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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My broken heart - for/because of the broken-hearted

4 stabbings in the Hollywood area on Thursday night. Our friend 'Jake' was back out on the street, on meth, and ignoring us. Some of the other younger guys who often hang out with us were rolling joints when we got to the donut shop and also dodging our attempts to talk to them. Ricky brushed me off when I told him I had come up the past Sunday to take him to church and he didn't show.

That street was filled with many teary eyes that night from our team. Several people who had come out to our exposure night have expressed that you can almost feel the presence of Satan here. That something about this place just seems to have such a satanic grip on it, unlike many other places.

At least for me, it was a very discouraging night. I was no longer rejoicing in a visit from Big Mama and her son (our nephew, as she always says). Or the great conversation i had with a kid named Julian who came to bible study. Instead I was just frustrated over the disappointments, and burdened with a feeling like our presence there was useless; and a feeling of "God, if you want us here, why aren't you doing anything. USE US! Change their hearts! What's the point otherwise??! Are we crazy for being here?"

I read the first 3 chapters of Jeremiah the next day, seeking wisdom and comfort in the weeping profit who loved the people and city and had to pronounce destruction on and resonated greatly with it.

Then yesterday I was listening to a sermon on Hell, and on all that Jesus went through for us because he loved us. And it made me think of what a perfect picture he is of loving people, sacrificing for us, and giving everything he had and was for people who still rejected him; for people who are still rejecting him. He knew exactly how we'd respond to his ultimate sacrifice and love, and yet still chose to live and die the way he did.

I don't know why God allows us to pursue people and love them and go share his love with them, only to be rejected. I don't know why he doesn't just change their hearts and cause them to respond. I don't know why he relentlessly pursued us, knowing that few would actually love him back and give their life back to him in return. But I do know he has a perfect plan. I know he operates in ways I don't understand. And I do understand, that, as J.Vernon McGee says: "This is God's Universe and he does things His way. You may have a better way, but you don't have a universe!"

And as tempting as it can be to turn my back on the whole thing and go where there seems to be more of a harvest, I know that I feel called here and simply can't leave these people drowning in the darkness.

I'll just sum up with some help from one of my favorite singers, Ginny Owens:

He could have prospered in the suburbs
Instead of working for the poor
Down at the inner-city mission
Where there's so much disappointment and very few rewards.

For every victory there's a failure
On these harsh and empty streets
But if you ask what keeps him going
He'll say, "I know where I'd be if Christ had given up on me"

Beneath the symbol of a lost cause
Is where I take my stand.
Beneath the emblem of a Roman cross
of a Sacrificial Lamb.
Cause love never claims the victory
Till it finally gives it's all.
And that's why the grave is empty
Beneath the symbol of a lost cause.

I've been a slave to popular opinions,
And I've memorized the Gospel of success,
I've had a taste of the politics of power
And the glamour that commands the world's respect.
But when my eyes are turned to Jesus,
Nailed on a Cross to die for me,
I hear a cock crow in the distance
And it shatters my illusions and drives me to my knees

Where the last and the least meet the Prince of their Peace,
Where the humble are honored and the hungry come to feast-
Beneath the symbol of a lost cause.

* Jake called me the following Saturday to apologize and talk more about his desire for rehab and spiritual growth. There's hope yet. My spirit was greatly lifted during that conversation..and God's still working when we can't see...