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.