Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving 09

Another Thanksgiving celebration in Hollywood is behind us. Once again, Broken Hearts hosted a meal with the help of Hope Again and their home on Sunset. Several of their residents joined us, along with a few people from the boulevard, some volunteers from Basileia and The Hollywood Church, as well as a small army from RockHarbor (okay, maybe not that many, but there was an outpouring of people who wanted to serve on this holiday).

About 50-60 of us crammed into the dining area, talking about thankfulness with strangers and catching up with old friends. Big Mama and her baby, Jorge, were there along with her boyfriend Bear. And a guy, "Mark" that we'd met on the street last Thursday. Additionally we had several people who live at Hope Again who probably wouldn't have had a place to go for Thanksgiving otherwise.

To me, it was a great blessing to see everyone intermixing and excited to serve however God wanted. Family from various churches were getting to know each other, people from different backgrounds, ages, ministries, etc all participated and got to shre in the experience of God's family. I know I came away from the day knowing several new people from my church I'd never met before and excited to see them get a glimpse of what's happening in Hollywood.

After we cleaned up the meal, several of the volunteers from RockHarbor stuck around and we took leftovers to the street. Because we were there so early, it was VERY quiet. There were about a handful of people on the street, so it took a few hours to hand out the leftover food. We met a man I hadn't seen before by Donut Time (which was closed. The first time I've ever seen it closed!) and chatted with him for a while about his day. Then we headed down the street and saw several of the security guards we know, and with some convincing, were able to give them some of the food. As we headed just a few steps further down, we ran into Zoe, who I've written about just a few times, but WAY back in earlier blogs. Zoe was one of the first people I met on the street, and then saw again about 6 months ago. But other than that never see him anymore. So, I was shocked to see him, to say the least. Me and a few others including Big Mama and Bear stood with Zoe for the next 45 minutes or so, catching up and hearing some hard stuff about life.

He told us that his dad has just passed away, and his mom is in the hospital expected to die fairly soon. He said he planned to commit himself to a mental hospital when his mom dies. He already feels like he's losing it and thinks that'll just make him insane. He told us he'd been in and out of recovery places and rehabs as well as jail, and is back on the street to make an easy buck. As Big Mama said, "this one's a rock. It's like talking to a wall." Bear and Big Mama offered help, as well as the suggestion to get into church and off of the street. But Zoe isn't ready. Hasn't been yet. He said he hasn't been scared into changing, and that he has to be scared to stop. Essentially, he has so little value for his life and so little hope, that the life he's living seems perfectly fine. Why not stay high and make easy money prostituting when you have nothing else? What's the point of setting goals or making plans or trying anything else?

I didn't go too much into the hope God can give, because we've had that talk more than once before. And I reassured him that the BH team is always there for him if he needs anything. But truly, he's like talking to a brick wall and until he's been softened or even more broken or is ready, he won't hear any of it. It killed me to see that, to hear that he's not grateful for anything and always sleeps through Thanksgiving and Christmas. But that he won't accept any help and won't change, even though he hates his life. That's how hopeless he is. Please pray for him!

I think one of the coolest parts of the night for me was how, during that conversation as well as two others later with people we met walking around, that Bear and Big Mama were able to offer help, encouragement, and wisdom based on their own experiences. I had a lot of time to get to know Bear better and hear about his life. 15 years in prison for murder, cage fighting, uncountable acts of extreme violence towards others, drug abuse, etc.  And now he lives in the Open Arms program, running a transitional living home and helping others get in and through the program. He and Big Mama (who has quite the story of her own - living on the streets, years of being beaten, prostitution, etc) are planning on moving into an apartment soon to raise Jorge and their new one on the way and getting on with their changed lives. Both attend church regularly with Open Arms  and when I asked Bear about what had changed him he said, "God changed me."

He and Big Mama were able to share their lives and testimonies and experiences with others who are in that same position and tell people that they need God. Which I think can often have a bit more impact than coming from someone like me, who many feel they can't relate to.

In all, a good night, although slightly bittersweet seeing that there is still SO much pain here that simply can't be healed apart from Christ. And so many people running away from their one source of healing. But praise God for the encouragement from other people from church who were able to experience another way of life, and the encouragement of those lives he's already changed and will continue to use.

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