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Shut Up and Listen [*]

June 4, 2010 Leave a comment

7-11 SidewalkFor those that don’t already know, I had to experience another one of those really rough patches of life these past two weeks. It was one of those “If it doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger” kinds of experiences. So, during that time, I took a two-week break from serving with the Broken Hearts Ministry team to focus on my “rough patch”, focus on God, and rest.

My “rough patch” came to a formal close, at least for now, last Wednesday. Since then, I have been processing my feelings and considering my options for life moving forward. My feelings have mostly been a mix of sadness, frustration, anger, and joy. My options have focused around my kids and ministry. Even as I write this, I have many things pending a resolution. It was a little bit of a surprise then that I received an email yesterday morning from Antquan Washington, the leader of Broken Hearts, encouraging me to deliver the sermon that night on the streets of Hollywood. He specifically suggested that I share something about what I have been experiencing these past few weeks. It wasn’t long before God and I had worked out a rough outline including scriptural references for the sermon I would give.

The title for the sermon we came up with was “The Voice of God: Shut Up and Listen”. One key verse came from the book of Psalms:

“Be still, and know that I am God;” (Psalm 46:10a NIV)

I was the first member of our team to arrive at the intersection of Santa Monica and Highland last night and was joined a few minutes later by Antquan. Apparently, the remaining members of the team were either not coming or were running late so Antquan and I prayed briefly and then headed across the street to the Donut Shop to mingle. I didn’t recognize many people and most people we met were stoned and/or drunk. I wasn’t sure how to initiate a conversation or with whom (yup! even after all these years, I still lose my tongue sometimes), so I prayed, repeatedly, “God help me. What should I say? Who should I talk to?”

While praying, I observed the comings and goings around me. Among other things, I watched one man sell $5 worth of “medicinal” marijuana to another fellow who immediately stepped outside to smoke it. At one point, I took a break from praying to ask no one in particular how the Lakers game had went. I got several replies but that also instigated a minor scuffle between two Celtics fans and everyone else. Right in the middle of it all, one man pulled out his pocket knife, waived it around, and said something like “We’ll see who’s really boss around here.” At that, I went back to praying. Read more…

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Passion

April 9, 2010 Leave a comment
Jorge Angulo

Jorge Angulo

The first time I ventured out on the streets of Hollywood with Broken Hearts Ministry, I was nervous, terrified, and excited all at the same time. In many ways I can liken my emotions on that night to many of my experiences on those big roller coasters at Six Flags. They call them “thrill rides” for a reason. The second night out with Broken Hearts, I sat with several others on a sidewalk outside a laundromat as we listened to Antquan Washington preach a 15 minute sermon. In many ways I thought it all to be totally absurd. “Preaching to addicts, prostitutes, dealers… waste of time but bold nonetheless.” It didn’t take long though for me to see positive results from Antquan’s preaching and the rest of what the Broken Hearts team was doing.

The more I witnessed positive results from the street preaching, the more I admired Antquan. Since he stood and we sat as he preached, I looked up to him more and more in both senses. Antquan had and continues to have a passion to bring the healing truth of the Gospel of Jesus to the broken and hurting. You could say he was and is on fire. Likewise, you could say that his fire spread onto me too. It wasn’t long before I began considering preaching too. My gut reaction though was “Shu! …Right! …As if! …Like THAT will ever happen!” I can’t remember the specifics of how it came to be but after some time I gave my first street sermon, then another, and another… I’d like to think that I am pretty good at it now.

I got a gentle reminder a few months ago about how I basically sucked when I first started preaching. Antquan saw that I had a passion to preach even if I lacked the skills and natural talent. So he continued to allow me to preach despite my flaws. Unbeknownst to me at that time several people loathed my preaching. More than one person approached Antquan privately and pleaded that he would stop permitting me to preach. One person said once, with a tone that was less than enthusiastic, “What?! Jeremiah is speaking again?!”. I think if I had known what was being said about me in private back then I would have been crushed and would never have spoken in public again, anywhere, ever. Knowing what I know now, I am forever grateful to Antquan for seeing what many others couldn’t see. Read more…

The Value of an Angry Drunk Man

March 29, 2010 Leave a comment
Antquan in the Parking Lot Church

Antquan in the Parking Lot Church

I like pretty women and I really enjoy talking with them. Angry drunk men on the other hand are generally not quite as enjoyable for me. It should come as no surprise then that when I encountered two such drunken men last Thursday night I didn’t think my evening was getting off to a good start.

When I arrived on the streets of Hollywood last Thursday to meet up with the rest of the Broken Hearts Ministry team I quickly encountered a drunken man stumbling down the sidewalk toward me. He was so wobbly that he had to use the wall of the buildings to his left to keep from falling. I made eye contact with him as we approached each other and he seemed to have enough sense to fall onto a windowsill before I passed, presumably to avoid falling on me. As I passed him we made eye contact again and I smiled but we did not exchange words. After I had passed I heard him shout something angrily at me but I could not make out his words over the sounds of the rushing cars. Seconds later I met up with the team… who was being told a thing or two by a second drunk man. Read more…

Midnight on Skid Row

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment
Last night I took a midnight trip to Skid Row with my friend Jorge and a few people I had never met before. I had been to Skid Row once before with some other friends, a couple years ago, but that was during the day.

For those that aren’t familiar with Skid Row, allow me to explain, from my perspective. First, here is a (slightly modified) quote from Wikipedia: “The area contains one of the largest stable populations of homeless persons in the United States. Informal population estimates range from 7,000 to 8,000. People passing through this area immediately see cardboard boxes and camping tents lining the sidewalks.” People find themselves living on Skid Row for a number of reasons, but the reasons are almost always drug-related. I was told during my first visit not to touch the walls or ground lest I catch an excrement-related disease. Needless to say, I carried hand-sanitizer with me and used it several times. While on that first trip, I witnessed one man going from woman to woman propositioning them for free and unprotected sex. He had two takers in a one-hour time span. At least they had the decency to do it in the privacy of the bathroom ONE of the two times. The other time was in plain view of everyone. Everyone and everything seemed to reek of poop and pot. The point I am trying to make is that most of these people have no respect for themselves. They have forgotten how to love themselves and how to be loved by others. Mostly, they just exist and live from one fix to the next. Read more…

One Night in Hollywood – Some Prayer Requests

November 21, 2009 Leave a comment

This last week on Santa Monica Blvd, our team met at our usual place at the usual time, a Del Taco parking lot at 11:00pm. While we were in the middle of praying as a team before going to the streets, four new friends from the street joined us. After prayer we discussed plans for the night and they said that they wanted to join us for the church service that would be starting at midnight. I was “paired” up with Kayla and Han and we decided that the three of us should walk the street with these four, getting to know them better, until the service started. During introductions, they all four gave us pseudonyms. I forgot one of them (because I forget everything plus they changed names during the night), but the other three were “Steve”, “T”, and “D”. Prior to our team closing our eyes for prayer, I had noticed these four men and a couple other guys whispering in each other’s ears and being shifty with their hands. After the seven of us had crossed the street together, two of the men, “D” and the one whose name I can’t recall, started making illegal business deals with others at the donut shop. To say that I became nervous was an understatement. I immediately turned to Han to ensure that he was praying and, when everyone else was distracted, I quickly sent the following text message to our remote prayer team: “Our group might be being used as a cover 4 something shady. Pls pray 4 safety and discernment.” My text reply was, “Got it.” After that, I focused primarily on talking with “Steve” while Kayla spoke with “T”, the two guys who were not performing transactions. More details about Steve and T are below suffice to say that these two were the only new friends to join us for the midnight church service. Read more…

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Natasha – The Search for Something…

November 9, 2009 Leave a comment

This week I was paired up with Jen to go out on the street and share the love of Jesus. After a few minutes of walking up and down our stretch of Santa Monica Blvd, we found a prostitute wearing a miniskirt and high heels standing alone in the cold waiting for his next customer to drive up. Jen and her bubbly personality got the conversation rolling quickly and so it took mere moments to learn that his name is “Natasha” and that it was his birthday. We also learned that he is writing an autobiography detailing the various hardships in his life and how he has overcome them. He volunteered to us that he has spent a lot of time alone lately just reflecting on his life and considering ways to improve it. Very early on in the conversation, Jen asked Natasha what he would like prayer for. Natasha quickly suggested that we pray for God to help him with his book. Well… we spoke with Natasha for roughly thirty minutes and most of that time was focused on empathizing with Natasha’s pain and frustration with things like the self-perpetuating prison system and parents who abuse and neglect their children instead of loving them. Natasha had lots of things to say and we were there to listen… and agree. At the end of the conversation, we asked again what he would like prayer for. This time, he was too choked up to give a proper answer. With tears in his eyes, he said, “Just that God would give me…” But Natasha couldn’t finish his own sentence because even he wasn’t sure what it is exactly he is searching for.

As we said our goodbyes, I gave him a hug and wished him a happy birthday. We invited him to the Refuge church service and he said he would join us shortly. Later, he did actually come by for a few minutes but he left shortly after getting a plate of pizza.

Please pray that Natasha keeps searching for and eventually finds God.

The Woman Who Asked “Am I Good Enough?”

October 2, 2009 Leave a comment

I have another story to share about my time on the streets of Hollywood last night. To anyone who is thinking, “didn’t you just share a story about last night?” the answer is yes. My other story entitled “Enthusiasm for a Parking Lot Church” was about a woman named Essence. If you haven’t read that story yet, you should. It’s a good one. 🙂

Well, while our small group which included Essence was having discussions about the sermon last night, I would occasionally look around to see what else was going on around us. (There is always lots of crazy activity going on out there. Last night, some young drunken clubbers who were all friends got in a *fist fight* over who got to sit in the front seat of their car! It all took place just a few feet away from us!) Almost every time I looked up, one of the other ladies from the street was looking at me. This is odd for (at least) two reasons. First, we don’t encounter a lot of real women on these streets and last night we had at least four in our church service. Second, it wasn’t just one of them. Three ladies were like taking turns. And it wasn’t coincidence either. They had to turn their shoulders to see me. So, anyway, after our little discussion group broke up, one of the ladies approached me and I finally got to learn why she kept looking. (The other two will remain a mystery.)
Read more…