Well I want on a missions trip about 3 weeks ago. I went to help out at the Dream Center in LA. This place, founded by Angelus Temple, the church down the road, operates as a rehab centre for recovering addicts, operations headquarters for distributing food to the needy, housing provider, kids program coordinator and hostel for people like me who come to be a part of things for a while.
We did some stuff but when people ask me about my time I don't really want to tell them about our good initiatives, our intentions and what we gave. I got a bit shell shocked by who I met.
I want them to know about Nikea
- a guy who gave me a lot of his time while I was there. Nikea grew up in the gangs. Gangs in LA aren't so much about status as they are about survival. The tattoos across his neck and arms where his t shirt couldn't reach told stories of the boy he once was. All of his childhood friends are dead to gang violence and he has learned to hate the city for that.
Nikea ended up marrying a woman and they had a son together. But she tragically died in a car accident, sending him into deep depression and alcoholism. In the midst of this he did some things that he kept private but which ultimately sent him to prison for three years. It was after this that Nikea checked himself into the Dream Center. This was a guy that knew he was in desperate need of grace and was grasping at it with both hands.
I want them to know about Prince
- the little boy I picked up his house in the projects to hang out at the playground for a while. Prince was about 3, or 4 at the most. When I arrived at his door I was greeted by angry shouts from inside until this little guy was shoved outside looking cut down and bewildered.
Over the course of afternoon, Prince demanded more shoulder rides than I've ever known, and loved to play. But it was impossible not to feel a sense of despair as it was obvious that Prince had very little love to give because his mother had very little love to give and you saw no hope in the horrific cycle of family misery that engulfs generation after generation.
You feel like the only thing left is a miracle as you deliver them back to their homes, their reality, your seemingly insignificant weekly good deed location.
I want them to know about Paul
- the kitchen manager. Paul lived on the street for years but was visited by the pastor for a food delivery every day. Every day he was given food and invited to the Dream Center to be looked after properly. This carried on for 15 years. 15 years with no result, recognition or reward on behalf of the pastor. Eventually a prostitute living under the same stretch of freeway told him she had made it off the street and convinced to finally make his way there. He did. Now this man visits those without homes and takes them food. The story of grace continues through him.
I want them to know about Rosa
- Rosa is an elderly woman who lives in a dangerous and poverty stricken neighbourhood. We delivered food to her street and as she was walking off with her groceries I asked if she wanted me to pray for her. She told me she did, and proceeded to tell me that her daughter had chosen to leave the home she shared with her to live on the street.
This girl wouldn't even talk to her anymore despite the fact that all Rosa really wanted to do was to take her daughter to the doctor and make sure she was okay.
I don't really have any amazing stories
- of how God worked through me, how my words and actions ushered in the kingdom, but I do have an enlarged heart. I do have an enlarged view of huge world that I call home and how bad some of it can be, how hard some people's experiences of life are.
And I have definitely had my eyes open to the incredible lengths that some human beings go to for other human beings in dark circumstances.
I left LA convinced I never want to live there but inspired in the knowledge that it is possible to live selflessly, to dream big and to make change happen. There are people who just decide to life like that, and then they do.
Sam Burrows is an ex-Middle School teacher (he made it out alive) who is currently working in Young Adult ministry while completing a Graduate Diploma in Theology at Laidlaw College. In his spare time he likes to pretend to be a rock star and writes for enjoyment and in order to impress a potential wife.
Sam Burrows' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-burrows.html