Day #6 – Tuesday – January 2, 2018- Pasadena Mission Trip
Where do I start as I try to describe the day our group of Petal Pushers had? No matter what I tell you, you will miss the impact of today’s adventure. In reality, you had to be here to understand. Everyone on the team experienced the day through his or her own filters. That means each of us saw the day in our own unique way as emotions played in our hearts in different ways.
We boarded our shuttle at 8 this morning and dragged with us all the suitcases and boxes and sacks of items to share with the homeless at Skid Row. This involved nearly 30 suitcases plus sacks and boxes that had to be put in the aisle of the shuttle. Lonnie did his best to pack it in the back but it would not fit. At least this was the last time he had to deal with this much luggage.
After a long drive through Los Angeles traffic and through the spaghetti works of crisscrossing cement ribbons they call interstates out here, we arrived in the Skid Row area. People were wandering aimlessly in the streets and tents and canvas shelters lined many of the sidewalks as we approached. Some of us had been here before and knew what to expect but for others it was a new experience. We began unloading as Ellie found out where in the building to put everything. We waited for Tyrone to come and give instructions.
We moved all of our items into the main dining room and set up tables to distribute items as groups of homeless came through for the noon meal. Some of us went with Tyrone on a tour of the five-story building while others stayed behind and organized items on the tables. Without giving all the details, there are people living on the upper floors of the building. They must follow the program rules and work their way through the system to get back into society once again.
There are so many stories! We met a mom with six kids who just came to the Union Rescue Mission last night, fleeing with her children from domestic abuse. She was desperate and so very thankful as we befriended and helped her take whatever she could use from our items. She is now living on the fourth floor of the building but her future is unknown.
I struck up a conversation with another young mother by asking how old her baby was. She was willing to talk and seemed to appreciate me taking an interest in her. Her infant was three months old and I was surprised to learn she had four more children, three in Sacramento and one somewhere else. I was very surprised to learn she had been living in Sioux City, Iowa. They had a house and food on the table. Her husband had a good job there and life was pretty good. I inquired why they had moved to Los Angeles. She said it was because they didn’t know anybody in Iowa. I am not sure I understand that reasoning. She explained that once they were in California everything fell apart because her husband went back on drugs. Now she was in the shelter trying to survive and missing her children. Her caseworker told her to move to Sacramento where it would be easier to get a job and housing would be less expensive. Then she could see her kids too. What will happen is anyone’s guess.
Those are only two of the stories of the hundreds of homeless we dealt with today. During our tour we found out there are over 60,000 homeless in L.A. and the numbers are growing. The Union Rescue Mission is a Christian organization and takes no funds from the government. That way they don’t have to follow government rules and can share Jesus with all who come through the doors. Currently it takes $56,000 a day to keep the mission running! Everything comes from donations from companies and organizations as well as individuals. I still cannot fathom that amount of money coming in each and every day. We were told they serve as many as 1,500 meals three times a day and never turn anyone away. They have a great number of people sleeping on cots in their chapel each night in addition to all those living in the building and going through their programs.
About a third of our group worked in the food line at noon serving the mass of people that came to eat. We served four groups..First through were men who live in the facility. Then families came followed by women who live in the building. When they are through the line, women and men from the outside are allowed in to receive a meal. After they had their food they came to our tables and picked up items they needed. We estimate that this year we set a record of about 1,000 health kits given away. We also gave away underwear, socks, hats, feminine products, extra soap and deodorant, 1,500 chocolate bars, 1,500 little booklets from Lutheran Hour Ministries called, “Do You Know Who Jesus Is” and many other items that were donated by people across Iowa District West. We had purchased $2,000 worth of supplies out here from generous funds supplied by home congregations, more than ever before.
Others in our group worked with children. They read the Christmas story and acted it out. They had brought along simple props so they would look like angels and shepherds. Mary had a doll as baby Jesus and after their short play was finished two of the little girls had fun holding the doll. The kids also made craft items from supplies brought from Iowa.
We left after three o’clock having distributed every last item we brought. We do not know the impact we had today, only God knows. We received uncounted sincere thank you comments and God bless you comments from the homeless. They are grateful. Our hearts were touched and we thank all those back home who allowed us to give out such a record amount of love to the homeless in California.
We left Skid Row and ate at Golden Corral before returning to our hotel. Kimberley and two girls she is mentoring worked with us at Skid Row and came with us back to the hotel. Kimberley is a woman who so tuned to God, His will and His Word. Ellie had asked her to speak to the group as she has done in past years. I wish everyone reading this update could hear her message!! Kimberly spoke for half an hour from scripture in the book of Kings about the prophet Elisha and God eventually bringing the widow’s son back to life. I am not going to attempt to relay her message. All I can say is that it may well be the most powerful message I have ever heard!
Kimberley was given many quilts that we brought with us, all made by Karen from Lone Rock, IA. Karen met Kimberley on this trip a couple years ago and came to realize God wanted her to use her quilt making skill to sew them for Kimberley’s kids. Kimberley is a sixth grade teacher in the Los Angeles school system. She requests the toughest kids to be in her classroom because God has given her the skills to reach them. As we closed our time together tonight, we gathered around Kimberley and prayed for her, for her walk with God and her ministry. When Kimberley left, many ideas were shared about what we could do in our home churches to further God’s kingdom.
Tomorrow is our last day, the free day to do what you like. Many are going to the Reagan Museum and some to the Getty Museum. In the evening most are going to Disneyland to shop and eat and watch fireworks as their final activity. A few of us will stay at the hotel and catch up on sleep and sit by the pool in the warm California sun and contemplate all that we have seen and done this past week.
I hope you have enjoyed my updates. I sincerely wanted to get across the feelings in our hearts as today affected each one of us. There is just no way to do that. So, for now, goodnight and may God bless each of you.
He has created you to be unique and for His pleasure! Contemplate that awesome thought and ask Him what you should be doing with your life because of it.
God bless and good night. Lynn Menz – finished with updates and ready to really sleep!!