Monday, February 4, 2013

Los Angeles!

     I got to Los Angeles Friday night and my time here so far has been great! It's definitely been different from most other cities. My hosts live in a loft in the middle of downtown, so rather than driving into the cities each morning, I get to just walk out the door! It's pretty convenient, too, because they live pretty close to LA's skid row, which has the densest homeless population in the nation. Down these streets, there are rows of tents and camps along the sidewalks. The homes of the homeless.
    One thing that kind of blows my mind is the juxtaposition of Los Angeles. It has never made much sense to me how on the same planet there can be starving people living in mud huts and people with excess living in million dollar mansions. I thought such a contrast at least had the separation of a country or at least a few cities, but both lifestyles seem to exist right in the middle of LA. In the middle of a city full of actors and wealthy business men, there are also people whose lifestyles are almost like those of people living in third world countries. Down skid row, people are sleeping on the sidewalks on mats, in tents, or under tarps. Some of them have buckets that they go to the bathroom in and then empty out into the street. Some of them just use the bathroom right on the sidewalk without any cover.  And this is in a city where movies are made that make millions of dollars in the box office.
      Walking down skid row hasn't been as scary as I thought it would be after hearing people talk about it. Maybe that's just because my gauge for fear has kind of changed since starting this journey. But the first few people I met walking into skid row were really nice and welcoming. I had been told to expect them to be very territorial, so I tried to be really cautious of overstepping boundaries, but they really were welcoming and receptive! Probably the most outgoing person I've met here so far is a girl named Chocolate. She stays on the very edge of skid row, so it's almost like she's the welcome committee! She's very friendly and open to talking about the area and her situation. I first met her on Saturday, and when I went to her area yesterday one of her neighbors, Latoya, told me that she went to jail after I left. I was concerned for her at first, but by the time I passed by her area when heading home, she was back to her spot talking and goofing around like she didn't have a care in the world. She said she got arrested for being mouthy to a police officer, so she knew she wouldn't be in long. I'm glad she got out soon, because I was looking forward to see her again!
     Yesterday walking down skid row, I got further than I had the day before. Everyone I encountered was really nice! I got to see Latoya and Chocolate again, but some new friends I made were Deborah and Mr. Harris. Deborah was such a sweetheart! I prayed for her and she prayed for me and we just got to talk for a while.  I also got to know Mr. Harris, who was so funny! When I offered him a Bible he got really excited and picked one out. As soon as it was in his hands, he opened it up and started reading it to me. It was so awesome how excited he was!

Here's me and Mr. Harris with his Bible in hand!

     Even though my time in Los Angeles has been great and I've met so many amazing people already, there also have been some hard things. Seeing some of the mentally disabled homeless sleeping in the middle of the sidewalk is hard. Talking to one woman about some of the awful, horrific things that happen to her living on the streets was really hard. Sometimes when I see or hear things like that, I feel like I can't handle it. Sometimes I feel like it's too much. But I just have to give it up to God, because I'm not called to bear this burden on my own. I'm not able bear this burden on my own. If I didn't have  my strength in God, I probably would have thrown in the towel long ago, feeling way to helpless and overwhelmed. BUT I do have God. I do have His endless strength, love, and hope. And when things get really hard, He just encourages me that I can't let the pain of some keep me from loving. No matter how many hard things I encounter, I'm not expected to fix it. I'm not able to fix it. All I can do is just keep loving and keep offering the hope I've found in Christ. So that's what I'll keep doing! No matter how easy and fun or heavy and hard this journey gets, I rest assured in the fact that God is good, I'm not expected to save but just to keep loving, and I'm not called to carry any yolk or burden other than that of Jesus Christ, and His yolk is easy and his burden is light. 

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