***Congrats to our winner of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope, Heather Bleier. Yay, Heather, you won our next Online Bible Study book. Contact me girl and I’ll get it to you
This post is part of a 3 part series on The LA Dream Center, where I had the privilege of spending 4 days and nights last week.
Our plane landed in Los Angeles Thursday morning and by Thursday afternoon we were in the middle of one of the most notorious drug infested places in the United States. Skid Row.
Notorious for drugs, prostitution, rape, murder, homelessness, brokeness, hopelessness, addiction, abandonment, hungry and lost people.
Some would also say the people on Skid Row are worthless, a menace to society, losers, invaluable, throw away people, unlovable, worth abandoning, pathetic, outcasts, unaccepted, and dirty.
I came to LA on a mission trip with Proverbs 31 Ministries. We came to be a part of the LA Dream Center, serve with them, catch their vision, and reach out to the people who have been abandoned by the world….the hopeless, the unloved, the lost. (More on the Dream Center later…now back to Skid Row.)
We rode in a van from the Dream Center to Skid Row. I got out of the van with my team: Lysa, Holly, Hope, Teri, Samantha, Barb, Sheila, Vickie, Amanda, Kay, Darla, Amy, Kim, and Lynn. We had just this very day come from our comfortable homes and now here we were in what was world’s apart from our normal. Skid Row.
Immediately after arriving, I was pulled apart from my team to find a woman named Marie. She had been raped the night before and Lysa TerKeurst had informed our team leader that I had experience and a heart for those who had been sexually abused and were drug addicted. I didn’t want to go alone, so I asked my great friend and security blanket in that moment, Samantha, to come with me. She did. To get to Marie we had to walk through the streets, appropriately nicknamed, Heroin Alley. It was here I witnessed the most devastation of human life I have ever seen. People, who I knew were created by God…People, who I knew one day long ago were born babies with their whole life ahead of them…People who I’m sure at one time had hopes and dreams. Parents. Children. Friends. Sisters…walking around like zombies, making no sense, moaning, wailing, needles-shooting themselves up-shooting each other up-one woman shooting heroin in her toenails, glazed eyes, checked out of life, drug deals happening right before my eyes…my heart was breaking right there on Skid Row.
Men, women, teens, white, black, hispanic, young and old…no discrimination on Skid Row. Some people appeared clean and polished and others looked like they hadn’t showered in a year.
I looked into every set of eyes that I could and what I saw surprised me.
Although the person looking back at me probably had no idea what they were looking at and didn’t care, I looked into their eyes and got a glimpse of their heart. Broken heart, lost heart, hopeless heart, abandoned heart…and it broke my heart. I knew too that it broke the heart of God. He allowed me to see through His eyes on Skid Row. I saw beautiful people, created by God for a purpose. I saw people in need of acceptance, love, and hope. And in that moment my mission changed from hoping I could help someone to just being there to love. And that’s what I did.
I was surprised at how open to love most of the people were. I had many opportunities to hold someone’s hand, hug them, and look into their eyes and say, “I love you and I believe in you, so does God. I promise He has not forgotten you. And if you need help I can show you where to get it. But no matter what, you are loved and there is hope for you.”
In most cases, in return I got a smile, a story, an openess, and for a few, some tears. But no one desiring help. They all had excuses. And that was ok, because I was there to love.
Eventually, we found who we were looking for-Marie. A 41 year old woman who looked like she was at least 10 years older than that. She reaked of stale alcohol and clung tightly to her last cigarette. She walked with a cane and a limp. Her smile revealed teeth that were discolored and some missing. She was dirty. And might I add…she was beautiful.
Marie came with our team and over the course of the next hour went from hysterical to having a seizure to collapsing due to exhaustion. She came back to the Dream Center and was given the care and evaluation necessary to get her help if she agreed. She had an open door for unconditional love, acceptance, help without judgment, a place to belong, food, shelter,and all her needs met, but she had to agree to 1 year. You see that’s what the Dream Center requires…and it’s for a good reason.
Sadly, Marie is back on Skid Row today. That’s what she knows. That’s what she keeps going back to. Only 23% of the people brought back to the Dream Center stay. But those who do stay have amazing success.
I have so many stories to tell and I will in the coming days.
Before I close today, I have a favor to ask. Will you join me in praying for the the beautiful people on Skid Row? Today I want to have as many people as possible praying for these people created by God. You know there is probably a Skid Row in your town too. It might look a little different or go by a different name, but I bet there’s one not too far from your home. You might even know someone who’s been there. I do.
Pray. They need our prayers. They need love. They someone to believe in them. And maybe just maybe one day they will believe in themselves.
I’ve learned that most often people need to feel they belong before they can believe. Don’t get the two backwards. So many churches today get this backwards! We don’t need to have the perfect words or the perfect plan. God just wants us to be who we are and love others. That alone makes more of a difference that you might think.
I couldn’t fix Marie, but I loved her. And that’s all I could give on Skid Row. And it was enough.
Next Post: Matthew Barnett and The Dream Center.