Last week Betty and I represented the Union Rescue Mission @ Bel Air Presbyterian Church for an Outreach Day. Bel Air is close to Hollywood and the church sits atop a hill overlooking the entire valley… very impressive to say the least. It’s a well-to-do church with many influential members.
After each service we had a table and people would come by and sign up to volunteer. We had an exceptional response. I want to tell you about just two of the people we met. They were not the people I was expecting to meet and they didn’t come over to ask about volunteering. These two were nothing less than divine appointments.
Bernadette comes to Bel Air church on a rare occasion… but she came this week. She opened right up telling me her daughter, Brittany, was living somewhere on the dangerous streets of skid row. Tears began to flow as she described a young girl who grew up in a good home but started using heroin to deal with her emotional struggles. It soon became an addiction. She would use in her room and Bernadette began to feel like she was enabling. She asked her to get help to quit or move out.
Brittany moved out. Early on she informed her mother she was living in a tent on skid row but gave no details or further communication. A mother’s mind goes to worse case scenarios quickly. Is she selling her body to pay for her habit? Is she being pimped? Has she been enslaved in the sex trafficking market?
As we spoke I encouraged her not to give up on the relationship and to accept her daughter for who she is with all of her faults and failings. I told her if she comes down to skid row I will walk the streets with her to try to find Brittany. We prayed together on Sunday and on Tuesday she sent me this text:
“Hi Dan. I prayed with you Sunday at church for my heroin addicted daughter. I texted her to call you or go see you. She texted back saying her body is slowly dying. She needs to get detoxed and in rehab asap. Dan, I’m scared she’s dying. She just texted me again. She wants to come home but I can’t handle her leaving to go use again after a couple days. Can you get her help. She lives on the streets. She never answers her phone so could you leave her a message? I’m just getting over cancer and this is stressing me out. I texted her back to go see you at the mission. I believe the Lord sent you to me. Thanks so much, Bernadette”
I sent Brittany a text message today. Please pray for her safe return to her mother and for her to find a solution to her pain and guilt and shame in Christ’s work on the cross.
Alexander walked over in a nice suit. He had an empty look in his eyes. I asked him his name and with a blank look on his face he said, “I’m a ghost.” As soon as he opened his mouth the tears began to roll down his cheeks. All he could say was, “I need help.” We talked and prayed. He accepted my invitation to come to URM chapel on Tuesday. He showed up. After chapel we went to my office and for two hours he told me his incredible back-story.
Alexander is a very, very talented young man of 33 years. He is a child prodigy. He is a gifted learner and was a dedicated and driven young man who poured thousands of hours into learning puppetry, illusions, and comedy. He soon began to perform. Before long he traveled the world performing his act. But he lost interest in performing for money. Money soon meant little to him. He gave away most of it to family and friends.
Excuse the pun, but the master illusionist became disillusioned. So he followed a lead in India to perform all over the country at orphanages for the sheer pleasure of bringing smiles to children in need. He was treated like royalty… literally. They bestowed on him the title of a prince and gave him anything he wanted.
He eventually became disillusioned again. He felt that bringing a moment of joy and then leaving them in their poverty stricken circumstances was still rather meaningless.
Upon returning to the US within days he lost both his biological father and his step father whom he considered his mentor. This started him on a path of depression so deep he could not see how people close to him betrayed him, stole his money, and left him alone in the world. He has never used drugs or drowned his loneliness in alcohol. He’s just been lost for ten years, a walking ghost of a man at the end of himself and empty from all the world had to offer; from self gratification to humanitarianism, nothing satisfied him.
Alexander has the ability to make serious money. Yet, he is down to his last $50 and visiting a relative stranger at a mission on skid row seeking answers to life. Here is his text he sent me after our meeting:
“It was an honor and blessing to spend some time with you today. I appreciate you taking some of your life energy to invest it in me. look forward to meeting again soon.”
After discussion back and forth he agreed to come to chapel again next Tuesday as I am speaking and afterward we will talk again. Tonight I received this incredible text from Alexander:
“I went to meet a friend of mine who is on the board of hearts of compassion and he invited me to the warehouse to take a tour. I ended up meeting the pastor there and I invited God and the Holy Spirit into my life. I surrendered to God and he gave me a bible. After that I went to Watts, CA to do a food drive and got to spend some time with the underprivileged families there. I feel a lot better. I know I have a long way to go. but I’m taking the steps I need to move in a direction that I believe will be better than some of the past decisions. Thank you for your support.”
He has agreed to meet with me weekly to be mentored and discipled in the Word. Pray for Alexander. I believe God has great things in store for this talented young man who was a ghost for ten years and today is filled with the Holy Ghost! Alexander and Bernadette are two divine appointments in a surprising place. Who would have ever thought this could happen?
– Pastor Dan