Monday, May 29, 2017

Downtown 5/28/2017

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  The Apostle Paul's letter to the Christians living in Rome and one of my favorite verses. Romans 15:13 

I got a late start to the trip this week and didn't get to Compton until after 6 pm.  When my wife asked me, as I was leaving, what to pray for I said pretty much the same as last week, but a special request for a break-through in Compton.  While I didn't get to help anyone in Compton this week, I did see some homeless encampments at Hooper and Firestone (technically probably north of Compton).  The only problem was it was getting late by then and while there were obviously several people living in the parking lot of an abandoned retail store, they weren't outside their tents.  Etiquette dictates you don't go up to them and call out unless you know them.  I'll try and get there earlier next week. Please pray for this area.  So I drove on into Los Angeles.

This trip was one of those where I only saw a few people that I knew, but helped a lot of single folks getting ready to sleep on the street for the night.  Virtually every one of them was extremely grateful to receive some food and water before going to sleep.  I would have to say that they all would have gone to sleep hungry if I hadn't stopped.

The one encounter that forced me to write this blog was one of the last stops.  It was on another small street just west of Olive St off Pico Ave.  Lawrence lives there.  The last time I saw him a couple of months ago there was a woman staying with him.  She wasn't there this time; he was alone.  One of the best things about getting to do this ministry is the relationships I build over time with some of these folks and Lawrence is one of them.  You may recall from my trip last Christmas Day that he told me a rat had eaten the loaf of bread that he had bought the night before.  Well, this is that same guy.  We talked for quite a while tonight. At one point we were standing at the back of my car and he had gone through some of the clothes in the car. I pretty much only had women's clothes for this trip, but he wanted to look for something his friend might like.  Anyway, he asked me if I'd pray for him because he was looking to visit his Dad's grave tomorrow and apparently, there is a fair amount of internal baggage to go with a trip like this.  I said I'd be happy to pray for him and did. Now mind you, I really didn't know how to pray for this and I felt some internal struggles myself at what to say. I wouldn't say I stumbled through the prayer, but it was, no doubt, a touchy area of Lawrence' life and I didn't treat it lightly and wanted to bring as much peace and healing as I could.  When I finished, although he didn't say he felt "connected" like the man last week, he did say he felt at peace about it and relieved.  He told me, "It's obvious you have an anointing for prayer."  He thanked me profusely for praying for him.  I'll be praying for him again tomorrow from home.  Now look at the verse I opened with again.  "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  I had written this verse down last Monday and probably read it at least once or twice daily this week.  It begins with "the God of hope" and ends with "that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit".  We are to give this hope out to those most in need of it.  Folks living on the streets are part of that group.  After we trust in Him, he will fill us with joy and peace so we can be used to give out His hope.  What a privilege!

With that encounter, I only had a couple of sandwiches left to give out and found Carlos on a corner a couple of blocks away.  When I gave him some food and water he was so happy I thought he was going to get in the car with me.  Maybe he wanted to. Anyway, it was a nice way to end the trip.       -- Until next time.  John

Monday, May 22, 2017

Downtown 5/21/17

"Finally, build up your strength in union with the Lord and by means of his mighty power.  Put on all the armor that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil's evil tricks. For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this dark age.  So put on God's armor now!  Then when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist the enemy's attacks... Do all this in prayer, asking for God's help.  Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads.  For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God's people.  And pray also for me, that God will give me a message when I am ready to speak, so that I may speak boldly and make known the gospel's secret."   Ephesians 6:10-13a, 6:18-9  Written by the Apostle Paul from a Roman prison.

I knew it would be awhile between this trip and the last one (5 weeks).  I had switched back to a night work schedule which means I have to sleep on Sunday mornings when I get home from work. I also had to work a Monday day-shift for six weeks in a row.  I'm reaching the age where I know my physical limits.  So yesterday I was able to go (didn't have to work today/Monday) and with the daylight hours lasting longer it made it a lot easier to get downtown. I still didn't get there until after 5:30 pm. Before leaving, as I was saying goodbye to my wife, she asked if there was anything specific that she could pray for.  My response went something like this.  "Pray that I would meet people whose hearts I can connect with God and meet their needs." With that I left and headed down to Compton first.

Compton is still a work in progress for me.  I haven't had a break-through with the people there yet. There is one parking lot off Central where I've had some contacts, but yesterday I was rebuffed.  It would be easy to just skip going there, but I feel it may take more prayer and perseverance before a real break-through occurs and people start looking forward to me arriving. Please pray for me and Compton, California.  After driving around a bit there I left and drove into Los Angeles.  Since I'm coming from the South side I stopped by the burned-out church off 27th and Central.  There is still no progress there either.  I'll keep praying there too.

I drove on up a couple of streets to 25th and San Pedro.  I saw Becky and Connie there on the same stretch of sidewalk where I had the dinner a couple of years ago.  I gave them food and water and let them look through the clothes in the back of the car.  Connie asked if I would pray for them.  I asked her if there was something specific she wanted me to pray for and she said, "Yes.  Pray that I can leave here with my daughter."  Connie is old enough that her daughter is, no doubt, an adult now too. I'm sure she's looking towards her daughter as a way out of there. Just before leaving, as I was standing by the back of my car closing things up, I gave them a group hug and told them they were two of my favorite people down there.  They were both very happy to hear that.

With that I drove on up to 16th/Venice just east of Los Angeles St off the I-10 freeway.  This little street is called Santee and dead-ends against the freeway.  I've ministered to a lot of homeless people here. This is where Hope lives.  I drove to the end of the street where a couple of guys were sitting next to their make-shift shelter.  I got out of the car and opened up the back so everyone could go through the clothes.  Other people came out of their shelters and there was a small crowd gathered around my car, Hope was there too, as I handed out sandwiches and chilled water (it was a hot day even after 6:30 pm). One of the men whose name was Dewayne thanked me for coming down.  In fact, he said it twice to make sure I understood how thankful he was for me coming there to help them.  Towards the end, a man (about 40-ish) rode up on a bicycle.  I usually see him around 14th St, but there he was over here and greeted me by saying, "Hey Pastor".  I had just closed the back of the car up, but I opened it up again so he could go through the clothes.  He told me a lot of his stuff had been stolen (a very common occurrence on the street).  At this point he and I were the only two left standing at the back of my car and he told me about a couple of things that happened to him and asked my opinion.  He told me he had been down in Irvine at a friend's house and was on the computer and all of the sudden he felt like someone had taken their finger and swiped it against the back of his neck.  He turned around to see who it was, but no one was there.  Then over on 14th St he was in his tent and the same thing happened again, yet no one was around then either.  He asked me, "What's happening to me?"  I told him that he may be experiencing the presence of evil spirits.  He sounded very disturbed about it and somewhat fearful that they would be following him from Irvine back downtown.  I'm not sure if he asked me if I could do something about it or I told him to let me pray for him, but I was going to pray with him no matter what.  I prayed that the Spirit of Jesus would enter him and with that, the darkness would be forced to leave.  That darkness could not stay in the presence of Light.  I know there was more to my praying over him than just that, but that was the main point of concern.  When I finished, he said, "Man, thank you.  I felt a real connection with God when you were praying."   Yes, "connection" was the actual word he used to describe what he was feeling while I prayed for him and the very same thing my wife and I talked about before I left on this trip.  This man really seemed greatly relieved.  He told me that he used to pray all the time. What better target for evil spirits than someone living on the streets who prays.  I'm going to start going back over to 14th St and follow up with this guy.

I left there and drove a couple of streets over to Trinity St (yes, that is the name of the street), where Antonio and Leticia hang-out.  Before leaving, Leticia urgently requested I pray for them.  I had one sandwich left after that and gave it to a guy under the freeway a few hundred yards away.  There were actually a couple of  men there, the other guy got a couple of chilled bottles of water at least.  It ended up a good trip. ---Until next time.  John       

   

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Sunday 3/12/17

"And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from evil and disaster.  And God granted him that which he requested."  1 Chronicles 4:10  (This is commonly referred to as the "Prayer of Jabez).  

"Attempt something large enough, that failure is guaranteed....unless God steps in."  Bruce Wilkinson

Sunday's trip started in Compton again and ended up in the downtown area.  On this trip, instead of getting off the 91 freeway at Wilmington, I got off at Central Ave.  Central goes all the way into the downtown area.  After the trip two Sunday's ago where I got off the freeway at Wilmington Ave I didn't see any homeless folks on that street so I had to switch things up.  This trip went much better.  I hadn't been driving up this street for too long before I saw about three homeless men in the parking lot of a small corner strip mall.  It was a small lot and a there were a lot of cars parked in it, so I drove on passed it for 3 miles or so before I decided that was where I was supposed to start!  I drove back there and with a little apprehension I drove into the parking lot.  Like I said, there were a lot of cars already parked there and getting near where these men were involved stopping near the drive-out part of the driveway at the other end of the lot.  I stopped and called out to them, "Is anyone hungry?" They couldn't hear me at first and I had to repeat myself 2 or 3 times before they heard me and came over to the car.  When they did and I started handing out some food, then some men from another direction came over and then some guys I hadn't even seen earlier came over.  I gave out 7 or 8 sandwiches and everyone got a couple of pairs of socks.  It was a good beginning.  I introduced myself to one of the original three that I saw.  I told them that I have been making trips to help the homeless for years, but haven't been to this area much and would like to start coming regularly.  He said, "Hey, there's lots of homeless here in South Central.  They're all over the place here."  I told him I'll be back next week and we'll talk some more.  I know it will take a few trips before they get used to me coming and realize that I'm not here to receive or get anything from them.  So this first time with them I didn't pray with anyone, but got several "God Bless you's" from them.  I looked at it as a good start.  I just need to make sure I'm back there next Sunday, whether these same guys are there or not.

I drove on up Central and into Los Angeles.  I stopped at the burned-out church off 27th and prayed there for a while and then went on up to Washington Blvd.  I helped a few more folks with food and had one sandwich left.  Now someone at work had given me about 4 or 5 bags of women's clothes and they were about the only clothes I had on this trip.  As I drove around many of the familiar streets around 14th and the Jack in the Box area by Alameda I drove by a block long street full of homeless people. Now I usually wouldn't think of stopping here with only one sandwich left, but as I drove by I saw several women standing around on the sidewalk by their "homes".  I thought they would probably love to go through these clothes in the back of the car, so I turned around (again) and drove up to them and stopped. Well, it didn't take long before six or so women were going through these clothes.  One of them asked me if I used to go over by 25th and San Pedro St.  I said,"Yes, I still go over there."  I was able to pray with some of these women and probably only had about 10% of the clothes left when everyone was done.  On my way to the freeway, I gave out the last sandwich.  The car was pretty well cleaned out.  On this trip alone I must have given out 50 pairs of socks and several blankets in addition to the clothes and food.  It was a good trip in that regard, but I only prayed with maybe four people.  However, the first stop and the last stop were the first times I have met with most of these people, so this trip will lay the ground work for upcoming trips.  It was great that daylight-savings time has started.  Next month, my schedule switches back to nights in the middle of the month, so having the extra daylight will be a big help as I will have to sleep when I get home from work on Sunday mornings.  Please pray for these trips into the Compton/South Central area.  I so much want to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to these places so they can experience and witness the presence of God at work. --Until next time.  John      

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Straight into Compton, CA-2/26/17

Later the Lord chose seventy-two other followers and sent them out two by two to every town and village where he was about to go.  He said to them: "A large crop is in the fields, but there are only a few workers.  Ask the Lord in charge of the harvest to send out workers to bring it in.  Now go, but remember, I am sending you like lambs into a pack of wolves."  Luke 10:1-3

I haven't written a blog since the one on Christmas day, so this one is long overdue.  I've made trips just about every week, but haven't written any blogs.  As a quick update on my health, the IV pump with antibiotics for my foot is done.  The foot infection seems to be OK now, but we won't know for sure for another six months or so when another X-ray can be taken.  I still have some discomfort when walking if I put too much weight on my big toe. The other muscle issues are still there, but nothing has changed on that front lately, I still have infusions every other week and they will continue for the foreseeable future.  What a blessing it is to have good quality health insurance.

For quite some time now I have had a desire to start working in other areas of the Los Angeles area. Our country is suffering greatly from racial tension and we are all ill-equipped to handle this situation on our own.  However, our God is great and as the New Testament says, "His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine. Amen." (Ephesians. 3:21)  I really believe this is true so I have made a couple of trips into Compton to look for homeless folks to help.  Sunday was my second trip there and like the first one, I haven't found too many homeless folks there yet, but I'll keep looking.  I am not bound to just looking in Compton, but the whole general south central area is OK. With whatever left-over food and clothes I have, I'll finish up in the downtown area.  That's not to say that the trip was uneventful....  I drove down to the 91 freeway and got off at the Wilmington exit.  I turned north on Wilmington and went on up towards the 105 freeway.  As I approached that freeway I saw about 30 yards ahead of me a woman (about 20-ish) in the middle of the street.  There was a car coming from the other direction that had stopped and this woman, as I got closer, was yelling at the car, but walking away from it.  There was a skate board in the street on my side of the road and she walked over and picked it up and continued yelling at the other car which was now driving away.  I had slowed down and stopped, but started to move forward.  I wasn't sure if she was going to walk in front of my car or wait and go behind me.  As I passed by her she continued yelling at the other car and started hitting my car with her skate board about 3 or 4 times (very violently I might add). Luckily, none of the windows broke and all I ended up with were a few dings on the hood and side towards the back.  Now I couldn't really get out and start yelling at her to stop.  Imagine how that might look to someone driving by, plus here I am trying to bring the Kingdom of Heaven down here and yelling at someone is a bad way to start.  Being calm under pressure is essential.  I just drove away and had to laugh at the whole situation.  "Welcome to Compton John."  I certainly don't know that woman, but her aggressive behavior is indicative of the kind of behavior people have who live in tough neighborhoods.  It was a clear lesson in what to pray about for this area.  I found a couple of men to help, but they were in places where it was difficult to have a conversation with them. Eventually, I decided to head on up Central and into the downtown area.  Now the Compton area is around 133rd streets.  I drove up and stopped at 27th to pray for the burned-out church (still no movement there) and then over to 25th and San Pedro where I saw Becky and Pete.  I hadn't seen them in a while, so it was good to see them again.

I finally ended up on a familiar small street just east of Los Angeles St and the I-10 freeway.  I only had 3 sandwiches left at this point, but hadn't given out many clothes, maybe just some socks. Anyway. as I drove onto this street there were a couple of guys who I stopped for right-away and then as I stopped about 5 other men and Hope came over to the car.  I was so disappointed that I didn't have more food left.  Well, they went through all the clothes and the last person to go through them was a woman named Michelle.  She took every last piece of clothing I had. Yep, I was completely cleaned out except for a dozen or so socks, but everyone there got socks so having some left was a good thing. Before everyone left one of the men asked me to pray for them. What a blessing it is to be asked to pray over them.  Before I left one of the men, his name is Gary and I've known him for years now, asked if he could pray for me before I left.  Yes, he wanted to pray for me. That is what you call a double blessing.  He prayed that even though some of these folks don't seem too appreciative, they are all thankful that I come down there.  He prayed for protection for me and over my car.  I had to chuckle about that one.  Gary has prostate cancer and it is attacking his vocal chords too.  His voice is getting very raspy.  This was the highlight of the trip.  I love these people.  Yes God speaks to us through other people.   Until next time.  John    

Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Day downtown-2016

"That night in the fields near Bethlehem some shepherds were guarding their sheep.  All at once an angel came down to them from the Lord, and the brightness of the Lord's glory flashed around them.  The shepherds were frightened.  But the angel said, "Don't be afraid!  I have good news for you, which will make everyone happy.  this very day in King David's hometown a Savior was born for you.  He is Christ the Lord.  You will know who he is, because you will find him dressed in baby clothes and lying on a bed of hay."  Suddenly many other angels came down from heaven and jointed in praising God.  They said:

                       "Praise God in heaven!  Peace on earth to everyone who pleases God"  
                                                                                                                              Luke 2:8-14

There's something about the birth narrative of Jesus that is always so comforting to hear each year. It's as if God is reminding us through all the chaos we find ourselves in at this time of year that "I've got this, relax, don't be afraid."  Yet life does go on and the pressures you and I face, though different from the pressures the folks living on the street face, are just as real today as they were yesterday. Perhaps, a glimpse into their world today will get our minds off our problems for a bit.  My first encounter on Christmas Day was with a guy named Lawrence.  I have seen him the past three weeks with the last two times being on this small street just west of Olive and Pico Ave.  He's 58 years old and grew up in the Pasadena area.  When I drove up he was about to move over to the other side of the street because that side was in the sunlight and sitting in the shade was very cold even though it was noon time.  I had made a big pot of pasta and since he was the first one it was still very hot.  He was quite thankful for it because he had spent his last money on a loaf of bread ($3) and during the night rats come out from all the surrounding buildings and had completely eaten his bread.  Yet through it all he summed up his life and his plight in life as "I wouldn't change anything.  I've had a blessed life."  It was amazing to hear him say that since it echoed the words of the apostle Paul when he wrote in his short letter to the Phillippian church, "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be poor or to have plenty, and I have lived under all kinds of conditions.  I know what it means to be full or to be hungry, to have too much or too little.  Christ gives me the strength to face anything." 



A week ago at this very spot another couple of guys came by while I was with Lawrence.  Let's just say they didn't have his attitude.  No matter what I had to give them that day, they wanted more. Yet I still was able to pray with them so I considered it a good encounter even though when I left them I felt like something was missing there.  Anyway, back to Christmas Day.  I left Lawrence and drove just a little bit further down the street to another man sitting on the sidewalk in the sun.  I've helped this guy before too, his name is Carlos.  He was ecstatic over the hot meal.  When he got a blanket and a pair of socks he was really happy.  You can see the blue blanket and the white socks here on the right.  The bowl of pasta is out of view, but on his lap.  He probably put the socks on after he ate the hot meal.


I'm not really sure what those white "pants" were that Carlos had on.  Maybe it was just a sheet he put around his waist.  He struggled to get up and come over to the car.  I had brought several blankets and socks to give out, but didn't bring any jeans. It looks like he could have used a pair.  I'd say the temperature even in the sun was probably no more than 45 degrees.  It wasn't quite as windy as last year on Christmas Day, but it wasn't much different.  It was just cold and a good day to be inside and warm. Unfortunately, not a luxury these folks enjoy.

I drove around helping a few other groups of two's and three's. Most of them I've helped before and most have had the pasta before too and were looking forward to getting some on Christmas Day.  Most all of these folks live a ways away from the missions on skid row, so this was their "meal" for the day.  I gave out 7 or 8 blankets and at least 12-15 pairs of socks, items that are important throughout the year, but especially so during these weeks when the temperatures are at their coldest of the year out here in the Los Angeles area.

This was probably my last trip downtown this year.  I have a different trip to make next weekend. This year has been quite a challenge for me both schedule wise and physically. I'm hoping the new year brings better opportunities on both fronts.  I have been greatly blessed and privileged to help these people throughout this year.  Bringing God's kingdom to the streets is just a adventure.  There are obstacles that always come up so unexpectedly, but that are prayerfully overcome for those who abide in Christ.  It truly is a learning experience.  I have been blessed to partner with so many people who have provided me with blankets, socks, food, jackets and shirts to enable me to gain access to talking and building relationships with these folks. I hope you have seen the blessings from heaven poured out on these streets and alleys and underpasses throughout this year.  I also hope you still look forward to hearing about them.  I love sharing the stories.  Until next time.  John

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving Day downtown-11/24/16

"When you harvest your grain, always leave some of it standing along the edges of your fields and don't pick up what falls on the ground.  Don't strip your grapevines clean or gather the grapes that fall off the vines.  Leave them for the poor and for those foreigners who live among you.  I am the LORD your God."  Leviticus 19:9-10

I'm not sure I've ever quoted anything out of Leviticus to start these blogs, but here's one of the ways Israel was commanded to provide for the poor, during harvest times.  This verse came to mind after witnessing at least two people yesterday going through trash cans.  Here it is Thanksgiving Day, a day of plenty here in our country.  Even though we have one meal on this day where we usually stuff ourselves till we're uncomfortable, most of us, even on this day, eat at least twice if not three times anyway. Yet here in downtown Los Angeles, poor people are going through the trash looking for food or something they can cash-in to get food. And if they find anything to cash-in they probably won't be able to get the cash for it until the next day because most of the recycling places are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It's heartbreaking to witness this first hand.  It's for these people that I wouldn't miss the opportunity to serve on this day for anything...

There were a few people on my last trip downtown that I "promised" that I'd be there on Thanksgiving.  But then when I got there yesterday I couldn't find some of them.  In fact, I had somewhat of a hard time finding some folks.  I had made up a big pot of pasta and even took a little more than I usually do, so it becomes imperative that you hit one spot where there are 4-6 people around and hopefully others will come walking by.  One place off 14th and Central a woman by the name of Kesha told me that some other missions groups had been by already.  But places like where she was have about 15 or more people living in make-shift shelters and I don't have enough to feed that many in one stop and still have enough to help the 'solo's and 'couples' that I know in other areas. I also need a way to keep a big pot of food hot for the duration of the trip, so I need to find people quickly before things get cold.  Anyway, enough of logistics...

I couldn't find Antonio and Leticia, but I did find Hope on the little street off Venice Ave and Los Angeles.  Now usually there are 4-6 folks here, but yesterday there were only two. Everyone else was mysteriously not there when I came by at 10:30 am.  Hope was there and another man whose name was David.  He was originally from Shreveport, Louisiana by way of Odessa, Texas. He's always talking to himself and I kind of wondered about him, yet when I started talking to him (and called him by name) he responded like he was present and accounted for! Hope told me someone had taken her little suitcase with the wheels on it and most all her 'good' belongings.  I had one blanket with me and gave it to her and she got to "reload" with some of the stuff I had in the back of the car.  I had a fair amount of men's shirts so Dave got in on that action.  Incidentally, Dave came up to the car as soon as I pulled up.  I gave out a bowl of pasta to each of them.  Dave started eating his immediately and didn't stop until he had finished it. That was his Thanksgiving Dinner.  For that matter it was, no doubt, Hope's too.  The pasta is good, I put a lot of good stuff in it, but compared to a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner it doesn't compare.  It's almost embarrassing to me that it becomes the 'stand in' for a special meal like Thanksgiving.  One day I pray I can do so much more for them.  Oh, one other thing happened while I was with them.  I had just finished praying with them when a car pulled up. There were three people in the car that I could see and they were handing out small blankets to the homeless.  I had draped the blanket I gave Hope around her shoulders.  They gave her one and Dave one and drove off.  Hope then gave the one she got from them to Dave.

        Hope with the blanket draped over her shoulders.

          Dave--this is what homelessness looks like.

Well, one of the other stops that was memorable happened down by 25th and San Pedro Ave. This was near the corner where I had put on a dinner on a Sunday afternoon in November two years ago.  It was the Sunday after my birthday and one of my most enjoyable BBQ/dinners I had done over the years.  Well, there's nobody living on that corner anymore and for a while they relocated to an alley just up the street on San Pedro.  Then about a year ago the police/city workers ran them out of there too.  I drive down there because sometimes during the daytime some of the old crew hang out there.  I drove down there yesterday, but no one was in the alley either.  I came out the other end of the alley and started slowly driving down the street.  There are cars parked all along the street to where you can't really see anything or anyone on the sidewalks due to all the cars.  But a couple of women who sometimes hang out in the alley saw me driving by and called out to me by name.  I stopped at the curb at the end of the street (in the red zone) and they came down to me.  I gave out some food and they went through the clothes in the back of the car and we talked for a while.  I had gotten out and was standing with them at the back of the car and prayed with them.  I had my arms around both of them like they were my little girls.  I can't really describe how much I loved them in that moment.  I'm sure they felt it too.  When I was done I asked them if they had seen Becky anywhere (another homeless woman in that area).  They told me where she probably was and one of them described the location as "down there across the street from where we had your birthday party!"  I couldn't believe she remembered that.  On that day two years ago, when the meal was done and I was all packed up and ready to leave, I gathered the people who had stayed and helped me til the end and I prayed with them.  When I finished they all started singing me Happy Birthday.  I'll never forget it!  Well anyway, Happy Thanksgiving!  Until next time.  John          

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sunday downtown 11/13/16 and the story of Hope

"Be joyful in hope,patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with God's people who are in need.  Practice hospitality."  Romans 12:12-3

Last week when I left Antonio and Leticia I promised to come back this week and bring a blanket. Leticia was shivering as they were getting ready to lay down their pieces of cardboard to make a bed and sleep on the sidewalk that night.  So they were the first ones I visited this week.  If I hadn't seen them first, I probably wouldn't have had the blanket when I did see them. Blankets go fast just about any time of year, but especially now that its getting colder at night.  I told them also, that I probably wouldn't be down next Sunday, but would be down there on Thanksgiving morning.  I showed them a calender on my phone so they knew Thanksgiving was on Thursday the 24th.  I'm not sure how familiar they are with this holiday.  I'm reminded of the story of one of my nurses at the hospital who asked me if I knew what they called Thanksgiving in the Philippines....(answer)."Thursday".  Not everyone shares our holidays.

In last week's blog I opened with a brief account of some health issues I've had recently and expressed my thanks and gratefulness at having good health insurance.  I wondered out loud what it would be like for folks on the street to go through life without any health insurance.  Well, this week I now know of two people who are facing this situation.  I'll begin with the story of Hope.  Hope is a woman in her mid to late thirties (I'm guessing). She is in one of the pictures from last week's blog.  I had promised to bring Robert, who also lives on this street, a bible and stopped by this small little street after seeing Antonio and Leticia.  There are now a half dozen or so people living on this street all the time.  I got out of the car and had opened the back hatch when Hope asked me if I had any maternity clothes.  Well, Hope is as skinny as a rail and I didn't realize at first that she was asking for herself.  In talking with her further about this, she told me she has had 5 kids, a miscarriage and now is pregnant again.  The father is around, but isn't treating her well and I got the impression isn't going to help her with this at all.  I asked her if she had family that could help. Apparently, she's from the Chicago area and does have family there. Getting back there is another hurdle.  Hope receives no government assistance at this time.  She's hoping to somehow get back there before the end of the year, but these things usually take a lot of time to make happen.  I prayed with her about her pregnancy and situation. We'll get through this somehow.  Unless she can get back to Chicago, the outcome will not be a happy one.

The other situation I heard about was told to me by Red, a man who lives near San Pedro Ave and 10th street.  I hadn't been down there in a while and had told him about my foot infection. So he knows a homeless guy who hangs out around there who was doing something in a dumpster and sliced his foot on some sheet metal.  His foot got infected (lack of immediate medical attention) and he ended up losing 3 toes.  Can you imagine?  The things like medical insurance that we take for granted are so important.

When I pulled up to talk to Red I had three sandwiches left. There were three guys there and I gave out all three to them.  So while I'm talking to Red a woman in a wheelchair came around the corner from San Pedro Ave and towards us.  She was moving the wheel chair with one leg and her hands. The other leg, apparently, wasn't working.  As she got closer to us, she called out asking if I had any "spaghetti".  She said the last time I had spaghetti and "it was so good".  Like I said, I had just given out the last of the sandwiches.  I told her I would be back on Thanksgiving with some pasta and to make sure she was there. Well Red still had his sandwich in his hand and it was still in the baggie unopened.  He offered his to her!  So that was how the trip ended...on a high note.  A high note of hope!  Until next time. --John