Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Last Sunday something amazing happened.

Our house church family, and a few of our friends, drove over to a local homeless encampment that has been building up along the Santa Ana riverbed, in the shadow of the Los Angeles Angels baseball stadium, which is a few blocks from my house.

Our plan was simple: We had purchased a few hundred dollar’s worth of batteries [AA and AAA size], and several packages of socks [both black and white], and a handful of umbrellas [because it had started to rain], to pass out to those who lived in what we had come to refer to as “Tent City”.

There were 12 of us, so we split up into three teams of four. One group went south while the other two went north, moving in a leapfrog pattern. As we came up to a tent we called out, “Free batteries, socks and umbrellas” and those who were interested, or at home, would come out and eagerly receive our gifts.

After we introduced ourselves to them and shook their hands, we asked them if they needed prayer or anything. About half of them said “yes”, like Thomas and Diane who asked for help with education [since Thomas was going back to school] and for health [which is what Diane asked for]. So we held hands, lifted them up in prayer, and then moved on to the next tent as the rain started to increase in intensity.

We met a Christian brother among the homeless community there, J.R., who took our hands and prayed for us, and then we returned the favor.

Eventually we were all out of batteries and socks and umbrellas so we turned around to head home. Our work complete.

Or so we thought.

Our team was being filmed as we moved along from tent to tent that afternoon. A friend was shooting a documentary and wanted to feature our little house church community in action. So, we had allowed them to tag along with a few caveats about not filming people who didn’t want to be filmed and respecting everyone’s privacy. It had all worked out much better than I had hoped, until we turned around to head home.

My friend who was filming the documentary asked me to say a few last words into the camera about what we had experienced that day. The rain was really coming down pretty hard at this point. Just before we started to film the sound guy announced that the battery was nearly dead on the audio recorder. So, we decided to see how much we could get before everything died.

I started to summarize our day, the rain kept pouring down, I wrapped up my sentence and at just that moment the battery died. The sound guy and my friend with the camera both erupted into shouts of joy and disbelief. For them it was the perfect capstone to our amazing morning and afternoon together. But that wasn’t the end of it.

After a few high-fives between us, we started to hear someone faintly yelling at us. We turned around to see a woman in a black and white jacket, with black hair and black jeans walking towards us, waving both hands in the air over her head. My first thought was that maybe we had missed her in our battery and sock rotation and she was complaining about not getting her share.

As she got closer I started to hear what she was saying, and it wasn’t good. Every other word was an F-bomb, and it was aimed squarely at me, and my friends with the camera equipment. “What do you think you’re doing? You can’t come out here and take pictures of yourselves like that! I’m out here trying to find my father who’s living out here and you guys are taking pictures like this is some kind of a game!”

This is exactly the sort of thing I was afraid might happen, and now it was exploding in our faces.

“I’m sorry,” I told her. “We were out here passing out batteries and socks to people and praying for them. We didn’t film anyone who didn’t want to be filmed.”

She continued waving her arms over her head and shouting at us, dropping more F-bombs every other word. “My grandmother is in the truck over there,” she pointed behind her, “and she’s got Alzheimer’s and my Dad is living out here in these tents and he’s an addict but she doesn’t care. She just wants her son to come home. I don’t want to be out here but she won’t let me go home until I find him and bring him home.”

“Do you want us to help you find your Dad?” I asked.

“I know where he is, but he won’t come home with me. I know he won’t. He just wants to stay out here.” And then the floodgates burst open. She started to sob uncontrollably.

She buried her face in her hands and wept loudly. “I was an addict too,” she said.

I put my arm around her and told her we would go with her to find her Dad. My friend, Vincent started to pray over her as she continued to cry.

We stood there, in the pouring rain, the three of us holding on to one another as she cried. Vincent prayed, and I hugged her shoulders and prayed silently.

Eventually she looked up and said, “I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok,” I said. “We’ll go with you to talk to your Dad.”

As we walked together, she started to tell us more about her situation with her Dad. She told us about how she had been taking care of her Grandmother –her Dad’s mom – as she struggled with dementia. She told us about her Grandmother’s twin sister who was also in their home and needed help. She told us about her own son who she was also looking after. Then she mentioned her Dad being a diabetic and needing to take his medications.

Her emotions were still pretty raw. I was concerned that her Father wouldn’t respond very well if she were to confront him with all of this emotion that had been building up in her for who knows how long.

“When we get there, do you want me to go and talk to your Dad alone? Maybe he’ll listen to me,” I said.

“No, he won’t,” she said. “He won’t listen to anyone.”

“Ok,” I said. “But while you’re talking, we will all be standing right next to you and praying for you,” I said.

That seemed to calm her down a little.

Eventually we got to her Dad’s tent which was directly underneath the bridge at Chapman. One of our other teams was already standing around his tent talking with some of the residents. As our new friend walked up to her Dad’s tent and called out his name, I stepped over to our team and caught them up on the situation, asking them to pray.

After a few moments, her Father came out of his tent. A few of our church family were standing behind her in a show of quiet solidarity as she waited for him to come over.

I walked next to her father as he approached the group. He wasn’t much older than me.

Eventually we got close enough for her to talk to him. She was standing defiant, arms crossed, chin out, ready for a fight.

“You need to come home!” she said to him, the tears streaming down her face.

“Why?” he asked.

“Your Mom wants you to come home. She said she doesn’t care if you’re using or not. She just wants her son to come home, Dad. She just wants you to come home.”

I watched her Father’s face as she talked. He didn’t show any emotion, unlike his daughter, but he kept his eyes on her the whole time.

“Ok, I’ll come home,” he said.

Just like that. No argument. No excuses. No fight.

“Let me get my stuff,” he said and then he turned around to walk back to his tent. She fell to the ground in a heap, sobbing uncontrollably. We all sat down on the ground next to her and put our hands on her shoulders.

We told her it was going to be ok. We reminded her that she was brave, and strong.

“You’ve been carrying a lot of this weight all by yourself,” I said to her. “You can let go of that now.”

Vincent knelt down next to her. “I want you to know something,” he told her. “A few minutes ago, before you came up to us, I prayed for your Dad. I didn’t know what the situation was, but when I asked him if he wanted prayer, he did not refuse it. Most people are too proud to ask for prayer, but your Dad didn’t. He allowed us to pray for him, and when I prayed for him the Lord gave me a word to speak over him. I felt the Lord wanted me to say, “This is a faithful man” and as I prayed that over him he received it.”

“I’m so sorry for those things I said to you,” she said. “I thought you were just out here playing around, but you weren’t. You were really out here to help people.”

“It’s ok,” we said. “God had something bigger planned for all of us today.”

We stood there with here while her father broke down his tent. We helped him carry his load up the hill and around the corner to the trail leading back up to the street above.

As I walked next to her dad he said, over his shoulder, "Goodbye Home!" which really disturbed me. Even though he was leaving with his daughter, he still felt an emotional attachment to that space among the addicts and homeless under that bridge. [Please pray for him and his daughter to fully reconcile their issues and to lean on God for wisdom].

Once we got up top, we waited in the rain for his daughter to pull her truck around, and we helped them load everything up. 

It was an amazing day, even more great things happened than this, but I can't write it all in one post or this will become a small book.

We look forward to returning next month and we pray in the meantime that the Lord would bless those people who live in Tent City.

Please pray with us.



Anonymous said...

Amazing thing, God's love goes above and beyond what we try to even imagine. Thank you for sharing.

Lisa T. said...

Hi, Keith~ I just wanted you to know how much your blog and YT videos encourage and challenge me and my husband to think out of the IC box. We are so hungry to be a part of something like you describe - the Body of Christ meeting organically, loving and serving one another, then reaching out to those in need around them. We have stopped attending an IC for about 8 months now, but haven't found an organic fellowship close by yet...and the thought of starting one is pretty daunting. Would you please pray for us?

Keith Giles said...

Where do you live? maybe I can help you find something?

Lisa T. said...