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Tuesday, April 29, 2003 by Mike Lovato

Well, I thought I'd add some of my thoughts regarding this past weekend's trip to Los Angeles. Too much happened to mention it all here, but I'll try to hit the highlights. First off, it was an amazing weekend. Our team was really exposed to God's heart for the city. I saw firsthand how much poverty there is right in our own backyard. And even though I'd seen it on my pre-visit a couple months ago, it was still pretty amazing to be working right in the middle of it all. Sunday morning I met a man named Wendell. Wendell was sitting on a bench in Pershing Square which is this park in the middle of downtown L.A. surrounded by a bunch of tall, nice office buildings. It's filled with homeless people who basically live there and sleep on the benches around this giant fountain. Myself, Adam Walcker, Brad Yarbough, and Cody Hitt all went over to Wendell and offered him a Mexican pastry. He said he'd already eaten, but would like something to drink. So we got him a cup of OJ and then got the chance to just listen to his story. He's a Vietnam Veteran who doesn't have a job and lives (most of the time) at a place called VOA. He's tried to get a job, but can't because you have to have a permanent address to get a job but you can't get a permanent address without a job to pay for the rent. Kinda sucks. Anyways, he's also got some health issues and has been trying to find a clinic that will give him some antibiotics for him.

I think the biggest thing I learned from Wendell that day is just how tough it is to pull yourself out of a situation like that. I mean, that could be me or one of my friends. There's really nothing different except my mail goes someplace and Wendell doesn't have anyone to send him mail. For some reason, it seems like most of us think that homeless people are just bums who don't want to do anything but sit around. But the thing I discovered is that most of them do want to work. They do want out of where they're at. But it's nearly impossible to do. I'm still praying for Wendell.

On a happier note, something really cool happened that morning. We'd parked in this area that was a temporary no parking zone, except we didnt' know that at the time we parked. So....we came back from Pershing Square to find three cops waiting around our beloved 15-passenger van. Long story short, we got a $65 ticket. Tom, our cool but scatter brained host, totally said he'd take care of it since he didn't notice the sign. I offered to pay for it out of our church budget but he wouldn't let me. Here's the cool part: right as we're leaving the city (a few hours later) the students hand Tom this envelope and tell him to not open it until we're gone. So as we're about to pull out of the gate he opens the envelope and it's got 65 bucks in it to cover the ticket. That's right, nine 7th and 8th graders pitched in to pay for a parking ticket without letting any of the adult leaders even know they were doing it. Now that's cool. I've never been more proud. It makes want to say "See! This is why working with junior highers is so cool!" to everyone who doesn't understand junior high ministry. I have the privilege of being with these amazing people who think way more of other than themselves (and also apparently carry a lot more cash than I do!) Well, I guess that's it for now. I may write more later regarding this trip. Lots more stories to tell.

-Mike

Monday, April 28, 2003 by Mike Lovato

Well, I now have a blog. Not sure if anyone will read it, but I thought I'd make a place for my random thoughts. Check back soon.
-Mike