Home > Ministry Stories > Enthusiasm for a Parking Lot Church

Enthusiasm for a Parking Lot Church

Parking Lot ChurchLast week, while hanging out on the streets of Hollywood with Broken Hearts, I met a real woman who calls herself Essence. (Many of the “women” we meet on the street are actually transgenders and transvestites.) I had just invited Jamal, a very familiar face, to our church service when Essence overheard and, with an attitude, exclaimed “You aren’t going to church!” Jamal and a few others from the street walked to the church service with us. Essence stayed behind. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, I can’t explain why Essence actually came to the parking lot where we meet for church service a few minutes later, on her own. She looked very out of place and bewildered as we passed out pizza and welcomed people into conversation. She reluctantly accepted a slice of pizza and then stayed for the message about “Playing the Victim” (the story of the man healed at the Pool of Bethesda and the story of Paul, Silas and the Jailor in Macedonia).

Last night, I spotted Essence in the Del Taco right after I arrived. When we made eye contact, she didn’t recognize me immediately and had a look of disinterest. Then her face exploded into a smile as she figured out who I was and exclaimed, “Is there church tonight?!” When I told her that there was and that I was telling another story, she turned to the four or five friends who were with her and announced with enthusiasm, “I’m going to church tonight!”

Some time passed and Essence and her friends headed across the street to the donut shop where the dealers and prostitutes tend to gather. Meanwhile I met with the other Broken Hearts members outside the Del Taco. We always pair up (groups of 2 or 3, at least 1 male and 1 female) before heading out to the street. I was grouped with Holly and Jen. I spotted Essence and a few other familiar faces hanging out at the bus stop as soon as we crossed the street and so we engaged them in conversation. All but one person from this crowd dispersed almost as soon as we got there (presumably because they felt that we Christians threatened their fun and/or business), but they almost all came back eventually as Holly and Jen easily made everyone feel comfortable by talking about fashion and such with one (and eventually several) of the gay men. (Essence was one of the people that left for a moment, but only to get some food.) After a while, it was almost as though everyone in this hodgepodge group were old friends.

When midnight came around, we invited everyone around us to come to church with us. Essence and at least one other person eagerly accepted our invitation and began to follow us toward the Refuge (that’s what we call our church). The others weren’t so sure but several had grown so comfortable with us that they just kind of followed along. It helped that Essence and the other person were so enthusiastic. One of these reluctant people was a gay man who wore a blue Dodger hat. I loved it when, on the way to the Refuge, this man said aloud, “I can’t believe that I am going to church right now. I so don’t belong here.” I was equally delighted when he was shocked to learn that the Refuge takes place in a parking lot. He was expecting pews or something. 🙂 Last night’s message was about the Power of Sex (the story of Samson and Delilah). After the sermon, Jen, Trang, and I were put in a group with Essence. We discussed the story, how it relates to us, past and present, and more. Essence was very involved in the conversation. When Jen asked Essence what she would like prayer for, she let us know that she expects to get her own apartment soon and that she just wants it to happen, for real, smoothly and quickly. I would like us to pray that she maintains this enthusiasm to hear God’s word. I would also like us to pray for more people like Essence, people who are so enthusiastic about attending Refuge that others from the street confidently follow to the Refuge and to God.

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