Saturday, May 23, 2009

From DOOR Hollywood

In the story of Jonah, after the famous whale and the frustrating vine, God leaves us all with the final question, “Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

It was the mission of DOOR, to “See the Face of God in the City,” that first caught my heart’s attention. What a joy it is to report that, yes friends, God is concerned about our dear Hollywood just as it was with the great city of Nineveh.

I have seen the face of God in the work of our Dwellers. Stephanie, Sara, Mary & Alison arrived last September a little awestruck, a little star-struck, and certainly a bit overwhelmed. During their orientation, I presented them with a bit of a predicament: how will you all honor the amazing and faithful legacy of the Hollywood Urban Project and the many expectations upon that little house on Gregory Avenue while still making room for the voice of God and the unique way you might be called this year? Oh, and by the way, don’t come in with an airtight agenda, but spend ample time in relationship with your neighbors before planning any projects. And don’t be late for your worksite placements. Oh, and by the way, make sure you plan MANY projects. And did I mention you need to meet with your prayer partners regularly as well as with me? And don’t forget to make space for your own personal weekly Sabbath. And you need to do this all on less than $200 a month!

And what have we seen? A miraculous thriving. How? Through prayer and the grace of God. There is real growth happening during tutoring, as ABC’s are turning into times tables and tough vocabulary words are being cleverly used in jokes; there is real growth happening in the front yard, once dry and dying grass, now little strawberries, okra, peppers, jalapenos, vines, sweat and laughter. There is real growth in courage, conquering economic issues of community living and how one could possibly survive on the equivalent of $1 per meal to traveling to churches involved in the New Sanctuary Movement and meeting undocumented immigrants whose families are torn between complicated legal battles. And the work that’s being done at the agencies focused on homelessness and street-life is powerful and significant. There are many et cetera's applicable here, and to that I say, praise God!

I have seen the face of God through Discover, in that I have been so humbled by God’s ability to communicate through out-of-town and local people coming together in service throughout Los Angeles, no matter that it is only for one week. From time to time, we have groups that ask us to tone down the Scriptural references because the group dynamic is one of mixed beliefs and backgrounds. After a long day of service and during a tour of Skid Row, a participant in a non-faith based group once asked me, “so, what’s it like working on projects with people who aren’t churchgoers?” I responded, “well, what would you say if I told you that for about 10 years I avoided setting foot in churches because I was terrified of the judgment and expecting a world of hypocrisy?” The silent and pondering gaze was enough of a response for me, but God would even bring more encouragement. I’ve received emails from participants when they return back home, including that particular one, saying they find themselves intrigued by the idea of this Jesus guy, that there are people back home who speak about Jesus to them, and they find themselves a little more interested in listening.

Last, but most importantly, I have seen the face of God in the faces of people directly around this church and this house. Earlier this month, many of you know this neighborhood suffered the tragic loss of Cecilia Monjares, a 31 year old mother of four, at the hand of an early morning drunk driver on Fairfax. Cecilia volunteered very regularly at the Lord’s Lighthouse and with DOOR, often helping cook for events and gatherings, and integral in welcoming incoming Dwellers each year. The pain of it all is still very present for the family and the neighborhood, but God is indeed bringing comfort through the love of community. Over 100 people turned out on the driveway to share stories and memories about Cecilia at the Memorial gathering hosted by YoungLife, DOOR, and Hollywood Presbyterian Church. The neighborhood alone donated thousands in money, food, and services to the family. This is not to mention how the church has come together, and the countless phone calls I’ve received on how to best direct donations and collections of food. Of course, prayers, money, and help are still needed, but I am so warmed and encouraged that we have a God who reveals divine caretaking through spurring all of us on towards reaching out to neighbors in pain or need.

Come see for yourself at our Open House on Sunday, May 24th from 1:30-5:30, so swing on by and please bring some food to share! Click here for directions to La Casa de la Comunidad, and hope to see you in the neighborhood!

No comments:

Post a Comment