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!