Hollywood is home to TV and Movie Stars. On the surface it’s all fame & fortune, glitz & glamor. But it’s also home to the homeless.
This past Sunday I had two preaching engagements. I had to leave the first one before the service was over to get to the one in Hollywood just in time to go on the platform to speak. As I was watching the clock and the speed limit I turned on to the street where First Baptist of Hollywood has long stood on the corner. As I found an open spot on the street to park it was right in front of a row of tents on the sidewalk and as I pulled in I was hoping and praying I wouldn’t run over any needles.
After preaching in the service about how Jesus took time for those hurting on the fringes of our community I came out to my car and felt compelled to talk to those experiencing homelessness right outside the church. I had some snack bars and passed them out. Someone asked if I had any water. I remembered I did in my trunk. Then we had a nice talk with the church’s neighbors who lived on the sidewalk. They were willing to talk and it was clear they all knew each other. They were also all rather young.
As I was preparing to leave I asked them if I could pray for them. They thought that would be a good idea. I said “amen” and “goodbye” and one of the young men followed me and surprised me. He said, “My name is Joey, would it be ok if I prayed for you?”
“That would be great Joey.” I asked him to pray that I’d learn more about how to help those experiencing homelessness by engaging with them directly and learning what that’s like from the source. Joey prayed a beautiful personal prayer for me and my request. I told Joey, “I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that before. It’s rare that people ask to pray for the ministers and even more rare that the one you go to pray for return the favor. I thanked him and we had an open conversation about his situation.
Joey is going to school Monday through Friday working on a music degree. He writes and plays songs and is also learning the technical side of music making in a studio environment. However, Joey lives on the street. He can’t afford to pay for school and rent so he’s made his choice to invest in his future. He says the people on the street are genuinely friendly folk who look out for one another around there. Some are addicts, some deal with levels of mental health issues and some are just like Joey… trying to function and do life without the help of family or the resources to live indoors.
Joey is a good reminder that you can’t prejudge those living on the streets. We need to hear their stories. It will grow your heart and develop a greater sense of the compassion of Christ. They also need that human connection. That conversation with Joey charged his battery and mine.
As I got ready to get in my car another gentleman came over and asked Joey and I if we had any socks. At first I thought “no” then I said I have one pair… I’m wearing them… you want them? He was happy to get a used pair of socks right off a stranger. As I drove away I thought of the talk by Jesus recorded in Matthew 25… when you give a cup of cold water to the least of these you did it for me. I guess that applies to socks too. It’s kind of cool to think that Jesus is wearing my socks today!
Cool outcome… The pastors of that church called me the next day and before the week was out they came to the mission for a tour and we are already strategizing how to partner to help the hurting on skid row as well as right on their street in Hollywood. Please pray for the churches in Los Angeles… that they will be able to make an impact for Christ by reaching out and going out to those experiencing homelessness… that those experiencing homelessness might feel welcome inside our churches, and that God would grant me wisdom, favor, and relationships with churches and pastors to expose, enable, and engage Christians to be the hands and feet of Jesus to love the poor and specifically those experiencing homelessness… people who have stories and names… like Joey.
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