Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Pasadena Mission Trip January 3, 2017


Wait a minute.  What just happened here?  I believe it is time to step back, take a look at this day and reflect upon it!  There have been things happening today that were not normal.  What a day it has been!  Let me explain.

It’s January and I was outside without a coat today and never even gave it a thought.  Now that is not normal.  I rode around on the California freeways in a black Mercedes high-topped shuttle, as if I was a person of importance, and that is certainly not normal!!  I helped move a mountain of items from our meeting room into the back of three shuttles so we could give them to the homeless today.  I spent the better part of the day in downtown Los Angeles where the high-rise buildings poke their cement and steel girders high into the sky.  What Iowa boy does that on a normal day? 

I had my picture taken on the top of a five-story building with the skyscrapers of Los Angeles in the background.  How can you top that?  But it gets even more incredible for 30 (four had to return to Iowa early) people who have become friends this last week were in the photo with me.  We are all from the Midwest and I wonder how many other people from our part of the country were doing what we did today?  I’m guessing not too many.  What a day it has been!  Today we were available to be God’s hands and feet.  We hope and pray we made a difference in His world with our feeble efforts.  Today was not normal as we rubbed shoulders with the homeless of Los Angeles!

To better explain the story, our Petal Pusher team loaded all the items we had brought, or had drop shipped to give to the homeless, into the shuttles this morning.  We went to the Union Rescue Mission building in the heart of the city and worked there for a good part of the day.  Some of us worked in the kitchen serving meals to four major groups of hungry people that came through the food line.  Others were preparing food for tomorrow by cutting potatoes, peppers and chicken into pieces.  Some scooped ice cream into dishes in preparation for tomorrow’s push of hungry Los Angeles homeless people.  Depending upon the time of the month, there can be up to a thousand people who eat the noon meal in the mission building each day.  Talk about things not being normal, how sad is it that this has become normal here in one of the largest state of the richest country in the world?

Other members of our group set up and worked on the distribution line as the homeless who finished their meal filed past and picked up needed items we brought for them.  We handed out socks, hats, blankets, bags to carry their belongings, towel kits filled with personal items, underwear, wash cloths, baby wipes and baby hats, cookies and Hershey chocolate bars to name a few.  Hundreds of men, women and children, all of them Los Angeles homeless people, received these items that were donated by the people in Iowa, Illnois and Indiana.  We were the hands and feet handing the items to hurting people on behalf of those who donated them.

Some in our group went to another floor of the building to be with children who have moved from the street into the building to live there as they transition.  They read to them, listened to them and loved them, taught some songs, and colored Jesus books with them.  They also gave them a slinky and another toy to play with.  One of the things that impressed our volunteers was that the children have goals and dreams.  One little girl said she wanted to get enough money so someday she could buy a house and come back to help the kids on the fourth floor of the building where she is now living.

In our meeting room tonight we shared our experiences and feelings of the day.  Much was said and many comments were written that Ellie will later publish in one of her articles.  As the meeting began this evening, Ellie handed everyone special silly glasses to make the point that perhaps we had seen the world with different eyes today.  Some expressed that they were out of their comfort zone as they arrived at the homeless shelter.  Prayers for strength were sent to Heaven as we entered the building. 

We also had a guest speaker at our meeting tonight.  Kimberley is a great friend who teaches in a public school in Compton.  She talked about her life and her struggles with some personal issues.  She is a powerful speaker and gave a great testimony of God at work in her life.  She also shared about her students and explained some of the issues faced by the kids she has in her class.  She is excited for this coming Monday as she goes back to teach after Christmas break. 

She will have a new class of students on Monday.  Kimberley actually requests the roughest and worst behaving kids for her class because she knows what they need and knows how to help them!  She explained that of the 33 teachers in her school, 13 quit this past year because of conditions they couldn’t deal with.  This has caused discipline to deteriorate even further.  The incoming students to Kimberley’s classroom have had substitute teachers most of this school year and have become very disruptive and are out of control.  Pray for Kimberley as she welcomes this new class into her room and begins to work with them to teach and reshape them into responsible kids who see themselves as valuable human beings.  Our group gave Kimberley $650 to use in her classroom where she feels it will be most valuable.  It could possibly be used to purchase books for them to read or a field trip.  She was also given school supplies for her classroom from Trinity Lutheran in Des Moines, something they always need.

So, as this very not normal day comes to a close, we are winding down and getting ready to close out this mission trip.  It has been a fast paced week with little free time at our disposal.  So, with our mission accomplished, tomorrow is our free day.  We have some petal pushers who will be renting cars and driving to the Ronald Reagan Museum in Simi Valley.  Others will Uber to the Battleship Iowa for exploration of that floating weapon system now anchored on display in Long Beach.  One group has arranged Uber transportation to Santa Monica Pier to see the sights, shop and enjoy a meal together.  Some of us will remain here to catch up on sleep or simply lounge in the hotel.  I suspect there may be even more events arranged before the day is over.  We hope everyone enjoys our only free day.

On Thursday we once again take a hotel shuttle to LAX where we will board Southwest planes heading east and fly back to the cold Midwest part of the country.  Few of us are excited about the January cold we will encounter when we land.  The Iowa people will drop out of the sky in Kansas City and drive back home.  Another airplane for the Indiana group will return to Indianapolis.

The mission trip will then be history and our time together will be over.  As is true with every Pasadena trip in the past, the reality is that this particular group of people God brought together will never all be together on an adventure again.  We bonded as a group and many memories were made, no question about it.  As we part ways, we leave the success for our group’s impact in God’s hands.  I know many in our group are thinking about of our wonderful shuttle drivers this past week.   Hopefully we were able to plant some seeds that God will water to encourage growth in His kingdom.

And with that, I will sign off.  I hope you have enjoyed my updates and hope they helped you feel part of our mission adventure from the comforts of your home.  Speaking for the whole Pasadena Mission Team, I pray God’s richest blessing for each of you.  May 2017 be a year filled with His blessings as you experience its remaining 362 days of God’s grace!

Lynn Menz – a tired Petal Pusher – one who has been part of a not very normal day/week.

Pasadena Mission Trip ---Monday, January 2, 2017


When you are near Pasadena and find they are scheduling one of the most famous parades in the world, what should you do?  We Petal Pushers pondered that question and the resounding answer was that we should go!  And go we did!

We boarded the shuttles and headed to the special seating we had right along Colorado Boulevard in the middle of the parade route.  The time was 6:15 AM.  Many in our group had never been to the famous Rose Parade so they were excited and for those who had been there before, it was still an exciting event to look forward to.  It was wonderful to leave a little later than in the past when we drive eight cars to get there.  The stress of driving was gone and we didn’t have to deal with finding and paying for parking spots for all those vehicles and then walking blocks to find our seats. 

Our three shuttle drivers drove to within a block of the intersection of Madison and Colorado.  The street was closed there, but when our three black shuttles arrived someone moved the barricades and let us enter.  We were dropped off right at the seating area!   Someone said we probably appeared to be some very important people and that was why the street was opened up for us.  Come to think of it, they were right.  We are God’s kids and there were seats waiting that He had set up for us.  Some of you know that story of how God provided the Colorado Boulevard seating but the story is too long to include here.  The day was starting out well for it was a fantastic beginning to our parade adventure.

Two of the shuttle drivers had never been to the parade before.  They were able to stay with us instead of driving back to their home base.  There just ‘happened to be’ three extra seats for them!  As is customary, the parade begins at 8:00 with a stealth bomber flying close to the ground the length of Colorado Boulevard.  What an awesome sight!  Every parade I attend I thank God the boys flying that plane are good guys that are on our side.  As we waited for the floats to reach our location we were glad we had coats for the temperature was only about 50 degrees under cloudy skies.  The wind speed increased as well to push the cold against us.  It was not exactly uncomfortable but not as pleasant as I have seen in year past either.

The first entry in the parade takes a good half hour to reach us.  There is nervous excitement as we wait and sometimes back and forth banter from the people in the bleachers on each side of the street.  It’s party time and everyone is in a good mood.  Never, of all the times I have been there, have I seen anger or problems.  It’s New Years and everyone is there to have a good time and enjoy the big event.

Of course we are anxious to see the floats for we now know and appreciate the time and energy that went into each of them.  When we see one of the floats we have worked on the past few days the excitement level increases and we yell and scream to anyone who will listen as we point out the parts we personally worked on.  If someone riding on one of those floats recognizes our group of petal pushers there is an instant bonding with yelling and pointing and jubilation exchanged.  There is such pride that comes to the surface for having worked hard and completed this float, even if it was only a tiny part of the whole thing.

The highlight is the arrival of our own Lutheran Hour float of course.  The feeling mentioned above is magnified. Those who have been there will understand this incredible feeling of connection.  Many of you know that the major TV networks many times will go to commercial when our float, the only Christian float, comes into view.  This year cell phones were ringing and announcing from folks back home that NBC did a nice coverage of our float as it went by their TV booth. 

The parade lasted about two hours and we boarded the shuttles for the drivers to get us out of the traffic jam that is inevitable when over a million people try to leave the area at the same time.  It took some time but we made it.  First stop was back to the Rose Palace where there were porta-potties still in place.  Welcome relief and I need say no more.  From there we traveled back south and drove along the beach for a few miles in the Malibu area.  At one point we stopped for photos of the ocean and ended up taking a group photo with the ocean in the background.

Our next stop was near our hotel at Ralph’s grocery store.  Ellie had ordered 80 pieces of chicken the night before and had organized the people in her shuttle into a group of shoppers.  When they left the store we had fixins for a picnic meal to be enjoyed in our hotel meeting room.  That was followed by more organization of the items for our mission to Skid Row tomorrow.

At 7:00 this evening we gathered again to reflect upon the day and watch another segment of the video series from Ken Ham on how to defend your faith.  He gave an interesting and solid presentation on the first chapter of Genesis where the days of creation are explained.  He makes it clear that the Bible says it was regular length days as we understand them.  A good discussion followed and hopefully got thoughts generated that otherwise wouldn’t have been. 

We also did a surprise birthday recognition for Rhonda with cupcake treats to honor her.  Dorothy was also honored for her birthday a few days ago.  I’m not sure our singing of Happy Birthday made the occasion any more festive but we did it anyway.  Secret Servant gifts were handed out.  For those who were hungry we had ingredients to make sandwiches and more cupcakes.  As we ate we chatted about the float decorating process and the highlights of the parade.  It marked the end of a monumental day, another day of grace!

God’s Blessing to each of you,
Lynn Menz – tired petal pusher – one who has now seen some of his petals move down the street!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Pasadena update---January 1, 2017-Happy New Year!!!


When we left the Rose Palace last night at the end of the night shift there were a number of floats not finished.  Dick Gast, the man in charge of the Petal Pushers and the Lutheran Hour Float, wanted us to stay longer for the floats had to be finished for judging early this morning.  We could not do that since we had shuttles waiting to return us to our hotel.  We were all ready to be finished for the day.

Dick had us scheduled to work in the Rosemont today because their judging was not until this afternoon.  He wanted us to begin work at 7:00!  We could not report that early because it would have meant we would have had no breakfast and too short of a night.  We told him we could be there at 8:15 instead and that was pushing things since we have a long shuttle ride to get there.

We were told to expect to work a full shift because at the Rosemont building they were far behind.  The float in the most trouble was Honda.  We had heard that since yesterday was New Year’s Eve as many as three hundred volunteers decided not to show up to work as they had promised.  Our team with our Midwest work ethic was to be their salvation.  Other years when we were sent to this building to work on the last day, similar rumors were floating around.  In every case, we would find they were not in need of workers and we would have little to do.

Today, we were told it would be different and were led to believe the situation was critical.  We were told who to report to only to be told that everything was done once again.  Only cleaning was left and a few of us did some of that.  However, all was not lost.  It was relaxing and informative for us to watch the floats come out of the building into the bright California sunshine.  The rain was gone and that helped lift our spirits.  Everyone enjoyed our time at this new location for we were able to examine the floats as they come out of the building into the bright sunshine and see the detail on each one.  That was something we now understood very well and could appreciate.  The colors were incredible in the bright sunlight as the floats were moved to the street and readied for the parade tomorrow.

Ellie called the shuttle drivers to pick us up at 11:30 and we went to plan B.  We had them drive us on Orange Grove Boulevard past were the parade begins, to see all the bleachers and TV locations.  Then we slowly drove down Colorado Boulevard to see all the people beginning to stake out their viewing territory for tomorrow.  Windows were being boarded up to keep the mob of people from pushing against them and possibly breaking them.  Tarps were being laid down on the sidewalks and chairs being set into place.  People were setting up shop to stay the night to hold their territory.  Tonight will be a big party for miles along Colorado Boulevard.  People will be sleeping on the sidewalk in sleeping bags and on cots.  There will be grills set up and music everywhere.  It’s a new year and an incredible event is planned for tomorrow.  We enjoyed seeing the preparations being made.  We also were able to see our seating for the parade tomorrow.  Someone was setting those chairs up as we drove past.

I should explain why the parade is on January 2nd this year.  Shortly after the famous Rose Parade began, the rule was made that if the 1st was on Sunday, the parade would be the next day.  From what we have learned, during one of the first parades, the sound of bands in the parade caused horses to be spooked along the street.  In those days they rode horses to church and they were tied up along the street.  The ruling has not been changed.  Who would have guessed?

After our Pasadena tour we returned to our hotel area.  We were dropped off at the In and Out Burger restaurant, a big deal in California, and we had lunch.  We more or less red shirted the place!  Food was good but I don’t think many of us know why they have such a great reputation although, service was great and the staff was so friendly and courteous.  That may have something to do with it.  After we ate, we had a group photo taken in the parking lot and then returned to the hotel.

At this writing we have resting time and a meeting at 7:00 tonight.  Pastor Ernst will have a church service at that time in our meeting room and we will get other announcements so we are set for tomorrow.  I believe we will be leaving the hotel by shuttle at 6:15 so we arrive in Pasadena early and can take our seats for the parade.  Our seats are normally three rows deep with the bottom row having their feet right on Colorado Boulevard.  We are excited to be part of it all!

God Bless,
Lynn Menz – a resting Petal Pusher – one who had played in the petals!