It was our second week in San Pedro. Our group is swelling. Perhaps a dozen or two more people than the first Sunday.
My friend, Lainel, and the band led us in a time of singing and meditation. He’s got a tremendous gift in music and is great with people.
Then Brit, a San Pedro resident, mother of two, and a beloved part of our community, shared about how she and her husband, Anthony, have had so many dreams of God’s peace coming to San Pedro and how she was so excited that it was happening now. She was challenging people to “give it a year” and that we will see fruit. She wasn’t talking about strawberries and mangos, but that we would see changed lives and the atmosphere of the city looking more like heaven. She has a unique gift to inspire and motivate people.
I had an opportunity to share briefly from this Scripture that I can’t stop thinking about:
“Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
When I did word studies, I discovered that “seek” was the Hebrew word—darash—which means to investigate, discuss, and care. So to apply Jeremiah 29:7, it means that we need to be “asking and brainstorming” how we can bring peace and prosperity to the city.
Peace and prosperity is the well-known Hebrew word shalom.
“Shalom speaks of wholeness, soundness, completeness, health, harmony, reconciliation, justice, and welfare—both personal and social.”
—Eldin Villafane, “Seek the Peace of the City.”
So all that is what we should be trying to figure out and be praying into. Yet, I think it can’t just end with meetings and prayer sessions; we need to actually take action and be consistent. The last few days, whenever I get around my friends, we find ourselves “darash-ing” or trying to ask the question how we can bring shalom to our region.
I’ve noticed that when churches don’t believe they can bring shalom to their region, they will become very indifferent and apathetic and just be on the defensive. When churches believe that we can bring shalom to our region, we will be energized by vision and prayer. Vision leads to prayer and prayer leads to more vision.
I felt the room was full of enthusiasm. I definitely wasn’t kicking a dead horse. The group that is growing in San Pedro is full of compassion and vision. I feel that’s exactly what we need to generate movement and momentum, people who are as excited and committed as you, joining forces. (By the way, some people are just excited, but not committed—you need excited and committed people). When I get around these people, I get energized, not drained. No one is complaining or criticizing; we are too busy dreaming and celebrating.
We took about 40 people out this time to give away wipes, dinners in a bag, and tissue boxes. The first person I met was named Bruno. He lives out of a tent. My friend Ben and I asked if we could pray for him. He wanted prayer for his daughter, who needs a heart transplant. Ben was praying for Bruno’s daughter with so much compassion because Ben has a daughter too. So while he was praying, I had this thought: “I think Bruno needs a healing too…specifically in his hip.” I’ve learned that when you can’t shake off a thought too easily, the Spirit may be saying something. So when Ben finished praying, I asked Bruno if he needed healing in his body, specifically in his hip. Bruno was surprised that it was called out before he could tell us. Then we prayed a quick, short prayer for healing. Bruno tested out the hip and found it was healed.
This was especially cool, because we meet on 430 W. 6th Street at 4:30 p.m. and my friend Anthony felt we needed to claim Acts 4:30.
“Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:30)
That’s what happened! It’s just the beginning.
Another highlight for me was seeing Carmen again. She uses a wheelchair and lives in a tent. We got to connect with her again and she remembered us! Thankfully she was getting better from her cold and she asked us, “Are you coming back next week?” We told her we would come back. She gave a big, warm smile.
When I talked to our Jesus Center community who also walked the streets with us, they said that was the question that was asked by many of our new friends: “Will you be back next week?”
We had many good conversations when we got back to our building. We shared the victories. We shared new ideas that can improve our efforts to bring shalom to the city!
Paul, our fearless outreach leader, shared with me that some of our new friends who live in the tents felt so much love through our community, their eyes were faucets. We are discovering that even more than food, they are desiring friendship.
Larson, a super-insightful young adult, shared with me that he felt that most of the people who were on the streets ended up their because of broken relationships. Maybe they were kicked out of their house after fighting with a parent. Maybe they were dumped by a girlfriend. Maybe their spouse left them, and they couldn’t cope with the rejection without substance abuse.
Something I know about our church is that we aren’t just handing out goods. We are extending friendship. I really believe that God can heal hearts and change lives through the vehicle of friendship.
Every week, I hope we can bring more and more SHALOM to San Pedro! On Sunday night, when I got home, I was texting with my friend Greg, who leads a really effective non-profit for youth. He regularly takes youth to do service projects. Greg shared how the givers always seem to receive way more than those who receive. I can say that it’s true for me. My heart is so full whenever I can be a blessing to others, especially the disadvantaged, with no strings attached.
Last thought: I feel that I am making a shift from being a feeder to a leader, a chef to a contractor. Let me explain. For the first six years of the church, I really wanted to feed the sheep well by being a good teacher. However, I am now realizing that the South Bay doesn’t need more teachers, but more leaders. People who will lead the church to action. I believe I was so focused on trying to be a good minister, yet the Spirit is now challenging me to be a mobilizer. I’m discovering that one of the best ways to keep the sheep healthy is to keep them moving, not just eating. And as we mobilize the church to care for the city, the church will experience more inner healing and restoration, and we will witness greater spiritual and numerical growth.