one of his friends, he thumbed through a pile of bills. "I'm good at what I do" he said with a laugh. Though it killed me to realize he was prostituting again, he told me that he was in fashion school and had brought his drawings to show us.

Just as I was getting to catch up with him and wanting to hear what he'd been up to, Antquan came to the door of Magee's. Just like Kayla, he waved me towards him saying, "come here".

"Um, okay," I said looking back to Alex. "I'll be right back" and walked out towards Antquan. And over near our bible study, there my eyes zeroed in on Frankie. I looked over at Antquan with raised eyebrows and jaw to the floor. Then smiled, realizing God had truly spoken to him during his prayer time. He came over to me as Frankie walked by also, barely acknowleding my "hey!" said in half-excitement, half utter disbelief. "I didn't get to finish telling you the rest of my story, "antquan said quietly. "When I was praying God told me that we would see Frankie, and that he would be using again. I just talked to him, and within the first few minutes of our conversation he let me know that he's using." I still didn't quite know what to do or say. We haven't seen Frankie in about a year and a half, but we've heard he was at a local sober living home, and had often wondered together how he was doing. Frankie was one of the first people i met on the street, one of the closest friends to our whole team, and who I wasn't sure if I'd see again. I can't explain what a shock it was to see him again. And even more so to have Antquan hear so clearly from God and then see it all unfold. Then, to know that Frankie was no longer was just a lot to process so quickly. And at the same time, I was aware that Alex wanted to talk and I wanted to hear what was going on in his life.

I briefly got to hear how Alex was doing that night, glancing through his sketches and hearing about school, but most of the night, aside from the bible study (which all of the gang members and the PCP guy we'd met before came to) I sat and talked with Frankie and Antquan.

After praying in groups after the service, Krista continued in a conversation with a gang banger who she basically dragged there, and told us later that he responded well.

Antquan and I sat with Frankie who opened up quite a bit about being sober for 16 months, then leaving the program he was in 4 days ago and going right back to meth and prostitution because it's what he knows. But he'd found the environment to have changed a lot (which it has) and wasn't enjoying it. He shared a lot about not trusting people because of his past; not knowing how to handle his current boyfriend who actually treated him well and never expecting good things; not wanting to do meth again, wanting to get into fashion school, etc.

The conversation and night didn't end with anything miraculous, but he said he'd probably see us the next week. And I hoped the same with Alex. Please pray for both of them, as well as us to have wisdom to know how to best reach them and help them get back off the streets.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Maybe I feel well-listened to. Or maybe because I process thoughts and emotions internally, I don’t feel as deep of a need to be heard. Or maybe I’m just more emotionally healthy than some people. But it is hard for me to understand how listening seems to have such a huge impact on people.

I often hear people jokingly thank me for being their therapist, or say they should pay me for listening and helping them think and process. All the while, I’m thinking: “Really? I’m just sitting here listening, mumbling a periodic, ‘mm-hmm’, and asking a well-intentioned question when appropriate”. And yet people seem to have amazing revelations, insight, and emotional break-throughs as they talk at me. I say this with a slight hint of sarcasm, as I do realize that being heard is very important. But it always surprises me that such a seemingly minor act can seem to have such a huge impact on people. It makes me feel lazy, quite honestly, when “doing ministry” or “being a good friend”. I feel like I should be offering advice, or pointing out faulty thinking, or saying lots of wise words. And there are moments that those come and prove helpful, but more often than not just sitting and letting someone vent or rant or think out loud gets me an odd amount of thanks, in my opinion.

I mention it because I went out last night, prepared through prayer, to speak Spirit-filled words, and proclaim God boldly and have great, deep, intelligent conversations with people. It was a fairly quiet night, and I found myself already feeling cowardly as I hit the pavement, no longer ready to be bold. I quickly felt unusable, a little bit hopeless, and disappointed in my lack of courage. Because I tend to feel like, while it’s good to be a friend and just love people, that without verbalizing the gospel and driving home the importance of faith in Christ and idea of eternity without God, that it’s not worth much. I think in fear of proclaiming Christ that I fall to “walking the walk” without ever “talking the talk”. But people need to hear the truth and explanation of what makes the walk. And though listening is often strategic, it can also be my safety net. My way to walk without talking.

I ended up spending most of my night talking to my friend Nigel, who I’ve spoken with many times before. Last time I saw him it was a discussion about his belief in God, leading us to debate on the issue of Jesus and just one God. He believes in Jesus, but thinks that others can believe whatever they want and it be okay. So there were some theology issues we had to work through. Last night he was more intoxicated than I’ve ever seen him, and his first admission to me was about how he loves God, but he can’t stop drinking beer. Which easily lent us to the conversation of why he depends on the bottle…which then led to stories and tears…and more tears…and poetry he’s written and jokes and laughter and more tears and lessons learned, etc…

By the time we were done talking, he’d told me that I was the most beautiful person he’d ever met because of much more than physical appearance, but because of my hope, peace, gentleness, etc…and that he was so happy he’d met me. And he then proceeded to tell several people how I just listened to him and how I made him cry and basically went on about our conversation in a way that seemed nearly crazy to me. Of course I valued every word he said and greatly appreciated his encouragement. It just surprised me how moved he seemed by simply talking to this quiet, short little blonde girl as he looked down on me from his 6'8' frame! But apparently, at times, just listening and engaging in patient conversation can minister to someone just as much as our wise words can. In the last two weeks, I've experienced both ends.

Of course, many other great conversations took place after bible study. Krista talked to an older, homeless, cocaine addict about Jesus, and Tessa talked to a guy we'd never met before about the bible and Jesus as Son of God. He had a viewpoint I've heard many times there, about parts of the bible being true and Jesus being a good person, without believing him to be divine. I got to interact some with the conversation, but he and Tessa had a good, intellectual dialogue about some of his disbeliefs, and he assured us he'd return to hang out again.

One other exciting part of our evening was stopping by a building that is for lease that is perfect and in the perfect location for something we would want to use. Please pray that God leads us to the building he wants us to have when he wants us to have it to further his purposes.