Each week as part of our Discipleship Training School in YWAM Los Angeles, we spend Fridays on local outreach usually either in Hollywood or downtown in Skid Row. After having been here for several weeks now, I’ve had the chance to spend time on mission at both and I’d like to share some of my thoughts and experiences so far.
Before going to Hollywood, we spent time in Griffith Observatory looking over Hollywood and the city and praying for the various strongholds. We identified the different spheres of influence and culture of the area praying for continued breakthrough and provision as we spent time in these locations. We saw the skyscrapers of the city in the distance behind the smog and we noticed the sheer breadth and influence of this city on the surrounding area.
So far we have spent afternoons walking along the boulevard praying for the area and those we meet, as well as offering ‘Free Hugs and Prayers’ some nights to passers by which was very popular.
As we walked through the boulevard, we noticed how all of the shops were there to satisfy this desire, fill this empty satisfaction, everything from lust and greed to pretend riches. God has been showing me many struggles that the people of Los Angeles were facing but one in particular that stood out to me and that God kept on reminding me about was how, as an acting culture, Los Angeles and Hollywood have allowed people to wear masks of their identity, being told they can be whoever they want to be and finding unfulfilled satisfaction in these lifestyles.
All of us find a way to mask ourselves in some way, to perform to others, whether in the way we talk, or act, or do relationships, it’s easy for us to cover up who we really are, especially when it’s masking shame. So many people who come to Hollywood came here expecting to find new life and opportunities to get into the acting business, or find the fame they feel they deserve. For most of those who are here though, that’s not what they ended up receiving, only a very small proportion of people actually make it in Hollywood, and the rest are left trying to make it, or covering their shame and pretending.
By masking our true selves, we start to forget where our identity lies, as Christians we find our identity in the firm foundation of Jesus, but others find their meaning, their purpose in anything, from money to lust, and Hollywood perfectly enables these things to take over.
When walking along these streets, I felt like God wanted to tell me about how as people, both Christians and non-Christians alike, we find it so easy to act and pretend that we’re perfect, that things are going well, but Jesus had much to say, especially to the Pharisees about being hypocrites in life and living a life in conflict with who we truly are.
As we see throughout the whole of Matthew and Luke, Jesus taught the Pharisees, the religious nuts at the time about how not to pretend and live fake lives regardless of your intentions.
Interestingly enough, the word referring actors is actually ‘hypokritḗs’ or in English ‘hypocrite’ which is described as ‘a judging under, like a performer acting under a mask (i.e. a theater-actor); (figuratively) a two-faced person; whose profession does not match their practice – i.e. someone who “says one thing but does another.”’
For Christians, we’re challenged to live a transparent life ‘like an open book, easily read’ – K. Wuest, but for all of us, we always find ways to live behind this mask. This is why our prayers have centred around that, that God would change this in all of us and especially in the residents of Hollywood.
In our intercession, one of the girls in my team saw the famous picture of the Hollywood Walk of Fame with all the stars on the ground with different celebrities names on. But instead of the image or profession they were known for, God had placed down words of value on there like ‘loved’, ‘kind’ and ‘child of God’. Praying about this image, we saw how God was wanting to show the people of Hollywood how their identity and value is not in what they have done or their successes, but in how he sees them, as people loved by him.
Over the last few weeks we also got the chance to spend some time in our second location of Skid Row, in Downtown Los Angeles right past the skyscrapers.
At home in England we do have homelessness, but in no way is it comparable to what I saw there where everyone was sleeping out of tents or on the sidewalk, you couldn’t get away from the feeling of need and the instability that comes with that in such a poor and hopeless area.
After spending some time with the residents there, with their tents or trollies, I started to grow an incredible love for them knowing how just like us they are and how so many of them had such little choice in how they ended up there.
Walking around with one of the other students, Samuel, we came into a park where about 40 of the locals were, playing dominoes and relaxing together. After chatting with several different guys, we got chatting with an amazing guy who has become a good friend who introduced us to so many of his friends and brothers in the area – including ‘the mayor’ – and showed us one of the mission churches that were serving food that evening. We looked around the church and talked with some of the volunteers helping to greet the people they met who were receiving food.
As we slowly get to know this community, we have been able to share the love of God with them by blessing them however we can and praying for them in each situation they’re in.
This past Friday I met a guy who had only been living on the streets for less than a month, he was thrilled to see us and was really encouraging to us concerning the work we were doing there.
Since then we’ve had so many testimonies of people that we’ve met where we’ve been able to help them, and share the gospel with them, hearing their stories and praying for them, several of whom then wanted to know more about having a relationship with Jesus. What a joy!