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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hollywood Babylon

With all that I experienced today, it might as well have been the length of an entire week. Today was a day of firsts. Today was a day full of burden. Today was a day of hope. Here are the highlights (and some of the lowlights, too)...

--At the beginning of 10:30 a.m. Bible study, I was able to lead the church on a raucous rendition of the "fruit of the spirit" song. Homeless men and women doing the banana? Priceless.

--I said "good morning" to Carla, and she called me a liar and some other words I will censor. I won't lie...it hurt deeply. Gotta keep reminding myself that I just need to keep showing her love.

--Met a man named Moses. He was incredibly filthy, barefoot, and mentally incapacitated. But we had a good conversation, nonetheless, and in his eyes I could see what he once was before addiction took hold of his life. At one point, he asked me if I liked Crystal. I said, "oh yes! Yummy hamburgers!" And he said, "no, no, Crystal. Crystal Meth." Right.

--Made a new friend named Eduardo. He's from Mexico, and didn't speak a lick of English. I speak gringo spanish, but the Lord provided me with enough to talk to him. He was a very sweet man, who seemed to be free of addiction, but was still struggling on the streets. I hope I see him again. He blessed me.

--Robert and Ernie, two of the previously homeless/addicted men in leadership at Set Free, gave us a tour of the neighborhood. We visited the Volunteer Center, a place that provides housing, bathroom facilities, job assistance, and other aid. We toured the Midnight Mission, the main rescue mission in Los Angeles, the Union Rescue Mission, and the Lamp, a mission for the disabled and mentally handicapped. We were privileged to visit the Jonah Project, a Christian mission under construction in a donated 40,000 square foot, four-story structure. In case you don't know what a blessing this is...Set Free Church operates in a 5000 square foot facility. Their rent each month is $7000. Imagine what rent would be for the Jonah Project if they had to provide for themselves.

--Walking around Skid Row today, I saw a man sitting on a curb, lift up his shirt and shoot heroin into his belly. Then, he removed the syringe and twirled it in his fingers like it ain't no thang. A few minutes later, I saw a man smoking his glass crack pipe. Toto, I don't think I'm in Brentwood anymore...

--During our break today, we drove to Hollywood and Beverly Hills. I laid eyes on the Hollywood sign, as well as the sights along Sunset Blvd, Robertson, and Rodeo Drive. I wasn't terribly impressed.

--On our afternoon walk to the urban Gladys Park, I happened to fall in line walking with a girl that looked to be about my age. She was very pretty, but had tons of sores on her face, arms and legs---likely meth sores. She didn't look strung out, but instead, very broken down. It seriously hurt my heart. She continued to walk beside me, and I asked her name. Jessie. She mumbled that somehow she began to hook on the streets. I didn't get much more, because she just tucked her head. And then I asked if I could pray for her. She said yes. So, as we walked down East 6th Street, I placed my hand on her back and prayed for her. It was one of the most important and most privileged moments of my entire life.

--We arrived at Gladys Park to some street ball games, and people gathered. I walked over to a group of four men playing chess, and watched them go back and forth for a few minutes. It was nearing six p.m. by this point, and the guard sounded the bell to close the park. I asked the men if they would be around tomorrow---I wanted a go at it. So, tomorrow, I have a chess date. I can't wait!

So tired, but so joyous!


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