When I traveled to Los Angeles with the UGA Wesley Foundation this spring break, I had an idea of what I would be doing with the Dream Center, a nonprofit in the area that works with the substantial population of people experiencing homelessness and living in poverty in L.A.
I knew I would be sharing His love with the people I came into contact with — but I had no idea what I would learn from these people about what it looks like to love God, no matter your circumstance.
In Los Angeles County, California there are nearly 58,000 people who are on any given night sleeping on the streets.
The largest grouping of these people are found on Skid Row, an area of Los Angeles where thousands live in makeshift houses and tents on the side of the street.
According to the experts at the Dream Center, housing costs are one of the largest barriers to housing for the people experiencing homelessness in L.A. County. Even in the cheapest areas in L.A. County, rents are more than $1,290 a month for two bedrooms, with the median rental price being nearly $3,000 and the median home purchase price being over $6,000.
Dream Center experts said homelessness often occurs when someone cannot continue to meet these housing costs.
The day our team visited Skid Row on an outreach with the Dream Center, there were a lot of people we met who were living in the midst of very broken situations.
I noticed small children living in tents, playing with toys in the streets. We met a woman who had been in a car accident and who held open the door at a McDonald’s hoping someone would buy her some lunch. We even met a man wearing a nice formal black coat who looked put together on the outside but who felt so broken and unnoticed that he cried as we encouraged and prayed over him.
But despite the overwhelming amounts of brokenness we encountered on Skid Row, God was present, and there were people praising Him and holding onto His truths.
I had a conversation with two men at a park near Skid Row who knew living on the streets was not a situation they would be in forever. They might be experiencing homelessness in this life but in eternity they would live with Jesus in the best home there could ever be.
Another man who moved around on crutches believed in God wholeheartedly for his healing. He believed he would walk again and allowed us to pray for his knee.
Whatever ways God used me to love on and encourage these people, a hundred times more God used them to teach me and to put a question on my heart—would I still love God the way I do now if I lost everything I had?
These people were like Job in the Bible. In many ways, every earthly possession they had was taken away from them, but they hung onto God as their sole reward.
God showed me His perspective on this trip—which was much different than mine.
For example, if God and I were both looking at a thunderstorm, I see the cloud from this earth full of rain and thunder and terror. God sees the clouds shining with the sun from above and the ability of the rain to grow life in His creation below.
My perspective on homelessness was on the brokenness, the hardship and the hurt these people were facing.
God’s perspective is the room for love His love to spread, the space for His joy to come in and bring life to a dead situation.
Our God works with paradoxes. He brings joy into hopeless situations. He brings life to broken things. He exalts the humble. And He invites us to change our perspective and to be a part of bringing His perspective, His heaven, to earth.
Isaiah 61 — The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners … to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
Author | Lindsey Conway