Friday, September 30, 2011

Words Can't Explain

I’ve always hated one thing about journalism and storytelling.

As a writer, you get to hear the full story of someone’s experience that you’re writing about. Then you have to condense it, choosing what’s “most important” and sharing a recap for your audience. The audience never knows the difference. The writer remembers the shared emotions, tears, laughs, and entirety of the story that makes the “most important” points so significant.

It’s something only you and your interviewee get to share, and cutting out any of their story feels so unfair. You know your audience will never fully understand...and that has always made me sad. Every single article I’ve written, it frustrates me beyond belief to keep cutting and shortening the story, wishing I could convey all that I’d heard.
That’s how I feel about Thursday nights…and all Broken Hearts experiences. Especially last night. There was so much that happened and many levels of significant that I can’t possibly share in a blog. Yet, as always, I will do my best to convey the “most important” moments and enjoy the rest for myself, with God.
This week was “White as Snow”, our monthly free laundry service. Last month was fairly slow and chill, so I wasn’t expecting to walk in this week about an hour after it had started to see the Laundromat filled with people.

By the time I got there, we were almost out of quarters. That has never happened. In fact, we always go home with extra. This time, two hours before it ended, we were frantically trying to round up the leftover quarters for laundry, even as more people were coming.

One guy, who I’ve met a few times but don’t know, stopped me to ask a question. He acknowledged we didn’t really know each other but he’d heard a lot about me from one of our other friends that I see and help out frequently. He was looking for a job and place to stay, and that conversation led to an opportunity to hang out for a bit and hear about his life. All I had to say was, “so, what’s your story?” and he spilled a whole lot.
Let me tell you, I am constantly encouraged and inspired by people I meet on the boulevard. They have been through things you wouldn’t wish on your enemy, and yet have so much strength and faith in God and are content in so many circumstances, it blows my mind.
 I can go out upset about something happening in my life, and after one conversation, I’m just ready to praise God! Yet the beauty is that they need incredible encouragement and continual pointing back to God, so we get to serve one another. Like this guy, who was so happy to take a bible for free as we talked about the life that’s found in just reading and dwelling on the Word and in prayer.

As our bible study closed – and we hadn’t left the Laundromat to even tell people about bible study – we settled into our “seats” (on the wall and sidewalk) for The Refuge. There were probably about 17 of us to start, and the more kept coming…and coming. I counted 22 who actually came and stayed for all of almost all of the message!

As I watched, I nearly teared up (which is a lot of emotion for me). For months, we’d had just a handful of people at bible study, often ones we’d had to persuade slightly to come hang out. These recent weeks, people just flood in by their own accord and knowledge that we’re there. It blows my mind every time.
What really threw me this time, though, was that one guy who is strongly agnostic, who I’ve had religious debates with came. He generally says hi and rolls on, not wanting to be a part of what we’re doing. But he came in this time…and stayed. This is one of those times you can’t ever know the fully story. But the fact that this drug dealer and anti-Christ came and stayed completely baffled me. In fact, he hugged Antquan at the end and told him it was a great message. What?!

This particular week, Antquan decided to do something completely different. He spoke about living for Christ and not the world – in action, not just word - as he has been in recent weeks…but then invited people to come up,  to receive prayer for breakthrough.

We’d been talking about seeing breakthrough in some pattern in our life. Several people had shared thoughts that I knew were just what others needed to hear… and about five people went up there for prayer. Then we all circled around and prayed together simultaneously and out loud for these people and each other.
All I know is, the Holy Spirit was moving in that moment. Nothing like that has ever happened. I looked up near the end and one guy I’d invited last minute was tearing up. Then, one of our long-term friends who we haven’t seen in weeks, prayed for us as a ministry. That rarely happens. And for me, in the midst of weeks of weakness, trial, feelings of inadequacy and worry about provision, his prayer was so ridiculously encouraging to me.
 It showed me that God is moving. That God DOES want me here. That he’s going to provide. That we ARE making a difference for his Kingdom here. And I cried (which is not normal for me out there).

Afterward, I chatted with two men, one the guy I’d invited who had received prayer and been pretty emotional. He kept saying how inspired he was, how God had brought him here. His continued tears and  stories showed that, while he is a Christian, he was struggling and was being encouraged to fight the good fight.

Another guy who had randomly showed up because his car had broken down talked with us, so passionate about Jesus. They were both SO excited about what we were doing. They were encouraging each other. We were praising Jesus together. I felt like I was at church, honestly. 
Then I looked around at the other conversations, laughter, prayer, etc that were happening. I was so struck at this family that has formed. Something has changed. It’s hard to pinpoint it…but it feels as much like family and the messy body of Christ that my church does. Community is genuinely forming here.

The man whose car had broken down expressed that this “thing” is going to get bigger and really take off. The other man was excited to invite others to bring that about. Mine and others prayers from our team, prayer team lately, has been for that increase. For God to really multiply these efforts and expand our territory.
When he said that, my faith grew. When they talked SOO excitedly about this night and how grateful for it they were, my faith grew. I’ve never wanted to cry so much (for happy reasons( in one night at Broken Hearts.

Maybe it’s just me (hopefully not) but I felt a change Thursday night. We’re on the cusp of our 7th Birthday Celebration Fundraiser, remembering all that God has done and looking to the future. At 7 years (kind of an important number, if you know your bible), and preparing to hire two of us next year for full-time ministry. It’s incredibly scary, but this night showed it’s all worth celebrating and anticipating.

I went into the night feeling inadequate… doubtful. I left the night seeing the Holy Spirit move on Santa Monica and Las Palmas, calling people back to him and to change. I left encouraged and assured that this IS worthwhile. That God IS moving. That pouring our life into this IS important. That lives are being changed, and that every minute of sewing in tears will be reaped in joy – and are already. PRAISE GOD!

(if you'd like to attend our fundraiser, please visit our Facebook event:

Or website:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Big Homie and Tinkerbell

For weeks and weeks, our Thursdays have had a bit of a different flow. Rather than get there at 11, pray and hit the streets, talking to anyone who happens to be standing outside of the donut shop or the surrounding intersection, we often get stuck at the laundromat, and people come to us instead until it's already time to start our Refuge service. That in itself is pretty amazing. Yet it lacks an element of what makes Broken Hearts what it is.

Last Thursday, most of our team couldn't make it to the street. Our "regulars" who usually join us from the beginning of the night weren't there, and we had one visitor with us. So the  three of us walked around the area so Antquan could explain more about the ministry...and it began to feel much more like BH of the past.

We ended up circling around and landing just outside of the adult book store where a few people we know were gathered. After many "hellos" and brief catch up, we engaged in conversation with a guy we'd never met - wearing shades and showing off wheelchair tricks.We started talking about his knee injury and time in the military, and ending in a discussion about Islam and Christianity and who Jesus really is and what the Bible says about Him.

Enter pimped-out ghetto car, with blue and silver shiny rims, bling, and rap music bumping unnecessarily loud. He rolls into the parking lot like he owns the joint, and my judgmental thoughts commence. I know I'm not alone in this. How often do you see something like that and either physically or mentally roll your eyes and "oh geez..." in your thoughts.I feel no need to have to deal with that type of ego, and assume it's the type of person who wouldn't want to deal with people like us, either.

Big Homie (we'll call him...because that's what he is) had come to visit his friend in the wheelchair we were talking to (among other shady plans lined up for the evening) and quickly jumped into our conversation. As usual, my snap judgements begin to change. He's loud, but very friendly, and his big silver chain holding a cross quickly becomes the focus of conversation, as we'd just been discussing the others guy's necklace with the Arabic for Allah.

He acknowledges it, saying he needs all the blessings he can get because he lives a dirty life. He then says something about just wanting to know the truth. I tell him what he's wearing about his neck is the truth. A few minutes later he's over by me, getting into more serious conversation after talking about his passionate love for money and his dirty living. The conversations split again, Antquan and Eric talking to the first guy, while I continue this conversation which turns to eternity and the need for making specific choices here and now because it effects eternity (this is all based on some comments he'd made about choices only mattering here and now).

We eventually get ready to head down the street for our bible study, and invite everyone there. Big Homie promises to be there though he never attends church, only to inform me later that he normally runs from anything like that and stays away from church stuff, but that he'd learned not to turn down those invitations because something bad usually happens after if he doesn't. And a background in church later comes spilling out as he divulges his past to us...

But first, "as it happens", Antquan is talking about John 3:16-20:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed."

I sat through the whole thing with a smile trying to pull at the corners of my mouth, realizing it completely addressed what we had been talking about earlier. God laid a message on Antquan's heart that couldn't have been more perfect to conclude the conversation we'd started.

Now, I'd love to say that following the message, Big Homie felt the Holy Spirit and laid down his life for Christ. He did not. However, he spent the next 2 hours with us, sharing his heart, his past, and how he'd once given it all up to follow Jesus. Then a few bad events and choices, and he'd turned away to the life he's currently living. He chose to stay with us that night, however, knowing that it would keep him out of trouble. This man knows the Bible as well as any of us, and has spent his time in churches, in fellowship and living by the Word of God. He told me he knew God doesn't like lukewarm...yet rather than choose hot, he chose cold.

The conversation was fun, to be quite honest. You know those passages in scripture about lukewarmness and putting one hand to the plow while still looking back? It was like watching that in action. Something in him was calling him to step into the light, but that tangled chains of the dark life were causing him to look back and hold on for dear life.And he was basically admitting the same thing about himself, between stories of the past in church, being shot, shooting people, drug dealing, family to take care of.

At the end of the night, after Antquan giving him his card and me giving him church info, he grabbed my hand and looked me in th eye and said, "Promise me something. Pray for me every day for the next 30 days." I said I would, and asked him to pray for himself for the next 30 days, as he'd already told me he doesn't incorporate that into his routine and set of goals for success each day, and yet is upset when God doesn't ansewr his random prayers.

One of my favorite parts in the midst of this, is that I'm wearing a flickering tinkerbell necklace he'd given to me since I'd invited him to church, while he says at the end,  "I don't know why, but I feel like you're going to be very special to me one day". Apparently a little girl had given it to him, saying it would keep him safe. Yes, Big Homie with the pimped out car carrying drugs and pulled over every other day by cops gave me a tinkerbell necklace and is thanking us. Only late at night, in Hollywood, with God's presence, hahaha....

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jesus Just Makes Sense.

Jesus just makes sense.

I get that people have had some really jacked-up experiences with church and Christians. But the more stories I hear and situations I see, the more is just makes sense to surrender it all to Jesus. Life sucks without him. The answers we're all seeking are only found in Him. Why fight it? Wordly "freedom" is not freedom at all. It's an illusion of freedom that covers up the chains of sin that bind us.

This Thursday, one of our friends from the street brought out an older man who he's been hanging out with. Similar to an "escort" type of relationship, minus any physical stuff. Basically, the guy is so lonely, he pays people to hang out with him. Or at least pays for food, drugs, and whatever will keep them around. Such a sad conversation I had with him. Quickly admitting remission to the crack pipe after 2 years of sobriety, he also explained how lonely he is, how he's been through therapy, practices new age religions, and is in a dark place because of this addiction. How the crack addicts he's been hanging out with have stolen money and used him...

Yet, after a very brief argument about Jesus and the Bible, he got very upset and refused to talk about it. The tidbits of a Catholic-school upbringing and pentecostal grandmother and other tough points in life made it clear that he has some  major issues and has probably been hurt by the church.

Despite his lack of attention to our bible study and interest in the transgender prostitutes down the street, at the end of the night, he thanked me for advice about someone and said he'd enjoyed himself. Now, we're a pretty cool bunch, I'm not gonna lie - but when one odd night with us seems to have the impact on someone like him that it does, it actually makes me sad. It wasn't like we were casting our demons or healing him or saw him give his life to God. It was a pretty normal evening. Just a teensy, tiny drop in the HUGE bucket that is life in Christ.

"Say no to drugs" is not a cute saying. It's for our own good. Just like God's laws. It's there to protect us. Ask any drug's not a pleasant place to be. It screws up lives. And it does a damn good job of numbing pain. But so does Jesus...and his body. That's why a simple night of listening to someone and giving them a hug has an impact. If only his anger wasn't in the way of all that is SO GOOD awaiting him in the Kingdom of God.

Two days later, a friend asked me to bring some food to their hotel room. A hotel known as being cheap (and equally NASTY), where many prostitutes and drug dealers stay. He wasn't there, but I dropped a bag of food off to a room where about 5 young men were sitting in the foul heat, prepping their wigs, smoking weed, sleeping, and, likely shocked to see a random white chick at their door with a bag of food.

It reminded me of those scenes in movies about crime, drugs, or sex trafficking where a bunch of skanky dudes are sitting around sniffing crack, with half-naked ladies walking around, smoke in the dark air and watchful of cops or anything that could get them in trouble. Granted, it wasn't that extreme, but that vibe oozed out of the barely-cracked door after I knocked on it.

Then I saw a guy I know from the street, and he came outside to say hi. We ended up talking in the parking lot for about an hour...about how he's tired of this life, how he wants a woman, wants to go to church, yet all of the reasons to keep living the dope-dealing life. We talked about the reason for forgiveness and how it's good for you, not just to pardon someone else. How he has so much more to give and do than deal drugs and rarely see his child. There's a part of him that knows he needs Jesus, but no part that's ready to surrender it all and really change.

The same thoughts ran through my mind, however. Jesus is not a hindrance to this life you're not even enjoying living. He sets you free and makes it all better! He hears your prayers when you're in relationship with him...not just when you're praying to get out of jail. Follow him because it makes things better! Not because I'm a religious fanatic who thinks you need to convert!

I probably shouldn't have been at that motel alone. I knew several people there, but it's the kind of joint where you would imagine someone getting shot. Which also makes it really fun to be the girl who SOO does not belong there, hanging out with the type of guy I would normally steer WAY clear of. And because I know God's with me, and when I thought I was just dropping off a bag of food, ended up in a long conversation with someone about the need for a healthy life and Jesus.

Don't shy away from telling people about Jesus. They need it. We all need Him. In the midst of some really depressing situations, I can still walk away knowing God is more powerful  and reminded to keep spreading the Truth, because it will set people free from the chains of loneliness, addiction, and a life of hotel-room hoping between blow jobs and chemical highs. It's all a cover for the voids we all need filled.

I'll just end this with a clip of some spoken word I watched recently that preaches this beautifully:

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Community Building

It's hard for me to decide exactly what to write about this past Thursday with Broken Hearts.

It was so good, and there's so much to choose from in regard to what to say to convey it all. In short, it demonstrated growth and the achieving of goals for this community.

We had our White as Snow laundry service for the month, which has been happening for less than 1 year, so we're still getting the word out and learning. But this week there wasn't an empty washing machine or dryer, and I don't think I even got to say hi to everyone there, it was so busy. Loads of loads of free laundry was being done and people from across the spectrum were connecting with each other.

Not only that, but I think the activity around the laundromat which is normally closed at that hour of the night brings many of the people we see on the street to congregate and hang out. Another 5-10 people were hanging all night outside, not even there to do laundry.

For me this meant connecting with people from other churches, my church, continuing conversations with friends from the street I'd been interacting with throughout the week, and a few conversations about permanent housing.

But even better to me was the fact that about 25 people stayed for our bible study, including 3 little kids who'd come with their aunt to do laundry (that was a first!) We had to explain to two different set of cops over the night why we were there and that we weren't loitering or doing anything wrong. I sat on that sidewalk, observing the group, and realizing how cool it is that this community continues to form and grow. People actually take time out of their nights to come listen to the word of God, eat, and pray with us. They're interacting around a different context from just drug deals or hanging out on the street corner. It's legitimately a church on the street, drawing in all kinds of people out of curiosity. 

As usual, Antquan gave an amazing sermon regarding not looking back once your "hand is to the plow" (from Luke) and going against the desire to keep one foot in the world when you choose Christ. After breaking up into groups, people conversed about the sermon - and life - for about another 2 hours.

We desire to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people on the street. Our free laundry is growing to the point that we start earlier and may have to start coming with many more quarters...we're working with people to find permanent housing, giving away clothing and blankets, and feeding them every Thursday. We're challenging them spiritually through the Word of God, exhorting through prayer, and asking serious questions about life and how it should be lived. Transformation is being seen as individuals are discipled and more volunteers want to join whatever this crazy thing is that's happening every week.

It sure isn't easy...but I can't think of anything much more exciting.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Most Terrible Poverty

In the last year that I’ve lived in Hollywood, I’ve been struck like never before with the issue of relational brokenness. Does the city draw more broken people, or are those here just more willing to share their pain? I’m not sure, but never before have I heard story after story of jacked up relationships.

Whether hanging out with people at church, or on the street in the middle of the night – everyone has messed up relationships with parents, friends, and especially with those of the opposite sex. The only difference is that, with those in the Church, we have the love and hope of God, and support of community.

The issue rose to the surface more poignantly this week…

My friend “Alan” was moving out of rehab into temporary housing, so as I was giving him a ride, was catching up on his life as we hadn’t talked much recently. When asking who he hangs out with, I basically asked if he has any friends that he regularly spends time with. In short, his answer was ‘no’.

He doesn’t have good family relationships, has past trauma, been technically homeless most of the time I’ve known him, and addicted to meth most of that time as well. And he doesn’t know Jesus.

I thought back to similar conversations I’d had with others. It struck me at that moment – no friends to count on or share your life with and no God to put your hope in  – it’s utter darkness. Of course people turn to drugs and alcohol and a life on the street. I probably would, too, with the combination of all of those factors. As Psalm 31 says, “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to him whose life is bitter. Let him drink and forget his poverty and remember his trouble no more.”

As we talked about forgiveness at our Refuge service last night,  another friend shared that he has only about 4 people he trusts and considers friends (1 being his dad, 2 being Broken Hearts members, and only 1 friend he’s found elsewhere).

After the bible study, I sat on the street, talking to a guy who hangs out with us from time to time but doesn’t talk much. It took a bit of prying, but after a few awkward questions and lack of response, he began to open up. For the next 30 minutes or so, he shared about his terrible relationship with his mother, and her repetitive choosing of criminally-inclined men over him. His dad’s never been in the picture, and he said that his anger is so intense that he knows it’s going to come out in a really bad way eventually (and yes, he did include the word ‘murder’ in that discussion).

He, too, has no friends because he doesn’t trust a single person in the world. He trusts God…but I’m not sure what that means, because he said he’s never read the bible. And how can  he truly know who he is in Christ and the love of a Father? How can he forgive without that knowledge?

David, at Basileia, often says, “It’s all about relationship”…which has potential to sound foofy and emergent, like God’s not enough. That’s not it at all. It IS all about relationship – starting with relationship with God.
As I dropped off “Alan” for housing, I knew he wouldn’t find real love and support there. It’s just a program to help him to the next stage where he’ll be on his own again. The meeting of physical needs alone doesn’t fix brokenness. Relationship doesn’t provide for every physical need. But the two in conjunction is a powerful thing.

Meeting physical and spiritual needs through relationship can bring healing and trust that have never existed - and demonstrate God. Relationship with God changes everything and makes all of the relational healing and physical needs possible.

When it really comes down to it, people just need Jesus.

 Love the Lord with all your HEART, SOUL, MIND and STRENGTH. Love your NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. It’s really that “simple”. Nothing else will create lasting change.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Remember the Poor & Broken

Thursday to Thursday, no night at Broken Hearts is ever quite the same. While some nights still feel dull and useless, experience continues to teach me to come expecting God to use us - even if just for one person. 

Last night was no different. As usual I arrived to the normal BH crew and our friends who come every week - nothing out of the ordinary. A man named "Tex" who we'd met several weeks ago - full of life and in a generally sound state of mind  - was, for the second week in a row, nearly passed out on the sidewalk waiting for us. Recently he has been incoherently drunk and depressed. He told us he'd just been in the hospital, his benefits had been taken away, he had no place to go or food, his body was full of pain, and wanted to end his life. 

As in most situations here, the only good option was prayer. So while part of the team broke off to invite people to bible study and find out about some skirmish going on down the street involving fighting and police, two of us stayed to pray. As I so enjoy about prayer is that, the more we prayed, the more seemed to be revealed and in need of prayer. Evil spirits, physical pain, emotional pain...he cried out to God even as we did, touching his limp body lying on the dirty cement where tears proceeded to pool.  He exposed the pain, the fear keeping him from getting help, complete lack of identity, and confessed lies, bringing much to light. 

After we'd stopped and began to transition to bible study (about 30 minutes late from the long prayer) came the harsh contrast of how the homeless and tragically-broken are treated. Two security guards came by to tell him to get off the sidewalk or at least sit up against the wall, putting on rubber gloves and preparing to remove any alcohol bottles that he might have on him and possibly move him.They finally left  him alone when we said he was with us and that we'd watch out for him. But that would not have been the case had we not been there...

(Again, to contrast, he'd recently been to church after I'd invited him, where within a few minutes he thanked me profusely and said he'd found a home and that people were so kind and welcoming. What a difference between the world and  the Holy Spirit!....)
Around that time, a security guard from the club down the street came by to chat for a bit on his break, and told us how a few weeks ago he'd been stabbed seven times after leaving work one night. He said that experience had completely changed him and now he is a believer and sharing his story with co-workers who are shocked that he's alive. Stabbed seven times, and full of joy and laughter.

Reflecting on the night, I thought about how I'd been having a "down" day and not ready to pour out for anybody else. Yet through intense prayer, then hearing this other man's story, and seeing a bible study form from what once again looked like an empty night on the street...I found restoration. The passion found in serving and remembering the poor and taking the gospel to the broken-hearted gave me life and joy at the same time. 

A few weekend ago at church, we were talking about remembering the poor. A woman who works to fight human trafficking and I talked about it later, and how she almost wanted to stand up in church and ask people if they have any idea what they're missing out on by not serving the poor. How we're missing a part of the heart of God and knowing him deeper by forgetting those who might be a bit harder to love or take more sacrifice to serve. Our pastor talked about this, we're missing something in the gospel and in our relationship with God if we don't remember the poor. 

No, it does not make sense that pouring out should fill us up. But it does. Let Him use you, wherever you are. Jesus promises us, it is in LOSING your life that you will FIND He also gives it to others through you. Don't miss out....

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Retiring" from the street life

One of the most important - and least-known - ways that Broken Hearts meets the physical needs of those we meet on Thursday and Friday nights, is through what we call the Street Retirement Fund. This past year, it was given to two individuals - one male, one female - to help them get off the street.

The fund is set up as a scholarship of sorts, provided to people we've been in relationship, that we trust, and who are actively working towards getting off the street and becoming productive, emotionally, and spiritually- whole members of society. Essentially, they are required to fill out a proposal with a brief explanation of who why they need the money for housing, and what their goals are as they get off the street. We will pay up to 3 months of their housing while they work on getting clean, and/or getting a job, finding stable living, completing a program, etc. 

Recently a friend of ours (we'll call him 'J') has been working on getting himself into permanent housing and finding a job. He is transitioning from a recovery program to SRO housing, staying in a shelter on Skid Row in the meantime. He had to have a deposit to get into the new place, but has no money. 

I talked to our board this weekend, and we decided if he filled out the Street Retirement proposal, we'd pay for his first 3 months of his living expenses. He would have been able to pay it on his own, except that his General Relief money has to get transferred from his old program back to him, and it would take longer than the time frame he needed to get into new housing. 

This morning he called me bright and early. "Are you up?" he said when I answered. "Uh...not really," I responded, incredibly groggy. I'd answered the random phone number, only because I knew it was probably him expecting money and help getting checked in. I hadn't gotten enough sleep all weekend and didn't expect such an early phone call. But he needed me down there, so I reconfigured my plans for the day and downed as much coffee as I could on my way to Skid Row. The whole process (not being able to check in as early as expected, picking up his stuff being stored in my Basileia office, getting a money order, eating breakfast at some sketchy joint on 7th street) all took WAY longer than expected. 

But as we talked about the Street Retirement Fund during errands, he told me that his General Relief only pays for about 9 months, and then they cut him off for 3 months before it kicks in again. His was about to get cut off and wouldn't have a source of income for the next 3 months. By us offering to pay for exactly 3 months (unexpectedly, because he thought I was going to lend him money for 1 month), it would cover his lapse in government assistance while he got settled and looked for a job!

When I'd thought to have BH help him, I had no idea about that. In fact, in order to stay in his housing he needed to have proof of income. By promising 3 months of provision for him, he could let them know he is covered until GR kicks in again. So cool to see God's hand in this whole process! Especially after Thursday night, when he'd been telling us that his faith had been lacking because he didn't really see God's power or provision much in his life.

What is also encouraging to me is that the Street Retirement Fund doesn't just give money, but helps set goals and check in regularly with our "clients" to make sure they're moving towards their goals and providing for themselves. So as we help 'J' out, he'll also be held accountable for looking for a job, applying for school, and paying for his own rent. Meaning with some assistance, he should be self-sufficient in  a few months...and hopefully with much greater faith in God. Ideally, that would be followed by him being out on the streets with us encouraging others with his story like our other STF recipients have been doing. 

Little sleep and a morning on skid row = totally worth it.

If you'd like to help support more men and women in getting off of the streets, you can donate here:

Friday, March 25, 2011

What's a Little Rain?

11pm: Tongayi  and I arrive in the 7-11 parking lot in persistent rain and stay in the car since no one else is there yet. I think out loud that it's going to be a slow night. No one's around, and who comes out in the rain anyway? But we always go, because it seems that when it's raining, God always brings at least one important person and conversation our way. It's always worth braving the cold and rain, even when logic says we shouldn't bother.

11:05: Our long-term friend 'Ravi' arrives with umbrella overhead, so we pull ourselves out of the warm car and join him on the sidewalk. Rambunctious, joking conversation commences for about another 10 minutes until Charlie arrives with Big Mama (who insists on being there even though she has tonsillitis).  

11:15: a few guys leaving the club are hanging out in the parking lot area, cold and asking us for money for hot chocolate. Charlie and I walk to Magee's, buy 3 hot chocolates for them, say hi to Jack, and invite them to bible study. 

11:20: We circle up for prayer - for each other and the night ahead. I ask God to use us, kind of throwing in the disclaimer that it might just be the 5 of us tonight, but asking him to work mightily whoever is there. I'd spent much of the night prior going out asking God to bring us people...but as I often do, I'm almost preparing for the disappointment of no one being there because of the weather. (I should really know better by now...)

11:30: we start walking around to invite people to bible study, despite the fact that no one is actually out on the streets. When we get to the donut shop, our good friend Jay is inside with one of his friends, so we step inside to say hi. A few minutes into conversation and catching up, "Devon" who often hangs out with us, comes inside the donut shop, ranting and raving about some girl he's pissed at. Trying to make conversation with Jay, Devon keeps interrupting about how he's not scared of anyone and what he'll do. He shows us a picture on his phone of him with his gun - pointed at his own head - all to say he's not messing around when he's angry with someone. Lovely. 

11:45: two well-dressed, white women walk into the donut shop (huh?) and smile politely, way out of place. Devon says hi, and when they leave, he tells them to have a good night. They don't say anything else as they walk out, and his response is another mumbled rant, starting with, "Stuck up b**ches...." I've heard this kind of thing many times. The "scary", "thugs" and "trouble-makers" actually get really upset when people seem afraid of them or unfriendly. There's a  misconception that they're all dangerous or don't want people on their turf or aren't friendly. They just want people to be friendly with them.

12:00am: we head down the street to buy pizza and commence bible study. This whole time, our friend "Rich" has been texting me, saying he's drenched and freezing and wants to be picked up. When we get down the street, several people are already there (where did they all come from?) Two girls join us, one crying, I think because she's so cold. Then Big Mama's husband calls and wants to talk, recently out of the hospital from a blood-clot in his brain. Thus begins the scrapping of all plans...

I'm on the phone, being asked about pizza, asked to pick someone up whose phone is dying, and to find clothing and blankets for these girls.  My back seat is full of the only belongings of another friend who I helped move out of his program earlier today so there's no room for carting stuff around. Our normal stash of clothes and blankets are not with me, we don't have a table to set up for pizza,and if one more person asks me something I just might get crazy...

12:03am: I give the card to Tongayi, who handles the pizza buying and food set up, and I leave to go home to find warm clothing for these girls and Rich, who's drenched from sleeping in a park in the rain. The box of clothes at home only has about 4 t-shirts in it, and I have no blankets. Crap. 

I head to my closet. I'm actually terrible about giving stuff away...especially when I know most of the stuff we give to people we meet on the street gets lost or stolen within a few days. Luckily, God often does a great job of overcoming me and my selfishness, and basically reminds me to get over it. I grab a few sweatshirts and a coat I have, and throw them in with the other shirts, then drive to find our friend at the park...unsuccessfully, because his phone is dead...while getting multiple calls from the team with questions.

12:20pm: I arrive back, where more people have gathered, pizza in every hand, and cups full of coffee and hot chocolate strewn everywhere. The one girl has stopped crying and is huddled up next to the wall on the sidewalk wearing Charlie and Ravi's sweatshirts. The team has decided that, rather than do a formal service tonight, we're just going to talk, listen, and pray for people.

The scene is a bit crazy: 2 guys - Crimes and Skits - are on one side, a random pair that Tongayi met, now engulfed in conversation with him; Big Mama and Ravi are watching out for everyone as usual, while Charlie is doing me favors, as usual. :/ Two girls can't decide what they're going to do tonight, not really talking to anyone, but happily receiving any help we can give them. Jay and his friend Cookie hang out, seemingly unaware of the cold and enjoying various conversations. JD, an older homeless guy talks my ear off and promises to write me a song, while Devon continues breaking into conversations here and there, and others continue to come and go. 

1:15am: Charlie and Ravi offer to go look for Rich out in the rain, so they head off while I grab clothes for the girls. They return with our friend, who stays in the warm car. All of the pizza is gone and the girls ask for more hot chocolate, so I head to buy more food or Rich and hot drinks for the girls.

1:45am: we look at the clock and realize how late it is. I assumed I'd be home in bed by now, based on the weather. But alas, no one has left. Yet the team is needing to get going. A few of us hang out a bit longer, but start to clean up and indicate that several people need to go. Charlie packs up his car with half of the crew to drive them all home (God BLESS him!!) 

2am: Tongayi and I finally say good-bye to everyone. Luckily, most of these people have places to stay tonight...if they're willing to brave the rain to get to those places. But leaving like that is hard. Only so much you can do...but it seems most of these people would've stayed all  night and chatted and tried to keep warm and find refuge at The Refuge....

We talk with excitement about meeting physical needs. And look forward to next Thursday when we can dive back into the Word and meeting spiritual needs. More importantly, we anticipate the longer-term opportunities, knowing that we are not to grow weary of doing good, and in the proper time we will reap a harvest. Amen.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Give everyone a chance

The last Thursday of the month: White as Snow. the Laundromat owners open up shop to let us do laundry for free until midnight. A great an opportunity for showing love, drawing volunteers and increasing church unity across Hollywood, and drawing in people from the street. 

This time, however, the most impactful moments to me were on the sidewalk in front of the laundromat, and total chance encounters. I saw three girls sitting in front of the laundromat and invited them in, in case they wanted a warm place to sit. They looked like they'd been at the club, and, as often happens, probably didn't get in or got kicked out and had to leave earlier than expected...left stranded until their ride arrived. 

Talking to them, that was basically true. They'd already talked to someone helping with White as Snow and their interest was piqued. One asked me about church, and I explained to her Broken Hearts, but also told her about my church, Basileia. She asked, "can anyone come?" First of all, I hate that anyone need ask that question - shouldn't the church be known  as a place that anyone can come? Second, I had actually remembered to bring out info cards this time, so I had a few in my car to hand to her and her friends so they could come to church or call me if needed....
Right before bible study, as I was leaving 7-11 with the pizza for bible study, I passed a couple of guys standing outside. Sometimes in my own insecurity, I don't invite everyone I see. This time I did. I casually threw out the "bible study" part along with "free pizza"...and kept walking, assuming they wouldn't be too interested. But I think the bible study part actually interested them more than anything. They were excited when I mentioned that and promptly followed me down the sidewalk. 

Talking to them, I quickly heard "Man, God's been showing up everywhere". They basically went on to say that God keeps popping up in their lives. One has a girlfriend who wasn't a Christian when they started dating, and now she is and he's been going to church with her. And in many other ways, God keeps showing up. They both knew that God was pursuing them, and both - in some way- wanted Him. The other said he knew he was making the wrong choices and wasting his time, but that it was a struggle to give that up - but he wanted to.

I was shocked by how excited they were to be at our bible study. They'd come up to go clubbing, but one of them was waiting for his direct deposit to hit at midnight. It hadn't gone through, which is why they'd been waiting at 7-11...and met us. He said he was so glad they'd found us and instead of wasting money on a night at a club, that they were at bible study. Even came to find out that one of them has been going with his girlfriend to the same church as Charlie, one of our team members and live in the same area as them.  I don't think I've ever met anyone who was so excited to meet us and already so far along on the journey of finding God. 
It's amazing what God can do - and is doing all the time - if we just give him our time, and our attention to others. I nearly passed by these sets of people...and yet stepping out for one second allowed us to enter into very real conversations where people once again felt God pursuing them. It was not a mistake that we met them there that night when they couldn't get into the club.

Sometimes you will pass people who yell or cuss at you and want nothing to do with God. Other times people are hungry and searching and need you to show them God. Give everyone a chance. Let God use you.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Creating Change

Thursday night, we held our month Laundry Love-type event, "White as Snow". While these nights are always full of extra energy, people, quality conversation and fun, I think what stood out to me most this week was a less-than-5-minute conversation.

One of our more outspoken friends was ranting about a "boy in a wig" who'd made him mad...and then proceeded to rant about all "boys in wigs" and his negative feelings towards them. This particular guy hangs out in this area a lot, is sporadically homeless, and knows most of the people here. But he is straight and considers himself a Christian, making him a bit of a rarity. 

He and the guy who were conversing and laughing about the topic are two that I'm comfortable enough with to be pretty blunt. So I confronted the topic of their conversation and the harsh way in which they were talking about people. How their sin of dissing people unlike them was no better than the sin of those they were negating. That joking about how they were probably molested as kids wasn't funny, and that the fact that their lives were in some ways ruined by some jerk was reason to give them MORE compassion and understanding, not judge and hate.  How LOVE is what will help bring change to people, not hating and making them feel worse about something that was done to them. 

The topic just kinda dropped as he apathetically wandered outside, and I went on with responsibilities of helping people out inside the laundromat. 

A few minutes later, as I chatted with some volunteers, he came back inside and said, "you were right."

"Huh?" I asked. 
"You were right, about the boys in wigs. I had to think about it for a few minutes, but I decided you're right." And he kept on walking right past me to talk to someone else. 

I laughed at the randomness, then inwardly triumphed a bit in my "win" for a second. But the more I thought about it the following day, the importance of that moment struck me. Through a brief, honest encounter with someone, his mindset towards others had changed a bit. God had directed him closer towards biblical thinking and away from cultural attitudes. 
God doesn't only have us on Santa Monica boulevard to tell people about Jesus.  Most people already claim to know Jesus and believe the Bible. But evangelism is about more than telling people who Jesus is and stopping there. It's about discipleship, correcting faulty assumptions about God, and about showing people who they are in Christ, how to model Jesus, and how to spread the gospel on their own. 

God can use us to change the perspective of someone so that it more accurately reflects Christ and His values and His love. And slowly, if perspectives and wisdom are passed on, culture can change. If one person starts treating the outcasts on their own turf with more love, understanding and respect, that seed can spread and grow to others. 

It's a known fact on the street that no one really trusts another. They just co-exist because they're all hanging  hussling in the same place. But what if just a few more actually modeled Christ and loved another?
Share what you have, with whoever you can, wherever you are....and let the Kingdom come.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

She Gave Her Life to Jesus

"Keisha" has always been one of those people that I'd see on the street on a  regular basis, but never talked conversed with. There are just some people that - as much as you try to be friendly and talk - just don't care to pay any attention to you (unless you're one of those gifted people who can get anyone to talk to you).

She seemed nice enough, but always in the midst of people, obviously a pretty well-known girl on the street who always has her "crew" around. She's friend with many of our friends we've made on the street, but I'd never really been able to talk to her. 

Then a few weekends ago, she came to bible study when just a few of us were out on the street. She'd never spent much time at bible study before, unless to come by for some pizza or say hi to someone. But for some reason (probably because Krista was back on vacation and worked her magic to drag everyone on the street over to the Refuge), she came and stayed this time. After handing out some leftover Christmas presents, and letting her pick a scarf she liked, she and I finally connected, and a few of us talked for most of the night. 

She talked about the respect that she has for us, and how she has our back and appreciates everything we do. That if anyone messes with us, they'll have to mess with her. And how they appreciate what we do, too, they just don't always know how to show it because they're not used to people caring about them or giving them anything. ""Sorry, I'll talk y'alls ears off," she said. "But it's good to get stuff out, it's better than keepin everything inside. Maybe if more of these kids had someone to talk to, they wouldn't be so angry."

The following weekend, Keisha came to bible study again, and told us that she'd gone to church that weekend and the Spirit was moving and when the pastor asked if anyone wanted to give their life to Jesus, she just felt like she needed to. So she did. 

The rest of that conversation that night surrounded her desire to understand more, to "be holy", to figure out how to overcome her anger. Tears came on a few occasions, and it was clear that the Holy Spirit was in her. She was feeling guilt over things she'd never felt guilt about before. She was trying to figure out how to be more like Jesus. I gave her a new bible and exchanged phone numbers so we could talk more about any issues that might arise. 

Last night, she was calling me while we were still on our way to Santa Monica blvd, wondering what time we'd be there. Once again, she was there before us with bible in hand, ready to learn. She'd brought a friend, and just a few minutes into the night several others had joined us. In fact, we never even left the laundromat parking lot, as we usually do to meet people along the street and invite them to The Refuge.

During our study, she was full of questions about life, about dealing with anger, avoiding sin, leaving behind friends who she loves but are bad for her, baptism, etc. Her profound thoughts and insights impacted all of those at bible study who have known her a completely different way. As security rolled in and out, asking if we were okay, she told us they were only coming because she was there and they were probably expecting her to start something. People are afraid of her, know her as a trouble-maker and fighter. But she just wants to be different and for people to understand this new side of her. 

Tongayi wasn't the only one preaching the message about the prodigal son - her thoughts spoke volumes to those around her and influenced the entire conversation. 

This type of conversion on the street is rare. But it's impact, I believe, is far beyond what we can imagine. "Keisha" is a major influence on the streets and to those who work and live on it in the wee hours of the night. She  has a level of respect and leadership that many don't. What God could do with her passion and gifting makes me so excited! This is what it's all about.