Friday, August 6, 2010

Hip Hop, Teens, and Changed Lives

I could only assume that last night was going to be a good one. Why? Only a few hours earlier I had been informed that a group of kids on a missions trip would be coming out with us...and I was tired, unmotivated, and lacking energy to "host". That typically means that God's going to do something great to display his glory in my weakness.

Arriving at the 7-11 parking lot (our new meeting spot because Del Taco has shut down), I saw a massive group standing around Antquan. "Oh my gosh...are you kidding me?" is what I believe I muttered under my breath. Having groups come out with us can actually be very refreshing and bring new energy to what we do...but over 30 teens and a few adults looking very out of place made me very uneasy. Relationships and trust take a long time to build on the street, and naiive one-time visitors can affect our witness and trust with one wrong word or evangelistic approach. And of course we never want to make people feel like they're being put on display to be rescued by the privileged white kids.

However, that naiivete can also be of great benefit...they will approach people in bold new ways, without prejudice or expectation and often form great bonds. This group had been trained earlier in the week, and practicing sharing their faith in two different contexts each day. They were excited and expecting God to do big things. 

When our Refuge service started, about 10 people had come to join us. The group was also helping to run the service this night...with music, a short drama and hip hop dancing. Again, I was apprehensive about the small amp set up for music, and the very large circle taking over the parking lot. So were the security guards who rolled up often, looking suspicious but not saying anything. 

But as usual, my concerns were no match for God's plans, and the hip hop circle went over well and drew in a few more people...causing me to think about a similar idea we'd had a while back and never put into action. Seeing it happen helped me see it might be time to start thinking about implementing that. An interpretive drama followed - a well-portrayed demonstration of Jesus taking our "chains" and setting us free. After some music and a bit more hanging out and pizza-eating, we all sat down on the curb while Antquan shared a short message, expanding on the drama.

Though he didn't specifically determine groups and ask people to split into them, the teenagers were on it. They formed their own groups quickly and began discussions about all that had just been seen and experienced. 

I'm not sure of what took place in each conversation, but I did see many long conversations, prayers, and excitement at the conclusion. As we find out these stories, we can continue on with these planted seeds and relationships even though the teens will be headed back to Dallas soon.

Please also pray for the Broken Hearts teams, as we are few in number right now and need more volunteers and leaders to carry on these relationships and bring our own new excitement to the mission.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

the Process of Relationship

Relationship is a process. 

Trusting Christ and coming into relationship with him takes time. Friendship and trust between individuals is equally as challenging and requires just as much patience.  So hard to remember, though! When it comes to ministry, most of us want the quick fix. An immediate response to an altar call. A change of heart when someone hears about Jesus' love for the first time. Seeing someone so lost turn from their old ways and change. And not that the Holy Spirit can't create immediate change or display a miracle in an instance - he can and does. But more often than not, it seems that God takes his time with us, and wants us to do the same with others. 

When people come check out Broken Hearts, it seems that if nothing major happens, it's a bit of a disappointment. Like one night of coming to talk about Jesus to people hanging out on the street should result in an immediate conversion. And based on the number of people that come in and out of Broken Hearts, I'd say the process of relationship and lasting change is wearying. I know it is for me.  

But I know I'm stubborn and hard-hearted and change in my own life takes a great amount of learning and time. So should it be any different for anyone else?

This Thursday, however, was a great reminder to me of how far many of our relationships have come. When I arrived, "Ravi" and Big Mama, two of our oldest friends were already there with  the rest of the crew...

The first time I met Ravi, he barely spoke to me. He looked completely disinterested and  hesitant, but I kept plowing through conversation as if I didn't notice.  A year and a half or so later, he and I talk every week and hang out on a regular basis. He consults with me for questions, as well as about concerns for people on the street. He is a big part of the men's bible study and of Broken Hearts each week. He prayed for Big Mama this week and it was so evident to me how much God has matured and changed him. He has been in close relationship with Antquan since we met him, and it is evident that God is using Antquan to disciple Ravi as he becomes more and more like Christ. Lasting change through relationship demonstrated.

The more I spend time with Big Mama recently, I see greater maturity in her as well. She trusts God more, prays more, loves more, refrains from bad habits, and speaks truth to the many people she knows from her time around Santa Monica Boulevard. Watching her react differently, act more calmly and think more clearly is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in her life. Again, relationship with her husband, her church, and those in Broken Hearts have been used to influence her greatly. 

When we split up in groups, one of the first people I saw was Jonas, who immediately got on my case about not calling him that week. We'd talked for a long time about hanging out, but he had just gotten a phone and I could finally reach him. But the hectic week prevented me from calling. And he noticed - he wanted to hang out. Our first meeting a few years ago was brief when I started ministry. About a year later I saw him again, recognized him and remembered his name. The look on his face was confusion and almost fear, wondering how this random girl on the street knew who he was. Again, conversation was a bit like pulling teeth. Now, any given week, when I hear someone yelling, "Holly!!" from across the street to get my attention, I know it's Jonas without even having to look. And on the most basic level, he has a place to live, attends church every weekend, and is one of the most active participants of our Refuge service each Thursday.

We saw another old friend this week who preaches about Jesus all the time...but also gets caught up in the street life. He asked about Krista, saying  that she had such a big impact on him and would call him out on the sketchy activities he was engaging in and taught him so much about the Bible and God. He jumped in on our prayer time right away when he saw us, just as an old friend would.

Today my friend "Jake" prayed with me over the phone for a situation with a friend and his words showed it was clear that he's drawing nearer and nearer to Jesus and trusting in him more all the time. 
These were just a few examples of the evening, but there are plenty more. I often get so used to what our relationships have become, that I forget where they started. When I do, and I think about how these people used to think, act and feel, I see God's hand powerfully at work in their lives.

But it's not easy...and some of this has taken place over 3 years. And I've grown in the process just as much as they have. I think about what my pastor told me about his friend who has lived and worked as a missionary in Hong Kong for over 20 years. She grumbled to him one day about "short-term missionaries": people who stay only about 10 years. It makes you laugh...but then it makes you think. 

"Missions" or "ministry" is not short-term or one-time. It's an ongoing, every day, messy-part-of-your-life-process. But be patient. And look back to remember in order to continue ahead. God is always at work.