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Sunday, July 26, 2009

City of Angels

I brought a lot back from my trip to Skid Row. One thing is the adenovirus. I was already sick going into the trip, and evidently my crippled immune system couldn't handle the funk. I went to the doctor on Thursday, and after my swine flu test came back negative, the doc diagnosed me with the adenovirus. It's basically an infection of the respiratory system, and it manifests itself in different forms, including pink eye. So, there you go. Needless to say, I've been quarantined from all regularly scheduled activities since late last week. Dr. Mom has been taking good care of me though, and I'm going to work tomorrow, bloodshot eyes and all.

It's been interesting living the aftermath of my trip. The world clearly turned without me while I was gone, and this past Monday, I found myself feeling helpless. Granted, I didn't feel well anyway, and that may have contributed to some of my blood, sweat and tears, but still... The work in front of me seemed so meaningless (it actually is meaningless), yet it is still my responsibility. My goal is to keep the beginning of my new week in perspective.

I learned enough lessons for a lifetime in a mere week's time. Here is only a little of what impacted me permanently:

--My definition of success is altered. Before the trip, I would've said that a homeless/addicted person should get help, get clean, get a home, get a job, get a car, get a family, and live the american dream. But I'm not so sure that's the answer anymore. I spent time with the men that live at Set Free Church, and listened to their stories of abuse, addiction and homelessness. All of them are now clean, and some work odd jobs here and there, but they all live in community in bunks in the garage bay of Set Free. They are the "disciples" of the church and they are in full-time ministry to the people living on the streets of Skid Row. Their lives don't fit into the prettiness of the "American Dream," but they're loving God and serving others. They know a return to their previous cultures would mean an extreme amount of temptation. So they choose otherwise. Now that, is respectable and a wise way for living. I can learn from this.

I was unloading some of this on Emily the other day, and she sent me this quote by Booker T. Washington: "I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has had to overcome while trying to succeed."

--There is a homeless lady named Joanna that is a faithful attender of Set Free Church. Joanna loves Jesus, but she also loves the bottle. I don't know her full story, but I know she's been an alcoholic for many years, and she's been drunk each day I've seen her. On the morning of our outreach fair, we pulled up and Joanna was out in front of the church on her hands and knees, scrubbing the sidewalk with a brush and bleach. This is the same sidewalk that I've seen people urinate and defecate upon. Because of her love for the Lord and for the church, she felt it was her responsibility to humble herself and make the sidewalk presentable for the fair. I don't know if Joanna will ever conquer her addiction, but I do believe that she is my sister in Christ and that I will see her healed in Heaven one day. She's gonna see me healed of my "pretty sins" too.

--At the end of the trip, Brother Mark, a man living at Set Free that I respect immensely, came up to me and told me that he had been watching me all week, and that he was proud of the mercy and compassion that I was able to show these men and women. Tears came to my eyes, and I was so humbled that I barely could mumble a "thank you" to him. Truth is, I'm not a merciful or compassionate person. On my spiritual gifts tests in the past, I've always rated the lowest in those areas. But I found it so easy to love on these people while I was there. On the plane ride home, I asked myself why it is so hard to love on co-workers, some friends, some family, or others that pass by me on a daily basis? I'm making an effort to change this, to lengthen my short fuse, and to genuinely start to love those that are sometimes unlovable. Christ did it for me....does it for me....will do it for me.

--During my nine days in California, I learned what a true disciple of Christ looks like. I watched Robert paint a homeless lady's nails at the outreach fair on Saturday because there was no one else around to do it. Ivan gave away one of his own shirts to a homeless man in need of a shirt for a job interview one afternoon. Even though beds are available at Set Free, Brother James sleeps on the dirty concrete floor of the sanctuary because he says "it puts him at the feet of God." I watched as Ernie stopped and prayed over a homeless man taken with seizures on the streets. Thomas gave a homeless man food out of his own pantry. Brother Mark is so patient with people each morning when he's leading Proverbs, and doesn't rush them as they read or expound on what they're learning.

These men live in deplorable conditions, but I never heard a single complaint about the heat or the filth. Instead, I heard praises for their many blessings. These men know the Word inside and out. They have eternal perspective, and know that living for Christ is serious business...it's a matter of life or death. These men are a brotherhood, and they watch out for each other and protect each other. They say I love you, and they really mean it. They took me into their home, welcomed me, and blessed me far more than I could ever bless them.

I won't lie...I was not ready to come home. Sure, I was sick, and out of clean clothing, and I missed my family and friends...but I didn't want to come back for fear that I will fall back into my comfy rut. Please don't let me, okay?

I'm working on getting a web album of pictures together. Stay tuned...


Blogger karen said...

What a wonderful experience, thank you so much for sharing. Your mom had told me you went on a mission trip, I'm glad I got to hear from you first hand as to your experiences and how God used you. It always amazes me how our "call" can come in so many different ways and never in the ways we expect. I have become to believe all christians should have to do a mission trip sometime in their life. You do learn once your away and focused, God can use you in amazing ways. So not only do you minister to those in need, but your minister to yourself. Praise God :)

7:46 PM


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