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. 

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