Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sometimes we say the craziest things someone's ever heard on the street

This week we had a smaller group on the street, four guys and myself. So two of them went to get pizza while three of us went to invite people to bible study. I've written before that when there's only a few of us and the streets seem quiet, things just don't seem to go well, or go as planned. There were maybe 15 people on the street total  ( and only that many if you count the six people who the police had lined up against the wall on one of the side streets). On the surface, things didn't appear promising.

As we crossed the street from Del Taco to Donut Time, we passed a man on crutches. We made eye contact and exchanged smiles. After arriving across the street and glancing around to see who was there and who we might talk to, a young man hanging out outside quickly said hello and we began a conversation.
 "A" recognized us quickly as "the church people" and told us that he's been going to church his whole life (until he was 18). We told him about our Thanksgiving meal we'd be doing next week and he quickly promised he'd be there. He was easy to talk to and get to know, as the world seemed a very happy place to him that evening (clearly pretty high as he was also doing some drug deals in the donut shop).

After several minutes of chatting, he insisted that we meet his friend, the man we had passed in the crosswalk. He was sure that his friend would want to come to Thanksgiving as well. Eventually, he came back from Del Taco with some food and we were introduced. He scoffed at the idea of joining us for church, but continued talking with us. "A" told him about Thanksgiving, and he began a rant about how he doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving or any holiday. We weren't really trying to convince him of anything, but he argued his point and defended himself and kept trying to convince us of how wrong our traditions and plans seemed to be. It only took a few minutes for me to realize that, without him saying anything, he's harboring a lot of anger and has probably had some really bad experiences with holidays, likely related to family. So I left the topic alone, but we bantered back and forth about it all evening.

It was an interesting contrast with A and Lou, the guy on crutches. A was laughing and happy and excited about everything from free pizza that night to Thanksgiving. Lou wanted to argue with just about everything that came out of our mouths, but luckily not in a mean way.  We persisted in mentioning church and free pizza, even though Lou said he wouldn't go and it was too far to walk. But God must have been having a similar yet unseen conversation with them too, because just as we were on the verge of walking away  they decided to come with us and bring another friend.

Jeremiah gave a sermon about the bad patterns of behavior that we get ourselves into, and then we all talked more afterwards. I expected at least two of the guys to leave, but they hung around for a bit. We had some good conversation, along with more banter. Once again, Lou brought the conversation back to frustrations he seemed to have pent up...telling me we don't have street smarts and that I wouldn't make it a day on the street. "Yep, you're right. I'm not saying I would" was basically my response. I mostly agreed with what he said, because it was true and I'd never stated otherwise. He just seemed to want to argue about how different we all are. Then he brought it back to Thanksgiving and how he thought our dinner was the craziest thing he'd ever heard.

"I've never heard anyone say something like that to me before. That's crazy. There's something not right about that. I'm gonna have to marinate in that one for a while. That's got me thinkin," he went on. The idea of us asking strangers to Thanksgiving and offering to pick them up sounded to him like some weird, unsafe, sketchy situation. I assured him we were safe, but that he didn't need to come and was free to feel freaked out by it if he wanted. So...not sure where that might lead, but hopefully some trust will be built with him as we hopefully  see him more.

 I spent most of the evening talking with them as Jeremiah spent time talking to their friend Mario. I'm not sure what happened there, but I know they talked about him getting out of a bad cycle he was in and they seemed to be in a really good conversation. A and Lou then decided to bust out their dope and  roll a joint. That was about the time they decided to go, as we told them to put it away and  as our security friends rolled up to say hi.

After that we chatted with the security guards for a few moments, who have been coming more and more. Please pray that they'll continue to enjoy visiting us so we can get to know them even better. And for the three  men who came, that we'd see them again and be able to build good relationships. And that while they consider themselves Christians, that they'd really experience Jesus and be filled with his spirit for transformed lives.