Friday, July 31, 2009

To whom shall we go?

...On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life... You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

I don't think that people should only come to Christ when they have nowhere else to turn - he is far more mighty and holy than that. But at the same time, the saying, "when God is all you have, you realize that God is all you need" holds very true for many people. When we have other things to turn to, other idols, dreams and desires we'd rather pursue - or just don't want to face the hard teachings of Jesus - it's hard to recognize our need for God. His power and greatness can be watered down by these other things we put our hope in. Ultimately, where else are we going to go when these idols prove empty and helpless to us? He has the words of eternal life. He is love and goodness and grace when the flesh fails - why go elsewhere?

I was reminded of how true this is in Broken Hearts last night (and why we're called Broken Hearts!) I talked to 'Jake', who basically said these exact things. He has absolutely no where to go, he has no possessions but the clothes on his back, and absolutely nothing to lose if he leaves his current life behind.

I wrote about Jake 2 weeks ago, who was surrendering to Christ and wanting to get into rehab. Last week we saw him back out in Hollywood, high and going clubbing and acting like nothing had happened the previous week. And sadly, this happens ALL the time. We think someone's changing, but they're just not ready, or something keeps dragging them down. I was so discouraged by him and others that evening, it didn't even seem worth another blog post.

Last night we saw him again. My first thoughts were that it would be the same. That, high on meth, he wasn't ready; that we'd talk about serious things, but he wouldn't change. But as we got to talking, he explained how his boyfriend had stolen everything - all of his money and credit cards and he had nothing left. He was hopeless and planned to just find a retail job and figure something out for himself.

Half-heartedly I said, "well if you want to go to Set Free (a Christian rehab program we'd told him about) we can always take you there. It would be a place to stay, rehab, they'd provide all you need..."

"Sure," he replied, sounding defeated. "Why not. I'll do anything." I wasn't quite sure how serious was, but I let him know that when we got to the bible study I'd ask Antquan if he would be able to take Jake that night. (Set Free is in Cabazon, about 2 hours away).

For a while we hung out on the street corner, talking to several other young guys we see often. I told one of his friends that has been hanging out with us recently that we were going to take him to rehab, and he replied, "he's not gonna go. He says that all the time and never goes. I've tried to take him." I knew it was possible that he was right, but chose not to believe it at that moment. When we got to the bible study, I asked Antquan about driving him there, and he called Set Free as we got ready for bible study to let them know he wanted to bring someone. Apparently they were hesitant to take someone in so late at night, but agreed.

I went back to Jake and asked him if he was actually ready. If he really wanted to go if we were going to take him, ready to change. He said that he was, so we went over some of the rules, checked if he was on probation or parole or anything else that could hinder his acceptance to the program. Talked about how it's set up and what would be expected. Everything checked out, and he asked, "It's a Christian place, right? I need that support and discipleship." I gladly told him yes, they would disciple him and he'd be surrounded by Christians to walk with him.

After the study, we spent time talking with the group of guys who had come, as well as Jukka's friend (who we were introduced to like this: "This is 'Kathy'. She's a real girl.") She had quite the story as well - 16, homeless, pimped out when she arrived in Hollywood, and recently ended a pregnancy. (and yes, this stuff is happening all over our cities. Not just the 'bad' areas or overseas in notoriously sketchy and lawless places).

So around 1:45, Jake said good-bye to her, as well as us, and climbed into Antquan's car. After driving 'Kathy' to wherever she was staying that night, I headed home with deep joy in my heart. I prayed and praised God as I drove, seeing God bring Jake to such brokenness that he'd surrendered.

Today I got a text from Antquan that he'd checked Jake in at 3:40 a.m., and that in 2 weeks we'll be able to go visit him. For some reason that extra confirmation that he was actually there and it had worked out was all it took for me to break down and just praise God. I cried as I drove back to work on my lunch break, trying not to return looking like a wreck, but didn't even care. If people asked what was wrong, I would have a great story to tell them!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Until Official Fundraising Begins...

Let's just be honest - non-profits need money. Reaching the poor and needy and providing for their needs takes funds. And a bunch of college students and post-college young adults who don't have much money can't pay for everything.

But our dreams are much bigger than just providing free food, clothes, blankets, hotel rooms and program costs for people we help in Hollywood. We want a building. We want full-time staff and people living and working in Hollywood with Broken Hearts 24/7 in order to really impact the community in a lasting way. We want a place for people to come and be accepted and get to just hang out and get off the street for the night. A place to build community. To help people find and apply for jobs and work on resumes and job skills. To have our bible study and more small group studies throughout the week.

We're working on the strategy and business plan for this right now, but we all know that we want to do more. If you feel so inclined to help out and provide for some of those needs or help us save money for a building, please visit our PayPal donation page at:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Divine Appointments

As many Thursday nights do, this one started slow with few people on the street. I walked around with a new guy who just joined Broken Hearts, showing him 'the ropes' and getting to know each other just a bit. Seeing no one to talk to as we walked to the club and back (our boundary), I suggested we head back to Donut Time where more people might be. On the way we saw Marcus and Ricky, two 20 year-olds; one whom I know well, the other I'd just met last week. They were both very high, making them incredibly pleasant to talk to, yet difficult to maintain conversation with.

Marcus, who hasn't been out on the streets much and has seemed well the few times I've seen him, told me he'd stopped going to school but was planning on going to another one this fall. But overall he didn't seem too concerned with school and instead was much more concerned with clubbing that night. He could use prayers, as Satan is trying to drag him back into that life after he's been doing so well.

After talking to them outside of the donut shop for a while, we followed them inside where some of the team was already hanging out with another teen I'd never seen before. After a few minutes of talking together, Donut Time turned into quite a scene with a few prostitutes I'd met before, including a couple who'd come to bible study last week, a few guys I'd never met, and a few who I'd seen before but didn't really know. "Mama", as some call the owner of the shop, yelled at one of them to get out because he'd stolen from her before. Michelle had her camera and began shooting photos of everyone, posing seductively and silly, making for a fun, light-hearted environment.

After things had calmed down a bit, we got into conversation with 'Jake', a guy from Finland who I'd never seen before. He was interested in us and what we were doing there and it didn't take too long for the conversation to turn to the spiritual. We found out that he had grown up as a Christian, his parents working with YWAM in Europe. He'd moved to LA one year ago to pursue music, as well as the homosexual lifestyle and to figure some things out on his own away from his family. But things had turned out badly for his producer in this economy, and now he's struggling, not able to make his music as he'd hoped, and needs to make money and go back home. He also talked about exploring various religions and still trying to find that something that was missing.

There are some people we meet out there who, for whatever reason, you just develop a great love for. Maybe it's there innocence, or honesty, or a bond over some passion or personality quirk. Jake was one of those people for me. After a short time of talking to him (and maybe it was just the accent and fact that he looked like T.I.), I just liked him and wanted to get to know him more and see him come back to the faith he grew up with.

He was interested in our bible study, so we headed down to 7-11. Once there, he decided he couldn't come. Said he was jittery and didn't feel right about going (was high on meth even though I hadn't even noticed), and after a few minutes of talking, exchanges 'nice meeting you' and some hugs and phone numbers, he took off down the street.

Surprised that he left, we joined Antquan and Jeremiah at our bible study spot where no one else had showed up yet. I wondered if anyone was going to come as we talked to them, and then a big group headed towards us. A few BHers and the crew from the donut shop all walked up, ready for pizza and some Jesus! (ok, maybe just ready for pizza but willing to hear about Jesus). I went with Sergio to go buy some water to go with the pizza and say hi to our friend in 7-11. When we returned, there was Jake!

About 5 of 6 people had shown up for bible study, but I can't even remember who because I just knew I needed to focus on him. Clearly he was there for a reason.

By the end of the bible study and closing prayer, he was in tears. So we got to talking more, and the jist of if, along with some questions and issues we worked through, was that he had bad things happen to him growing up, he saw a lot of hypocrisy, and he'd rebelled and was trying to figure things out, but ultimately, he knew he needed to surrender to God. He just wasn't quite ready, knew he needed to feel or find something or just be ready to change. He knew he needed to go to rehab for his drug addiction and get out of this life. We kind of hit an end to our conversation, which in itself had progressed quite a bit through the night. And I began talking to some other people, mostly with 'Zach'. Krista had been talking to him, and at some point she ended up talking to Jake and I with Zach.

Zach has met our team before, and is dating a transsexual that we know pretty well. I hadn't really talked to him much, and so I learned about his love for weed, dislike of his lifestyle here and how he lives in Compton bust just comes here for his 'girlfriend'. He talked about his desire to change, his desire to change the world and do something like we were doing. About how he believes in God and Jesus but isn't following him in every way. And we had a fairly entertaining conversation about why weed was not meant to be smoked, even though God put it on this earth - not my most successful attempt at an argument, but it was clear to both of us he was just trying to justify his use.

As our conversation got more serious and about him really wanting to change, Krista asked us to all come over and pray for Jake. He'd committed to getting into a rehab program that coming Monday, and knew he needed to give his life back to God. Krista told me later that they'd also talked about his choice of homosexual lifestyle and how he knew what he was doing was wrong and knew he needed to leave that life and didn't feel right about it. After praying over him and making plans to talk on Monday after he got to rehab, he took off for the night, cheerfully and fully ready to change. Seeing the progression he'd made just during that night, how God had spoken to him so clearly and led him to change, was just amazing. And feeling bonded with such a fun guy just made it that much more exciting.

Then Krista turned the tables back onto Zach, who she'd been confronting pretty hard core about his resistance to change when he knew what he needed to do. He recognized that he needed and wanted to break up with his 'girlfriend', but was having a hard time with it because of his very real feelings for 'her'. He said he'd do it and go back to Compton and stay there, since there was nothing else in Hollywood that appealed to him. Though we also realized found out that the guy he was staying with in Compton was a pimp and he helped him out with rides, etc. We talked more about that, how that needed to change, wasn't acceptable, etc. He was still a bit resistant, so we all prayed over him just as we had with Jake. Again, just a nice, great guy to talk to who knew Christ and knew how he needed to surrender his life, but just needed the courage to make that 180.

Our long conversations kept us there until about 2:45 a.m. I didn't get to bed until 4 a.m. But I felt great about it, I went home praying for them and so excited about our encounters and seeing God do similar things in 2 totally different people's lives, and actually feeling used. I pray every week that God will bring us people who are ready to change. This week He did.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Where I Belong

"I am alive in this moment/ In this moment I am found.
I am alive in this moment
/ In this moment I belong" -Starfield

I listened to this song (Alive in This Moment) on the way to work today. A song I've grown fond of for the way it captures emotions and thoughts at various moments. Today I connected with it again, enjoying a moment of worship on my brief, mundane drive on the 57 freeway into work. Listening to that chorus, I reflected back on just a few hours before when I'd been hanging out with people in Hollywood...

See, the purpose of my life is to love God and to love people; to obey him, serve him, and make him known to others. So when I actually live out that purpose of making him known, I also come to know him in a deeper way - and end up feeling more alive; like I belong in that moment, for that purpose.

...It was very quiet on the street last night. We probably walked up and down the block 2 or 3 times before talking to anyone. Then we found a group loitering (and by loitering I mean 'working', whatever form that may take) by the donut shop. Some of our crew was already there with them, but only engaging one or two people, so we jumped in and began some conversations. Anthony, who we've known for a long time was there, so that made it much easier to get into conversations with everyone else. And then I noticed one of the guys had been at our bible study last week, and so he and I ended up talking for a while. Some about why he doesn't go to church, some about how he claimed disability to he could get unemployment because he's tired of working...basically getting to know him and expose some disconnect between his spiritual beliefs in God and his lifestyle.

All 6 of them ended up happily joining us for bible study and pizza (didn't even have to convince any of them, they all wanted to come!) A few others were already at The Refuge location when we got there, chowing down on pizza and getting to know one another. Probably about 8 or 9 people in attendance besides the BH people.

For the next few weeks Antquan is answering questions people have written down on note cards that they want us to answer, so this week's was on guy/girl relationships and friendships and what is and is not okay. Though it dealt mostly with friendship, it ended up focusing primarily on the physical aspect of relationships, which led to some good conversation afterward.

One of the attendees was a drunk homeless guy who laughed through almost the entire service. Clearly distracting for everyone, but Antquan managed to carry on as usual and keep the rest of the group focused.
And I sat next to one of the guys who had been at the donut place, who also laughed through a good portion of the sermon, high on weed and finding life pretty entertaining. I hadn't even tried to talk to him earlier because he was just laughing at everything and I knew a conversation wouldn't go anywhere.

But by the end of the service, he'd mellowed out a bit, and some of us got into a good discussion about relationships and sex and God. He expressed how he couldn't hold out from sex for very long, and we were able to talk about God's rules and plan and why he lays it out the way he does, temptation, marriage, etc. After a good conversation on the topic, what we all thought about believe, Michelle and Trang ventured off to other conversations and it ended up being just TJ and I.

We got to talking more about his beliefs, thoughts regarding the bible and God, and how he thinks he's going to hell, even though he believes in Jesus. Turns out he knows all about Jesus, forgiveness, etc, but thinks he's done too many bad things and is going to hell. He knows he can be forgiven, knows he can accept Jesus' sacrifice and turn and follow him. But he doesn't want to yet. That kind of thing is so discouraging to hear, and yet I really appreciated his honesty to just admit that he didn't want to do what he knew he needed to. He said he thinks about God, but only sometimes and only applies Christian principles to certain areas of his life. That God isn't number one for him, like he should be. He hasn't hit rock bottom yet, hasn't been so broken that he calls out to God. He's still enamored with drugs and sex and worldly 'freedom'.

I continued on with him, explaining following Christ, the gospel, empowering of the Holy Spirit etc. For a while he said, 'yeah, i want that. yeah, yeah, I want to do that, I want to go to Heaven' and so on. But when we got down to needing to confess and repent and let God change him, he said he wasn't ready. He confessed that he's just not ready to make the change he knows he needs to make.For a few brief, very exciting moments, I thought he might surrender to Christ that night. But he honestly admitted he wasn't ready. And while I want him to be, I couldn't and didn't want to force anything. I'd rather see him want Jesus and work through the 'whys' of not being ready, then expect him to pretend and fool him into thinking that praying a prayer will save him for eternity if he has no plans to change the way he's living.

But it was a great conversation. Probably one of the best I've had there. He even stayed after everyone, including his friends, had left. I'm just praying that God moves through that and we see him again and that very soon, TJ will be ready to give his life to following after Jesus.

Because though he's been drug-dealing since he was a teenager, I know he can do so much more. And he can do it with the joy of knowing God in his life!

Our conversation was frustrating at times, I know I was no eloquent, and yet God gave me all the words and courage and boldness that I needed to talk honestly to TJ and really care about his soul. And in that moment, I was truly alive in doing what I was saved to do. I pray for more and more of those types of moments in Hollywood, as well as everywhere my daily life takes me.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


From guest blogger and BH servant extraordinaire, Michelle:

Last week at Broken Hearts was quite special. I actually felt loved amongst the people of the streets. It wasn't I who was going out of my way to love them but I too felt loved in return. Clay, a homeless 16 year old, who I have been seeing reoccuringly for the past 3 weeks, saw me and gave me a huge hug. Then I saw Preston who is 19 and I always felt somewhat kindred to.

Preston and Clay considered themselves "brothers" and it was nice to see that they cared about one another. Preston likes going to the Refuge but Clay hates anything Christian-associated so he obviously wanted NOTHING to do with it even though he was starving and knew there was going to be pizza. He and Preston ended up coming...and staying.

I met John the week before last and he likes to come out to the streets to "observe" not partake. He considers himself a Christian but doesn't want to be preached at. He came out to the Refuge too.. and liked it. Hopefully he'll come again with his friend Jonathan.

Toward the end of Refuge as the night was coming to an end, I see a guy I had never seen before moping around the parking lot with a deflated football. He stood there awkwardly. I approached him and offered to play ball with him which he then replied that he 'can't catch or throw'. I left a short proximity between us and we played a game of feeble football pass. We ended up talking the whole night. Antquan quietly came up behind us on the window sill to pray for our conversation.

Bruce is from Seattle and moved out the LA 15 years ago. He smoked his first joint when he was 6 because his mom was a drug addict. He was exposed to drug abuse at an early age and eventually fell into it which led to jail 3-4 times. He has never lasted rehab for more than 12 hours. He went to a Jehovah's Witness church but doesn't consider himself under any religion. He takes bits and peices of what is "nice" and applicable to his own life. He knows his Bible but totally misinterpreted it. His knowledge and explanations had many contradictions but it was good for him to hear what he was saying because it did not make sense and he knew that. He got frustrated over it.

I let him do the talking and I just wanted to understand what he meant...It wasn't my place to convince or explain. I simply needed to listen to him and be in tune with the spirit. Anyways, frustration led him to exit and I felt like I did a poor job of being a "messenger of Christ" since I never explained anything. As he briskly left the lot, Antquan darted after him and told me to come along. Antquan affirmed Bruce and told him that he was VERY thankful that he was so frank and honest. Then Antquan encouraged me and I felt so humbled by his words.

Thanks for sharing, Michelle!

I too have wondered if I've really been a "messenger of Christ" and felt I should have said more. But I can also say that at times people just need to be heard. And Bruce got to vocalize his contradicting thoughts and beliefs and hear it himself, rather than be told his thinking was faulty. Most likely, realizing it on his own was more powerful than you saying anything. And maybe now that he's felt heard and understood, he'll be more open to hearing the truth and confronting his misunderstandings.