Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Eve in Hollywood

I wasn't able to go home for Christmas this year, so in lieu of that and a free Christmas Eve,  I decided to make the most of the day and head to Hollywood with a few other Broken Heart-ers. We didn't do our regular ministry even though it was Thursday, but instead went up much earlier in the day to hang out with some of the people we normally see on Thursdays and Fridays.

We started out at an AA meeting with our friend "Jake", who was receiving a chip for his 30 days of sobriety, the longest he's had since leaving rehab. After celebrating there, we all went out for a bite to eat before we headed to church. Conversation quickly turned to Christ, and his ability to heal and restore and the ultimate power that he has, that not even things like AA can compare to. Because Jake doesn't entirely agree, he and Nick discussed for a while their paths of sobriety, and Nick shared about how he'd experienced coming out of a crazy lifestyle only through the saving grace of Jesus. It was a pretty cool conversation, and even if we disagreed, I think both sides heard each other out well.

Then we headed to Del Taco, where 3 guys were supposed to be meeting us. Turned out to be 5 of them - Bryan, "Ravi", "Rich", Chris and "Tyler". I wasn't sure if Rich would show up, but he came and brought 2 other friends with him. The good thing was that there was a bunch of people, the bad was that we couldn't all fit in Nick's car. So Nick took a few people to church and dropped Jake back off for another meeting, and then came back for the rest of us. But while we were waiting, Rich decided he wanted to change clothes and would hurry back to meet us. We doubted he'd make it back...and I think he made it back in time, but thought we'd already left, so he went to the donut shop where he ran into some other friends. So, when the rest of us met up with Nick, we drove around looking for Rich, couldn't find him, and then just as we saw him and turned around to pick him up in the donut shop, Nick got pulled over for a fix-it ticket! So as he was waiting for the cop to write the ticket, we saw Rich leave with some people, and we couldn't get out and grab him because we were surrounded by cops (apparently fix-its are the most important thing they have to do on a street surrounded with drug dealers, drunk drivers and prostitution).

So, even though he was the person I was most excited about coming with us that night, we ended up losing him. But the rest of us set off to the Hollywood Church anyway for their Christmas Eve service. After church we all headed to the store to pick up some food for dinner...stood in an incredibly long line...and then headed to Antquan's place to make dinner and watch a movie.

For quite a while I've been wanting to have more time to just hang out with people we  meet, to do regular life stuff and share food and homes and get to know each other better than just a couple hours each week. So this time to just be friends and hang out with both people we know well, and some that we don't as well, was awesome.  A great way to spend Christmas...even  if there was all kinds of craziness all day from losing parking tickets, to getting fix-it tickets, to running late to church and losing people and not being able to get the TV to work, to watching the twisted Donnie Darco. I didn't include all of the mishaps...maybe Satan was trying to mess up our day...but it turned out well either way, trying to share the love that Christ came to bring to all  of us. Definitely not my typical warm, cozy, family Christmas Eve in Colorado...but just maybe one of my best Christmas Eve's yet. :)  

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Underestimating God

Usually God stops the rain when we hit the Santa Monica boulevard pavement. Not this week. It poured down almost the entire time we were there. But rain or shine – we’re there!

So, with a plan B and C for where we could do bible study, we headed out to quickly gather anyone on the street we could find, then hurry over to Magee’s Donuts to ask Jack if we could hold The Refuge in his shop. When we got across the street, several of us headed to the security station to say hi to some of our friends there. They weren’t able to join us…but as Kayla talked with them, Jorge, Charlie and I got to visit with “Ravi’s” friend “Oz”, who none of us had met before. He was fairly quiet, but we heard about how he has a music label and is just working to do more with that, because he’s passionate about any kind of music. He had joined Jorge and Ravi for bible study that night, but doesn’t typically attend church. Both of them also joined us for Refuge later on.

As the rain slowed a bit, we headed down the street and ran into some other people from our team as well as some people they’d begun talking to. A young man walked up shortly after, recognizing one of the guys our team was talking to. They’d been roommates in a mental hospital together for a couple of weeks, apparently.

Maybe it was the influence of alcohol, or maybe it was just the right time and place, but this young man quickly opened up about how he’s making bad choices, being stupid (his words, not mine), addicted to drugs and alcohol, and wants to do more with his life. He acknowledged that he’s lost and wants more, wants help, and that God clearly brought him there at that moment for a reason. It was incredibly easy to talk about God, the bible, the peace and freedom that He brings, and relationship with him. But I think the alcohol also affected his ability to really listen and let it sink it, because though he agreed and was excited, didn’t seem to be completely responding. But he anxiously joined us for bible study (though he left a few minutes in…apparently the addiction won out this time).

By the time we actually got to Magee’s, my boots and light jacket were pretty much soaked, and I (along with many others) was freezing. But who would’ve expected that walking in we’d see about 10 people already sitting there. So, after a quick bible study out of the rain, we sat in groups and discussed what we’d heard for quite a while (I was with Han, Bryan, and Jonas, a guy we’ve known for a while but only see from time to time).

I know that at this point it shouldn’t surprise me that God can work under any circumstances…yet it truly does surprise me that even when it rains, we always find people to talk to. In fact, as I think back, I don’t think we’ve had one rainy night that didn’t produce a really great conversation…and those are always the days I expect nothing to really happen, thinking no one will be out in the rain and cold. Maybe it’s time I stop underestimating God.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Small Changes Can Be Big Things

Though the weather outside was (slightly) frightful last night in Hollywood, it did not prevent us from engaging in some great conversations and having many people at The Refuge service.

As soon as we strolled over to Donut Time, a tall, mid-aged black man walked out with his coffee and donuts in one hand, Popeye's Chicken bag in another, and said hi to us as soon as he recognized us. After a quick mention that he sells hats on Hollywood Blvd, I remembered him from months ago…maybe even a year ago. I had met him right around the same corner while he was waiting for a bus. 'Ron' reintroduced himself and it didn’t take long for him to recognize that God had apparently set this appointment.

He explained that he feels God calling him to “do what we do” - going out and telling people about Him. He’s a Christian, and talks to people about God when he gets the chance, but feels that something much bigger is coming with the start of the new year. That God’s calling him to something greater, and he’s starting to accept that, while realizing it’s a huge responsibility. “I don’t know if I’m ready,” he told us, also expressing excitement for what was to come. (ha, I know the feeling). When we told him about bible study, he knew he needed to come, even though it wasn’t the most convenient time, because he felt like this had to be from God. He said he almost never comes to this Donut Shop because it’s out of the way and normally he goes to a different one on his way home. But for “some reason” he’d decided to come to this one tonight, and that had put him in our path.

While Han and I were talking to him, Jeremiah began talking to two other guys in the donut shop (one who we’d met a few weeks ago who loves arguing against God), and at midnight the 6 of us walked down to bible study together. Shortly after arriving, we were joined by two of the security guards we talk to each week. That was incredibly exciting, because they’re normally either working, or heading home, or just don’t wan to come at midnight. They even both participated in the service by sharing some of their Christmas traditions, as Antquan was speaking on the topic of Christmas and who/what we should really be celebrating. At the end of the message when we broke up into groups, one of them said he's trying to learn more and would be sure to return to our service. And the other, who Kayla's been trying to get to come for a long time, said  he'd also return, and asked to take a Bible home!

As we talked with them, several others engaged with the same guy Jeremiah had been talking to, which meant a lot of debating. But his friend he'd been with hung around and talked with others on the team. After the security guards left, two other  guys showed up - one who I know, the other who I'd seen but hadn't met before. They stopped by for some pizza and conversation, and Kayla and I talked to Eric for a while, tossing around light conversation. Soon after that, our friend "Alex" showed up with another of his friends. He was in a better mood than I'd seen him in a while...and also in a shorter dress than I'd seen him in before (and I didn't really think it could get any shorter. But it did). We just talked briefly with the two of them, but I think his friend "Blaine" was one of the nicest people I've met out there. Also two of THE prettiest men I've met out there...I honestly forget that they're not women when I'm talking with them. 

Alex and I exchanged numbers for the millionth time (he always seems to have a new one), and said we'd call each other soon, acknowledging that we all need to hang out more. 

So many people, in addition to those already occupying my thoughts, gave me much to pray for on the ride home. Nothing profound from the night, necessarily, but  as  Kayla and I had talked about earlier, many people here require that we prove our commitment and trustworthyness, and with time and the planting of seeds, things begin to change. 

There was a new level of interest last night from several individuals, and that in and of itself is a huge thing! Please pray those seeds take root and begin to grow deeper and wider.