13 April 2007

Wednesday, March 28th

I'll try to be less wordy...

Today our morning assignment was “Adopt-a-Block” with the Idaho team. We walked, and walked, and walked from the Dream Center to Sunset Boulevard. We set up “shop” at an intersection of Sunset to pass out cookies. Yup! We passed out cookies to people as they stopped for the red light. We waited at three different corners, one person holding a sign that read, “Do you want a cookie?” and the rest passing out cookies parceled out two to a sandwich bag. It was actually really fun. Meg and Tiana got really aggressive in handing out cookies and waving people down. As the light didn’t turn red all that often or for long we started waving to people wishing them a good day. We got a lot of strange looks. A LOT of strange inquisitive looks! When we passed out the last of the cookies we were given trash bags and instructed to pick up garbage as we walked back to the Dream Center. Charith, Bethany, Tiana, Meg and I took one side, but soon Meg and I found ourselves lagging behind. Then we realized we couldn’t see anyone else we knew, I guess we were being too diligent in picking up trash, and this despite there being three people ahead of us picking up trash (or were they?). Even though I was certain I would recognize the street we needed to turn on to get back to the center I was thankful that a few people had waited until we caught up. Even though the morning wasn’t people intensive we all had so much fun and were inspired by the philosophy of random acts of kindness to reach out to people and be a blessing to others.

The afternoon assignment was Hope for Homeless Youth- Venice Beach. I skipped it. Instead I joined team Idaho and went on Metro Kidz to the neighborhood we had done bus pick-up on Sunday. I was so excited to see Metro Kidz in action. We had used it as a case study for one of my Kids at Risk classes at Western Seminary, but at that time only the original New York Metro Kidz was happening. I was tempted then to go visit New York to see it in action and now, seven years later, I was actually going to be a part of the program. I teamed up with a couple guys from the Salem college outreach group to pass out fliers and invite kids to come to the program. Our group of four dwindled to two. Juan was determined to keep passing out fliers while the two other guys went back to the program area to play with the kids. Even though Juan could probably take care of himself we were given strict instructions not to go off by ourselves so I went with him to pass out more fliers. I had to nearly jog to keep up with him. His ability to speak Spanish was terribly helpful. As we walked I learned he recently graduated from Western Oregon University and started working for Evergreen Air, and when a helicopter passed by we had to stop and see if it was an Evergreen. I also learned that he was from Ecuador when he chased a man, and his wife, into a busy street who was wearing a soccer jersey of the national team. The three of them talked for some time and Juan was very gracious in translating their conversation for me so that I didn’t feel left out. I found myself cursing my age, why couldn’t I be at least ten years younger? But then I realized that I was rooming with seven other girls who were of the right age for him. Probably lucky for Juan I didn’t seem him the rest of the week so I couldn’t play yenta with the girls on my team and handsome gentlemanly Juan.

At the program area I started drawing with a girl who just happened to be named Jennifer – an instant bond! I pretended that I couldn’t draw well and had her teach me how to do the fancy flowers she was drawing. Once the program got started I got pulled up to do a water balloon toss, my partner got very wet! Eric, our bus driver from Sunday, was the site leader and did the story telling and lesson summary. The program had all sorts of problems. For some reason the stage couldn’t be used, the sound system went out, and the food truck that was at the other end of the block had a volunteer with a slight heart attack so the ambulance showed up. Even with all the distractions the kids were intent on the lesson. It is a great program! I wonder how we can do it up in the Northwest.

The evening outreach was Dream Street on Skid Row with the group from Oasis Church in Bend. We had either single serving packages of Famous Amos cookies or Starbuck pastries tied up in a bag that we were to pass out and use as an entry to further conversation. Once we got on site Mike, our ministry leader, asked for the pastor from each group. After the overly labored explanation that we are a university group and don’t have a pastor he asked for one leader. Never knowing when Lindsey and Evan want me to be a leader (or when they’d rather I’d stayed home) I didn’t volunteer, but they both looked to me and asked if I’d be the leader for the purpose. I was glad to because I knew whoever had the role wasn’t going to have the full ministry experience. I got paired up with Anthony the worship leader from Oasis to be the “caboose” making sure no one got left behind. Everyone else paired up and headed out. I had a great time getting to know Anthony and we had some interesting experiences but nothing like sitting down on the dirty gritty sidewalk talking and praying with the homeless. We mostly talked to each other and Frank and his daughter who for whatever reasons didn’t talk with those on the street as instructed. At one point we were standing on the opposite sidewalk of Evan, Charith, and Bethany who were talking with a man and we were near this gate where a woman was standing shouting something incoherent. We were told to stay away from the screamers as they were most likely mentally ill so Anthony and I stayed our distance. Frank and his daughter joined us and were just as intrigued by the gate and the woman, especially after a man came from the other side of the gate, unlocked it, let the woman in, and then locked it up again. A few moments later two men came up to the gate, hollered something, then noticing us quickly walked away. After that we scooted down the sidewalk to be less of an obstacle. A man came out of the gate and Frank’s daughter (I never did get her name) asked him, “What’s going on back there?” His reply, “Things you should ever do!” as he waved his index finger back and forth. Later Anthony and I started talking with a man who was visiting LA and hoping to leave soon to go back home to Iowa. He had followed a woman out here and then gotten burned and realized he had been disillusioned. He was interesting to talk to as he had decided to make a study of Skid Row; he thought it was shameful how many mentally ill were homeless- that the state didn’t take care of them. He was scared of the drugs and violence in the area at night, and rightly so. I was intrigued by the cars that would pull up with their lights off. Mike told me later they were buying drugs which make sense since there wasn’t any other explanation for why minivans and nice sport cars would cruise that area of town. It became a running joke between Anthony and I that he kept getting rejected when trying to talk to people, but near the end he finally found a receptive ear with someone who had heard of the discipleship program at the Dream Center. Anthony almost convinced him to come back with us right then and there but the man decided he needed more time to think about it but sense that this is what he needed to do. Why anyone would have to debate between staying on the streets or getting help is a little baffling to me. At one point a group of us had gotten far behind the main group. As we stood on a corner debating which way our group would have gone we saw a mob coming towards us. For a moment we were scared and starting scoping out our escape routes, but then we realized it was the rest of our teams. Whew!

Well, it doesn't seem like I kept it short, but really I did keep in just the best parts. Really.

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