Monday, August 28, 2017
BEING CHURCH IN TENT CITY
Our house church family met yesterday at Tent City - a homeless encampment of around 300 people that has grown up in the shadow of Angel Stadium, only a few blocks from my house.
We brought hot coffee, muffins, danishes and cold water bottles to share with our new friends who call this makeshift town their home.
The first new friend we met was "Fernie." He had matted hair that covered his face in dreadlocks so that only his eyes were visible if you looked through all the hair. He was wearing a pair of shorts, with no shoes or shirt, standing on the sidewalk as we made our way to the Tent City.
We said "hello" and offered him coffee and a some breakfast. He politely replied and graciously accepted all we had to share with him. He was soft-spoken, clear-headed, and grateful.
Next, we met "Gilbert" who allowed us to pray for him and his wife and kids.
The next tent we visited was home for "Angie" and "Ariana" who also received prayer along with their coffee and muffins. Several people in our house church had very specific words of encouragement for Angie regarding her son who was not with her. She wiped away tears as we prayed for her and her son and both thanked us for our prayers and our reminder that God loved them both so much.
We met "Sharon" who asked for prayer for her foot which was in great pain. After we prayed for her, "Paul," her neighbor, asked us for help finding the bus routes that she could take to go to a hospital that he had scouted out for her earlier. He was very concerned for her and talked at length with us about his ideas and vision to start a homeless non-profit.
One of our sisters took ice from the cooler, dropped it into a ziplock bag and placed it on Sharon's ankle which also helped take away the pain.
We met and prayed for a half dozen others and heard their stories: Like "Raya" who simply radiated the joy and the presence of Jesus and shared with us about what the Lord was doing in her life and how He was leading her and giving her great ideas for starting a new business so she could move out of tent city. We also heard her share about her four kids who were all very successful and blessed in everything they were pursuing - and her joy was evident as she told us about each of them.
After about half an hour of sharing coffee, water and muffins - and praying for our new friends at Tent City, we headed under the overpass to worship in the shade.
We had invited everyone to join us, but only one person - "Gilbert" - came out of his tent and came and sat beside us as we sang "Reckless Love" and "There Is No Striving" at the top of our lungs in the shade of that overpass.
One young man who was visiting with us for the very first time was sitting next to Gilbert and he started to talk to him during worship. Soon they were praying together and eventually we saw Gilbert and our visitor hugging and crying and rejoicing together as we sang.
Afterward, we all drove over to a local Indian restaurant and shared lunch together - and talked about all the amazing people we met, and how they had blessed us so much.
Wendy and I glanced at one another several times during that morning and smiled to each other. We were both so blessed to see and experience Jesus in our house church in this way.
There is now such a deep and sincere love for Jesus in our house church family now. That love has spilled out of us and is now bursting forth in expressions of love for the outcast, the homeless, the forgotten and the broken.
It is so beautiful. My heart can barely contain all the joy and wonder. Jesus is so alive in us and so real to all of us. We are truly experiencing the heart of Jesus together. He is abiding in us and moving through us to touch people - and transform us - in so many awesome ways.
We are overwhelmed in His presence.
Yesterday, sitting under that overpass, worshipping Jesus with my church family, I was overcome with emotion. It was such an honor and a privilege to be the Church in that place and to represent Him to so many beautiful people who are so dearly loved of God.
This really is the best thing I have ever done with the word "Church" attached to it.