Saturday, February 27, 2010


One of the reasons I was drawn to Broken Hearts, and continue to be, is that there is a level of rawness to the people hanging out on the boulevard. Everyone, from them to cops to the community, knows what goes down on that street corner and the type of people who hang out there. So there's no hiding. Most people are pretty open about their illegal activities, as well as their brokenness. 

I hear people who have been on missions trips to third-world countries feel similarly - that people are so down and out that it makes it much easier to reach them. Yet in Hollywood, we're not seeing hundreds come to Christ like you might on a trip to Africa or India. And it finally clicked me with the other day that while people are openly broken, they've also got up some of the thickest walls you can imagine.

For some reason I think I've often taken that rawness for transparency and vulnerability, but I think I was wrong (as I often am about my thinking in this ministry). Last night Antquan explained to some new volunteers the idea of the people we meet being in imaginary prisons, like walking around with a cage around them that they think they'll never get out of, and that others can only enter into so far without the key. But that finding that key is the hard part. I'd never heard him explain it quite this clearly before, and it totally captured what I was wrestling with. 

One of the first barriers is getting people past years of learned thinking that this way of life is just how it is and there's no getting out, and now it's just learning how to survive in that jail cell they carry around with them all of the time. Which, from the brief counseling knowledge I've acquired, probably takes a loooonng time to get through. Then there's finding that key. How do you find it? What unlocks the cage? How many failed attempts will there be? And do they even want you to unlock that cage? 

Last night I spent about a half hour with a guy I've known for a while, hearing about how he's abstained from meth for a month already, but is high on weed 24/7, according to him. I tried to find out more, like why he feels the need to be high all the time. After peppering him with questions (only because I know subtlety doesn't work too well with him, especially when he's already high), the furthest we got was that he can't deal with people when he's sober. Without saying much, it was clear there's probably all kinds of hurt and issues that he just can't manage with a sober mind, so he has to cover it up with some kind of drug, even if he's clean of meth. 

That's how many of my conversations go...ask questions, try to hear what they're not saying, and not get very far. They might be open about what they do and their sin, but try to get to the reasons why, and you run into that nearly-impenetrable wall with no key in your hand. 

I believe more and more that two factors - the Holy Spirit, and time - are the only things that will break down these walls. I really wanted the chance to simply pray with our friend last night, but didn't get an opportunity. Because my words and questions can only do so much, but the Spirit has a completely different kind of power that can break through those barriers. And despite the lack of opportunity to pray, Antquan's sermon spoke perfectly to what we'd just been discussing, and he actually stayed and listened to the whole thing. Antquan had planned it earlier, had no idea what "Jay" and I had talked about, and yet God used the perfect words to solidify his message through us.

As far as the factor of time, continuing to get to know him, sharing our lives, letting him see how we live ours, and loving him through the day-ins and day-outs build trust and leave an open opportunity for that day that he just needs to have someone hear him out. But that might not be for months or years down the road. I know that because I've seen it happen with people...after months of befriending them and getting the short, simple, safe answers, someone will eventually take away one of those bricks from their wall and let you - and Christ -  in just a little bit further. And if I've learned anything, it is to be faithful to our calling just as God is faithful to us. Because when someone's ready to come to Him, he's there to set them free.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Good Discussions

Church on the street is great.

These days, I'm fully convinced that going out and being the church and meeting people where they're at is how the church should really be. But I had never really thought about it before Broken Hearts, and so I'm just lucky that I sort of stumbled onto it and am now part of a church expression that I value so highly.

The past few weeks, there have been a lot of people at The Refuge service at midnight. We'd had many weeks of 1-2 people in addition to our team, but these days the numbers have grown. But what I really love about it is seeing who shows up and how the discussion goes. Several different weeks, we've had individuals refuse to come to Bible study, totally disinterested...only to show up on their own accord.

This last week we had a few returners, who also brought disinterested friends with them. I'd asked a guy hanging out with us on the street corner if he'd come, and he kept saying no, although we did get to chat beforehand. And lo and behold, he not only came but fully participated in the service.

We had another guy come, and his face looked vaguely familiar, but it took me a long time to talk to him  because I was pretty sure I hadn't met him before. But as soon as I introduced myself and asked if we'd met, he said, "yeah, I'm "Ty", but I met you a while ago going by "Anthony"". Then it all came back to me, I knew exactly who he was - odd, because we'd only spent one night talking and I hadn't seen him since. But amazingly, I still remembered who he was and bits of the conversation we'd had. In fact, I'm pretty sure I had written about him on this blog.

The last we'd talked, he was temporarily homeless. He was really down and struggling a lot, and just trying to find a place to live and maintain his job. We'd talked for quite a while, prayed, and exchanged phone numbers. He called me a few days later letting me know he'd found a temporary place to stay. And I never heard from him again. When I met him this week, he was living in an apartment by Santa Monica beach, still holding his wonderful PR job, and seemed very happy with things. He also joined The Refuge and was a big participant in all of the discussion.

Please pray that these great discussions would not only serve to educate, make people think, and bring people together, but that they would always result in the opportunity and acceptance to hear the gospel and receive God's Spirit.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


I feel like I haven't written in forever. I suppose because the past few weeks have been fairly mellow and not particularly unusual.

Jeremiah has not really preached during The Refuge, but rather read through a chapter of Genesis and then we've opened it up for discussion and questions, which has actually been very cool. While teaching is necessary, it's also cool to see how taking a break really does bring out all kinds of questions. But rather than Jere just answer everything, the people who come to the bible study also participate in answering questions and giving their opinions. From 'did dinosaurs exist?' to 'why did God put a tree of good and evil in the garden?', we've had some great discussion.

But it always strikes me that some of these people on the street know the bible and have thought about these things just as much as us. Yet their lives don't match up to their knowledge. Granted, ours often don't either...but I think our desire to change and live by the spirit is the difference. The Spirit doesn't seem to be a part of their lives...or something. I can't judge each person and act like I know their spiritual life, but can a good tree bear bad fruit?

I'm just praying that so many of these who join us each week and hear the Word of God would actually internalize it, receive the Holy Spirit and be transformed for his glory.