This summer, my Bible Study group held a picnic at a local park in Hollywood. We cooked more than enough food to share with friends and strangers. We had an incredible day of fellowshipping, playing games, and meeting new people. Among the people we met were a group of three young people experiencing homelessness in Hollywood. My Bible Study friends talked with them all afternoon and invited them to Sunday church. The youth didn’t come. Some Bible Study friends were disappointed. I wasn’t. I also wasn’t surprised. In my head I even scoffed at my friends for their disappointment. How could one afternoon of conversation really impact someone enough to motivate them to come to church? How could it do much of anything?
Flash forward a few months: Through God’s grace, I have become the coordinator for the Hollywood Winter Shelter project, STAR. We have finalized our guest list and are now working to extend invitations. Our guest list contains 40 names. Many of them I know, many more I do not. My co-workers give me physical descriptions of each of the guests. One girl, “Callie” is described to me as a young, 19 year old girl with a pixie hair cut and a sweet, outgoing personality. I immediately realize that she is one of the youth I met in the park. My heart is overwhelmed; I want so badly for her to come and accept shelter with us. I did not speak to her that day in the park, but I feel this need for her to be at STAR. Our team all sets out to locate our guests; (this is not an easy task: imagine working to locate someone without an address or phone number) we just can’t find everyone. We search the drop-in centers and places we know our friends hang out. Callie is nowhere to be found. I begin taking long walks, combing areas where I know she hangs out. No luck.
Last Thursday (almost three weeks into our shelter): Hollywood BID officers find Callie and convince her to come check out STAR. She is so sweet and bubbly. I am overjoyed to have her with us! She then disappears for the next two nights. On Sunday, she reappears. I really didn’t expect to see her back. She cannot believe that we let her back into the program. With open arms. Why would we take her back? Why aren’t we kicking her out or chastising her? Instead, we give her a hug and tell her we missed her.
Tonight we are talking. I tell her how I am so blessed by her being here. I tell her how I searched the streets for hours looking for her. I admit that I was somewhat stalker-ish in my actions… She remembers that day in the park from this summer. She sees a deep, intense love here at STAR and remembers seeing that same love in the park, months ago. This love overwhelms and confuses her. Callie explains to me, “yeah, I have friends and they love me, but yeah… here… here it is just unconditional and bubbling over. I have never experienced love like this. I have never had people miss me ,and want me, and look for me.”
If she only knew. Hopefully someday she will. Someone is longing so desperately for her. God loves her so much more than me or anyone working with this project, so much more than anyone on this planet is capable of seeking after and loving another person. He loves her. So much. Because he loves me, I am filled with His love to pour out on others. Right now, she cannot see God, but she can see evidence of His work and love for her.
1 John 4:19 We love because He first loved us
I feel so incredibly blessed to be a part of a project where God is clearly present. I see him in the way this entire project has come together and continues to run so smoothly. I see him in the love demonstrated by all of the people who have volunteered and labored hours for this shelter to become a reality. I see him in my guests each and every day. He is here.