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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Last Resort

So much to say, so little time before I need to turn in. Tomorrow is a 6 a.m. day.

The group with a BBC Connect Mag and a Set Free cover story

This morning, we traveled a couple of hours to Cabazon, a very small desert town southeast of Los Angeles. Both the men's and women's Set Free Ranch is located in a trailer park in the town. Think a lot of dirt, mountains made out of rocks, a lot of dirt, poverty, and more dirt. My first impression? This place is awful. And that's kind of the point. Most of the LA rehab centers are cushy and expensive, and seem like more of a vacation than a detox. So when an addict goes to rehab, it's rather easy to be motivated to kick the habit...at least for a little while. Then, when you dump them back into their environment, they're right back to where they were before. Set Free's goal is to disciple these men and women in the "desert" or the "valley," so that it won't be such a culture shock when they return to the real world. And evidently, it works.

When a man or woman accepts Christ at any of the LA Set Free Churches, they have the opportunity to live at the Ranch for 60 days. The first five or so days are spent in the "grace room," where they are able to detox naturally. Then, they join the rest of the participants and it's "beans, rice, and Jesus Christ" discipleship. In the sixteen year history, over 10,000 homeless/addicted men and women have "graduated" the Ranch.

Today, we spent our time at the women's Ranch. Think a poorly lit trailer, limited air conditioning, and a big tented "patio" area where they eat, fellowship, and learn. This ain't the Ritz. You've got women coming in each week, and women graduating each week, so it's typically an unrefined and spiritually immature crowd.
On our way into Cabazon this morning, we picked up a lady named Charlotte, one of the Set Free transfers to the Ranch. Charlotte has been an alcoholic for a very long time, and that a couple of stints in rehab hadn't kept her off the bottle. She felt like the Ranch was her last ditch effort to get her life straightened out. When we picked her up, I met her 13 and 16 year old daughter, and it was humbling to see them urging their mother to go to the Ranch. I was empowered to encourage Charlotte to stop the cycle of addiction in her family and show her how proud of her that we are.

Anna and I were in charge of leading today's devotion, and we spoke about Psalm 23---a chapter that I became familiar with as a child, but has recently has new meaning to me. It was difficult for me to be transparent in front of these women, and to try to establish a connection with them, as I didn't know if they would think that some pampered Tennessee girl could relate to them in any way.

After the devotion, we coupled up with different women to give them manicures with supplies that we'd brought with us. I sat down next to a lady named Valerie. She was very quiet at first, and I began to ask her questions about her life as I filed her nails. It took a few minutes of small talk, but she finally opened up and we began to talk about some similar personal experiences that we are both dealing with. She told me that when I was speaking during devotional, it was like I was speaking right to her. Our lives look so different, but our struggle is the same. I was so humbled that God blessed me with the opportunity to minister to her through what I've learned, but that she was also able to minister to me--without even realizing it!

We were all very humbled when we left the Ranch today. In contrast to the women that live at the halfway house, these women were clearly struggling to conquer their demons. And because most of them are new believers, Biblical concepts are very foreign to them. The refinement process is almost never pretty. I should know.

Later that afternoon, we hugged these women goodbye, and we drove to Yucaipa to visit the original Set Free Church, and meet Pastor Willie. It's a testament of what God can do through a simple man with a vision.

I haven't yet mentioned how hot it was today...102 degrees. But evenso, it still didn't compare to the July humidity of Tennessee. There's a constant cool breeze here, and we were able to see hundreds of wind turbines in action. Very cool.

Tomorrow, we head back down to Skid Row to lead the daily Proverbs and Bible studies, and spend time walking the streets to invite people to the outreach fair on Saturday. I covet your prayers tomorrow for safety and opportunity. Many of the people we will be working with will be high on drugs, jaded from prostitution, and generally distrustful of light walking through a very dark place.

Earlier in the week, I met a drug-addicted, prostitute on Skid Row named Carla. While we were briefly at Skid Row this morning to pick up one of the halfway house leaders, I spoke with Carla for a few minutes. After asking her where she was from, she told me to quit being nosy...that it was wrong of anyone to try to live off someone else's misfortunes. I understand her perspective, and it's got to be difficult to watch the "shiny, happy people" come in and out each week and then return to our fluffy-Jesus lives. I want to love on Carla this week, and desire more opportunities to listen to her. Please pray for the victory over the battle going on inside her heart and her head. I really would love to see her tomorrow.

Lastly, I hope ya'll are still getting all of my title-song references...


Blogger emmysue said...

Praying for you...and for Valerie...and for Carla! Love you.

9:21 AM

Blogger Rhonda said...

Great blog & pics. You are being lifted up in prayer! Love you.

5:59 PM

Blogger Amanda Vilendrer said...

you are sparkling in that picture with valerie. Jesus is most definitely shining through you. Keep loving, and I promise to keep praying. Christ looks good on you, MA.

12:29 PM


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