Update #7 L.A. Team

By | L.A.

Last Update… This team returned on Sunday 5/26/19

Hi Friends and families ,

We are back , healthy and filled. I had the pleasure of being the student leader for this trip and it has changed me completely. From the beginning of this trip we did not know what to expect, plans would change but our passion did not. Each person on this team was ready to serve and willing to give their all. 

Over the course of this week I have experienced healing and restoration In so many parts of my life. The city of Los Angeles has been a place of hurt for me in some ways. But when I did live in LA I was shown what it looks like to serve . I attended a church called Angeles temple , my mom would take my family to as many outreaches as we could go to. Homelessness made my heart crumble when I saw people asking for money but their eyes asking for hope . This is one of the reasons I was so eager to come on this trip. 

We got to skid row with an open mindset. We were lead by those who give their life to serving. A woman named Tina lead us through everything . Not only did she pour into staff and people of the program. She gave us our itinerary and set up each day for us. Every single day was a new adventure , the itinerary was more of a suggestion. When running an organization for those readapting to structure there is not always  a way to have a specific schedule. This gave us the opportunity to meet a new face wherever we were needed. We had the opportunity of helping with the breakfast lunch and dinner. But not all on the same day. Some of the places we got to serve were in the kitchen, painting homeless woman’s nails, childcare, and passing out water. Serving at different meals I got to hear the hearts and stories of the cooks/staff , volunteers and people in the program. One example was when Phil- one  of the head chefs -poured wisdom into me, and empowered me as a young woman. He told me his whole life story & it will stick with me forever . One thing he said to me that I want more people to hear and digestwas ,” anyone can give a homeless person dollar but what they need is our time and willingness to serve”. While being apart of the volunteers for kitchen duties we also passed out food . I got to talk to families and make connections . Two specific people that broke me was a man named Anthony and his grandson with Down syndrome. I waved at Anthony from behind the counter in the kitchen and his grandfather slapped his hand. I was hurt and confused so I decided to get out of the kitchen and walk over to them as they were waiting in line. I introduced myself and started by letting him know how much I respect him for being a parent to a child with down syndrome and I wanted him to know that I found his grandson beautiful. I wanted him to know that his hard work does not go unnoticed and that even though it feels hard it’s worth it. My brother has Down syndrome and I understand how hard it is for parents. When my parents divorced I became a parent to my special needs brother and have felt the weight of wishing people would love and value kids with special needs the way they should be . Anthony the grandfather shared that his daughter/ mother of this special needs boy- gave him up and he had been raising him alone. He said that she says she will visit him but doesn’t . This broke me to the core to think that a mother would give up her child and not see value in him. And it broke me also because he child will never be able to have closure or ask his mom why she left and never came back. I was able to thank this grandfather for being selfless and living his grandchild more than his own mother does. 

As a team we also painted the nails of homeless who lived on site in the housing. 

I was able to talk to and paint the nails of a 27 year old beautiful woman. She was living on her own when she was only 17 . During her lifetime there was a lack of stability and a lack of support. She never thought she would be homeless but she ended up on the streets. She shared her thoughts, beliefs and goals. Being able to sit in a space and serve her by listening meant a lot to me. Homeless people do not have opportunities to be heard often . Especially because homeless people aren’t always seen as those with: dreams ,  or a story. They are treated like vessels that take up space and decrease value. But they are children of God with feelings and souls. This woman poured everything out and her trusting me enough to vulnerable in my presence meant a lot to me. As a team we have really been used to allow those who are unseen , seen. We were used to reawaken the self value they buried. 

From holding a child that never lets anyone hold and and watching him fall asleep while we work for child care had me thinking and reflecting. The kids that we got to take care of are not always born into safety and love . As a team we were allowed to make a safe place with love for them while we worked for child care as their moms where in training through the Rescue mission. 

During one of our switched itinerary plans we were given the opportunity to serve in the basement. As mentioned in another blog update . The man we served asked for us to come back. He shared that it was lonely keeping the rescued mission going alone in the basement. He shared about his son and about how he was as a dad. He also told us that it’s lonely and tiresome planning how to delegate donations and bought items. Our presence actually made a shift in his day, we got to take a load off him the what he  does to help the mission run. 

It was an honor meeting the people at Union rescue mission who selflessly help people change their lives but also an honor to watch everyone on my team use the gifts God gave them to serve other people. My leader PC lead us with excellence and care . There are many people who do not see the need for serving those here in our nation . This trip has brought healing , it has revealed God to me in unique ways and has given me the privilege of Erving and being under the leadership of the most amazing people I have ever met. Thank you for reading and staying updated. Until next time. Sent from my iPhone

Update #6 L.A. Team

By | L.A.

This is the only trip I was willing to lead. In 20 years of ministry I have either served college students or in organizations working with people in crisis/addiction/homelessness. When I was asked to lead “a trip” I had no interest. When I was asked to lead a trip to LA, I jumped on it as long as I could contribute some to the plan and layout of the trip. 

This trip and this team has combined two of heart strings in a way it has never been before. Both heart strings strummed together for a beautiful influential chord. I did not expect to have a team of all women, but I would not have asked for a better team than I have had this week. 

These women have engaged the people and the experiences around them in ways that are making enormous impacts on the kingdom, on their own hearts, and on the lives of each person with whom they interact.  This is not a “service project”. This entire week has been an encounter for each person on our team; an encounter with God’s intentions for each of us. Each of us has had something that has marked us forever. It may be a person, a literal moment, a personal encounter, an experience, a reflection. 

My most marking moment was yesterday, our last full day at the Mission, when our Volunteer Coordinator and Host said goodbye to our team with full tears in her eyes.

I have been a Volunteer Coordinator for similar organizations, having provided opportunities for many groups to serve and engage in the past. I always disliked having most groups come through with a specific project they wanted to do in “OUR” ministry space…and it was generally the same thing last group already did (ie painting the same room, cleaning the same space, trimming the same bushes, etc), but groups rarely want to come engage the people we see and serve; hear their stories, share your story with them…BUILD RELATIONSHIP AND CONNECTION. 

The pastor of the mission met with us yesterday and said “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety; it is connection.” 

The reason our host said goodbye with tears in her eyes is because this team dove into relationship and connection all week. They connected with people who are overlooked and live [barely] in the darkest shadows. These women on my team have gone to the gates of hell and met people there with hope, relationship, and light. 

The reason I was most marked by watching this goodbye is because I know we came here and met God in all the places, people, and moments we were supposed to. It marked me because I could not have been more proud of this team. It marked me because I may be the leader, but I have spent most of this week swimming in the wake of these strong and influential women. 

Update #5 L.A. Team

By | L.A.

Hi Friends and Family!

       It’s the LA team again! As I’m writing this we are back in our tent where it’s now passed midnight on our last night here at the mission. We are sad to leave because we have touched people’s hearts in different ways where we saw God really work throughout our week. During each night of our team debriefs everyone on the team would share where they saw God that day, it could be through a person or a moment. It was very interesting and touching to see how and where God touched us individually.  Also, every night one person from our team would share their life story with the team. Tonight was my night to share where my team just could not stop laughing. It was nice that I could share it with them where throughout this week our team has been growing closer and closer.

      Therefore, let’s wind it back a little bit. The past few days we have been very busy. There’s so much to share with you all but here are somethings that stood out to me. We have been in the child care room a couple of times where we spent a few hours with the children where we were all overjoyed and so were the kids. The kids would get attached to us and when they saw us outside of childcare they would run into our arms with huge smiling faces. I remember the first day I was in the room just standing there watching the kids come through and this little girl walks in the door and just ran to me and jumped straight into my arms. Her and I spent time playing with toys and coloring. After we left, the kids tried to run after us where each team member made an impact on a child which I really enjoyed seeing. Later, that little girl and her sister found me and one of my team members where they remembered us and just ran towards us. This filled our hearts up to see that we are filling there’s and making a difference in there lives by being there, we extended the childcare hours because we didn’t want to leave.

      Furthermore, we spent a couple times in the basement with a man that’s in charge of all the items that are donated to the mission. We spent some good time in there with him on the first day where he asked us to come back. We sorted boxes of items and food where we truly showed teamwork. He shared his life story with us and kept expressing how much we meant to him being there helping him. Thinking of teamwork, we served a different meal time each day. We worked as a team to prepare, pass out dinner, wipe down tables, and more. We interacted with the same and different people in the kitchen where they enjoyed our presence and work we have done. Today we done a water walk, we took cases of water on a cart and walked outside of the mission passing out water on the streets to people that were around the mission. Thinking of the streets, last night we walked a block down to a church where every Wednesday  there is karaoke with the homeless. We had a blast seeing God within these people by hearing stories and watching them have fun even though they are going through hard times. It’s now 1am so I’m going to end this update with how I saw God yesterday. I was working with one of the head ladies in the kitchen throughout all the lunch sessions. I saw so much grace in her when she had to establish rules and how she was handling situations with people. We were in the middle of the lunch room passing out drinks where it was stressful because things would start to get out of hand between people. It was nice having her on my side and hearing her life story and of course about her grandkids.

     See you soon! – Alexis (Lexi)

P.S. Adding to the last update, God is touching us in many ways on this mission trip where we want our minds to be present, so we aren’t around our phones.

Update #4 L.A. Team

By | L.A.

You are intentional.

I’m not sure where to begin. Mom kept texting me & trying to call me. I told her I couldn’t talk because I’m on my missions trip. She texted me a whole book about Sadie having to be put down yesterday. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t help but think of Sunday. While at Fellowship, the question was asked, “What is one of your favorite childhood memories?” When I spoke I didn’t understand the words coming out of my mouth. I said one of my favorite childhood memories was when I picked out my dog. I didn’t know why you spoke that trough me until I received that text from Mom saying Sadie had passed away. You were preparing me. Thank you, Abba…I saw this idea of choice come into play another way, as well.

Yesterday, our itinerary changed a few times, but we ended up working with children and it changed me. There were a few kids that were drawn to me. One of which was a little girl who would NOT let go of me when it came time to leave.  It broke my heart because she koala bear clung to me when mom came to get her. My first thought was that she may be living in an abusive family situation. Even if that isn’t the case, the fact of the matter is that she didn’t want to leave me, a stranger she had known for less than 2 hours. That’s when I knew. Not only do I want to adopt, I want to foster.

I want to give kids a safe space to love, learn & just be children. I want to create a positive in between for kids in these transitional times by creating stability & consistency. I want them to be so sure that whether or not they stay with me for awhile or forever they will NEVER have to question whether or not [I love them.][they are loved.]
THAT is my purpose.
I was made by love,
for love,
to BE love.

Update #3 L.A. Team

By | L.A.

Hello Friends and Family!!

We have had fun road tripping and exploring some of the area on the first two days. Through those days we grew closer as a team. A turning point that was full of reflection and preparing my heart for our time at the Mission was when we explored the LA Arboretum. After the time there, I feel like everyone was more refreshed as well as centered with God and I personally felt a lot closer to my team.

Since being at the Mission we have had quite full days. Yesterday, we were going from 5 am for breakfast until about 11 PM when our day debriefing ended. I love that through this time it is not constantly doing work but also building relationships with those who are here. They have incredible stories as well as advice to give.

Staying on the roof has definitely been an experience. PC had a broken tent and the wind knocked our girls tent over. It is beautiful up here though (where I currently am while writing this). You can see an incredible sky line, though just below it you see the reality of brokenness.

We appreciate all the prayers and thoughts! Please continue to send them our way, especially to feel rested and refreshed each day, throughout the day. God is truly a faithful God and there has been no lack of witnessing that this week. We only have a short time left here, so I also ask you pray that we soak it in and be fully present in the here and now. (Also, I ask that you don’t be too mad if we don’t answer a text or call as we try to be fully present.)

Thank you all! -Bristol

P.s. Mom, if you wanna send me money for all the coffee stops we are making due to truly experiencing the area (and mostly PC’s need for it) that would be great. Thanks!