Day 4 in the TL: Encounters

Sorry for such a delay between posts. I was lagging due to work and just the general busyness of life. But I figured it’s about time to get back sharing my experience in the TL as I’ve been particularly reminded of it the past couple of days with a missions team reunion dinner last night, a text from a friend I met in the TL yesterday, and my trip to the City Impact conference tomorrow. 

Day 4 consisted of a lot of relational ministry for our team. We were set out to deliver meals to tenement buildings in the TL as well as hand out Doritos on the streets and start conversation. 

I made a lot of connections and had or witnessed plenty of conversations in that day alone, but one really made a lasting impression on me. I wanted to share it with you:

It was a particularly unsuccessful night of street ministry for me. It seemed the 15-20 bags of chips I had started with at the beginning of the night were gone within 15-20 minutes and I had zero good, deep conversations to show for it. People seemed to just want to take my chips and leave, hardly even answering my, “How are you doing tonight?”

I was disheartened and even a bit “over it.” I was tired from not much comfortable sleep and felt like turning in for the night. 

While my attitude was rather crappy, something came over me that inspired me to pray… likely it was the influence of the prayerful Korean middle schoolers who prayed for every conflict and praised for every triumph that came their way. 

God, just help me through this. Bring at least one good conversation my way.

About 15 minutes later, I passed a young woman in her late twenties dressed in a grey hoody, a purple cheetah print infinity scarf, fitted jeans with her hair pulled up in a big bun who was walking alongside a man. She was gorgeous with wide, beautiful eyes and freckles gently splashing her nose and cheeks. She looked like she was of Polynesian decent… Tahitian, maybe Hawaiian. And somehow we fell into conversation. 

We instantly hit it off. I knew this was the conversation God was blessing me with for the night, in His glorious way of turning a sour attitude to a grace-filled one.

I asked her what I could pray for her for.

She was honest: her marriage, she said. To the man she had been walking with who was now talking to a few of my teammates. 

Ela– her name was– and I scooted to the very edge of the sidewalk against a graffitied wall and huddled together. Her voice was a bit more faint as she unveiled how she was homeless, unable to get any of housing she had applied for, going to school to become a medical receptionist (where all her money was going), trying to get jobs, and separated from her children who were living with her parents in Palo Alto. And, not surprisingly, this was all upheaving her marriage. 

It was surprising to hear she was homeless based on how put-together she and her husband appeared, but that goes to show you everything is not as it seems.

We prayed. I prayed for her. She prayed for me. I felt like I had truly made a friend in the moment. And even more so in the next as she asked to exchange numbers to keep in contact and exchange prayer requests. 

I walked away from the conversation refreshed and awakened and on fire once again. The rest of the night was purposeful and many more conversations were had… a small, elderly woman named Brenda who loved Jesus and danced for him on the streets; two brothers, Ron and Reggy, who wanted to turn their lives around… but Ela stayed on my mind. I couldn’t stop telling my teammates about how great things went with her. 

It felt as if we mutually cared about one another. She wasn’t just interested in getting some chips from me or how I could help her. I wasn’t putting myself at a place above her; I wasn’t “blessing” her with my presence and my gifts and my mercy. No, she prayed for me as if my life issues were just as valid as her own. She treated me like an equal and I did to her the same.

And that friend from the TL who I said texted me at the beginning of this post? Yeah, that was Ela. She asked for further prayer for her schooling, her marriage, to find agood school for her two kids. I was excited to point her to City Impact’s K-8 school, City Academy, filled with teachers who love the Tenderloin, love kids, and love Jesus with all their beings. 

I am looking forward to my trip back to CI tomorrow. I can’t wait for what God will teach more… or maybe remind me… as I search for and tinker with how to live missionally… all day, everyday. 

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