Home > Ministry Stories > Can’t Let Go [**]

Can’t Let Go [**]

Cant Let GoFor those that don’t already know, I spend most Thursdays on the streets of Hollywood from 11pm until roughly 2am. I am a member of a group of young people from all over L.A. and Orange counties who have a passion for helping mend the hurting and broken lives all around us. The particular area that we focus on probably has several nicknames but the one I heard when I was first introduced to the ministry was “Boy Town”. It’s called this because this is one of many areas in L.A. where runaway boys (as young as 12, perhaps younger) seem to make their way to. Here they find other young (and old) men who have nowhere else to call home. They sleep on the sidewalks, in 24-hour donut shops, behind and in trash cans, in other people’s homes, and in hotels. 

These last two places (homes and hotels) are interesting because these boys, most of them anyway, have never learned a trade. Very few have finished high school. Some haven’t even finished elementary school. They are victims of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse. They have been through foster homes, group homes, prisons, and more. They have not only seen the dark side of America, they have lived and are still living in it. …So what do most of them do in order to afford food and lodging? They prostitute themselves. Furthermore, over time, these “boys” become more and more like “girls”. They cover all areas of the spectrum, from wearing a little mascara or walking a certain way all the way to having body parts added and removed. The bulk of our team’s ministry is simply being (hanging out) with these people and letting them know that they are loved, by the creator of the Universe and our small group of, relatively speaking, wealthy young people. We do pray with them, feed and clothe them, discuss the Bible, and even have church services in a parking lot near a 7-11. But if all we do on a given night is listen to and sympathize with someone as they share a heartbreaking story about how their parents kicked them out of the family because they were gay, then we have had a fruitful night. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is just be with them.

People are always coming and going on the streets. Often we will see someone for three consecutive weeks then not see them again for months or even years. When asked where they were, the answer is often, “I’ve been around.” This can be code for anything from “I’ve been in jail.” to “I’ve been working a different street corner.”

Two weeks ago, I met someone new who was not familiar with our group but was sitting among other young men who did know us. My conversation with him started with sports, but because of the present company, he quickly learned what we were up to. Unlike everyone else out there, we were not looking to buy, sell, or trade drugs or sex. He was caught off guard by that and became a little guarded, but only for a few minutes. It turns out that he had a church background, that his closest brother had recently died, and that he had found his way from Colorado to California where he now lived on the street. Street people, unlike the people I am surrounded by daily in Orange County, can be amazingly transparent. I think I learned about his drug addiction and problems with his girlfriend within 20 minutes of our introduction. I am not one to condemn others, and I am always looking for ways to help. Also, I am not afraid to share my own brokenness. Once he saw this, he was more than willing to discuss scripture, pray, come to the church service, etc. Toward the end of our night, we got to the point where we were directly addressing his addiction to pot and discussing relevant scripture. Although he half-heartedly justified his addiction with statements like “God created the plant so it must be intended for our enjoyment”, it was obvious that he knew he was living a lifestyle that was not pleasing to God. Furthermore, he admitted that he was going nowhere in life and that he never would until he let go of his addiction.

During our conversations throughout the night, he periodically looked around and stated that his girlfriend was nearby and that she didn’t like him being out there because it meant, at least on typical nights, that he was getting high. Eventually, we prayed one final prayer together and he walked off. Sometime after that, some transgender prostitutes came up to me and another team member. One of them was propositioning us but mostly they were there simply because they needed a place to be while waiting for the next transaction. They were all wearing short dresses or skirts, wearing heavy makeup, and showing lots of skin. Suddenly, the young man I had been speaking to all night came back. He said a few words to me and then said with a big smile that he wanted to introduce me to his girlfriend. He then put his arm around one of the prostitutes and “she” and I were formally introduced. He was obviously very proud.

This last Thursday, the young man came back. He and I didn’t get much time to talk though because he quickly got engaged in conversation with another team member. Having had a pleasant -for lack of a better word- experience with us before, he wasted no time bringing up the same issues that we had addressed on the previous occasion. Similarly, the team member he conversed with wasted no time. Immediately, she started asking very direct questions like, “If Jesus is the Son of God, why don’t you accept Him as *your* Savior?” and “If you know Jesus has a better plan for your life, why can’t you give up your current life?” He replied with all of the following: “Yah, but my family wouldn’t approve.”, “Yah, but then I couldn’t be with my girlfriend anymore.”, “Yah, but then I’d have to give up smoking pot.”, “Yah, but …” Considering the onslaught of questioning and his reluctance to outwardly consider giving up his obviously broken life, I was amazed at his persistence in answering the questions. A lesser person would have walked away or simply become argumentative in an effort to deflect the questions. All things considered, he was very honest and straightforward. I give him major props for that.

There is more to the story, but I will save that for someone else to tell. My friend Holly promises to write a blog very soon about what happened. I left Hollywood at 2am but she was there until around 4am. So there is more to the story that I couldn’t even tell you if I wanted to.

I just want to think out loud about this idea of letting go of whatever we hold onto. It’s not just homeless young pot addicts who date transgender prostitutes that have trouble giving up their so-called lives for the sake of submitting to Jesus as Lord. I once met a very wealthy man. He had the ability to buy anything his heart desired and since he had power and good looks, women would flock to him. Meanwhile, though, he was hollow and miserable on the inside. When the notion of following Jesus was presented, he always balked. “No way!” he’d angrily say, “and give up my job and money?” The wealth was his biggest burden and he knew it, yet he wouldn’t give it up. I have had the same encounters with women in abusive relationships. The story often goes something like this: her: “My boyfriend beats me and I need to get away. I need a new life.” me: “Jesus can help you and I can lead you to Him.” her: “But my boyfriend hates all that religious stuff. If I follow Jesus, I will have to leave him. No thanks.” me: “But you just said…”

Jesus states in Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV):
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

and He also states in Luke 9:24-25 (NIV):
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”

When you step back and evaluate your life, is there something that you are holding onto instead of Jesus, perhaps in just one particular area of your life?

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