Friday, March 25, 2011
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.