Saturday, July 17, 2010

My friend Jeremiah wrote the following as part of a blog about this past week in Hollywood and church....

...I absolutely marvel at what happens every Thursday night on Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood! Every Thursday for the past five-plus years, a small team of young people (many of whom are white college students from affluent homes) have assembled on a street corner in the middle of the night, prayed publicly, and then went and mingled with the prostitutes, drug dealers, addicts, transgenders, and other outcasts of society.

I have witnessed countless illegal transactions and scantily clad boys. I have been spit on and cussed at. I have been solicited by dealers and prostitutes, and harassed by security guards and the police. But I have also seen lives changed. More than once, I have seen someone become pleasantly surprised when they learned that the enjoyable conversation they were having was not with a fellow street person but with a Christian who drove 40 miles (each way) in the middle of the night just to show them the love of Jesus. I have a handful of stories I can tell of real growth and restoration that has occurred in the lives of these people that society wrote off years ago.

Mind you that we encounter many people on the streets and it's not like they just decided one day to have a sex-change operation, start snorting cocaine, and begin selling their body to strangers on the boulevard. Every person has a unique, and always sad, story about how they came to be who and where they are. Most were abused or abandoned at a very early age. Many people we encounter are bitter and resentful. They gave up hope long ago and don't want any pity or help from us. They do their thing and we do our thing. It's a minority that accepts us and talks with us.  It is this minority, and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, that has kept us coming back each week.

 There were just two team members last night, me and Holly.  After praying, we quickly went inside the donut shop and bought some drinks and began seeing some people that we did know. We talked to some people we hadn't seen in a while about recent family issues, recent deaths, stints in prison, and more. Holly and I made a point of inviting at least three people to our midnight church service - and  loudly enough that everyone around got the invite as well. One guy heard one of my loud announcements, and drunkenly turned to me and asked "You guys gonna have pizza tonight? I haven't eaten in days."

No one wanted to follow us, so Holly and I walked down to where the church services are usually held, bought a dozen donuts, and proceeded to sit on a window sill and talk while we waited to see who would show up. After roughly ten minutes, a group of people rounded the corner and approached us. There were six people. We smiled and greeted them and asked if they came for the donuts. Four of them said, "We came for donuts and to hear the sermon." The other two said, "We came just for the sermon."

We all gathered in a circle, held hands, and prayed for the food. Then everyone sat and I gave a sermon. As I often do, I left the sermon open for discussion. So, in the middle of it, one guy asked who wrote the Bible and another guy mentioned that his favorite book of the Bible is Revelation. Two people in particular reminded me of elementary-age kids in a Sunday School class. They added their thoughts to the lesson and wanted to make sure they answered every question I asked. They were proud of their involvement, excited even.

The six people who came to the service last night left with an air of accomplishment, a bit of a glow even. They had learned something new and seen old things in a new way. A part of them had been cleansed a little such that they were refreshed. They said they'd be bringing more people back next week, because lots of people need "this".

Allow me to put all this into proper perspective; most people who linger in our area of Hollywood do so for one of the following reasons: to buy or sell drugs, to buy or sell sex. That means that it's highly likely that these people put off making financial transactions long enough to come and hear a message about God. When was the last time that you left your cubicle, your shopping cart, your check stand, your desk, or your place in line to attend an impromptu church service? If someone approached you next week at your place of work or while you were out shopping and invited you to a 15-minute Bible study in a parking lot, would you consider that an inconvenience or an opportunity that's worth putting everything else on hold for?

Only God knows what's going to happen to these six people and what exactly was going through their heads last night, but one thing is certain. They felt that the word of God was worth forgoing all else, at least for a moment, in spite of any temporary inconvenience...

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