It’s July. This time last year, I was stressing on how to pack for a year in two suitcases and telling people about my future work with people experiencing homelessness in Hollywood. Now I’m trying to figure out how to get all my stuff home, because it has grown exponentially, and processing my work at First Pres. I have less than 20 days left at the Lord’s Lighthouse. My flight back to Virginia is in just over a month and I am trying to figure out how to move all of my stuff for my new apartment in San Anselmo in my Toyota Corolla. This year of service is quickly coming to an end, and I am in awe of how fast it went. I have made life long friendships and gained experience that I never thought possible. This year has molded my future ministry in so many ways. I had to write an essay for a scholarship application which asked the question, what kind of ministry do I feel called to? I cited several experiences I had had and books I have read, all within this last year. I’m not sure what type of ministry I will be called to do, but in the last year, I have learned and experienced hospitality in such a way that makes me feel called to always be working towards extending hospitality in the way that Christ did. Seeing that I have already written this essay on radical hospitality for the grant application, I thought I would post it here.
Calling of God
In Tim Chester’s book, A Meal with Jesus, he writes, “Jesus didn’t run projects, establish ministries, or put on events. He ate meals.” Obviously, I’m not going to seminary and pursuing ordination just to eat meals. But the beauty I find in this phrase is what ministry I am pursing. I am not sure of the future job title or position I will hold, but I am sure of my call into a world of striving to be more like Christ in all my future endeavors. I am called to a ministry of radical hospitality in which I serve and am served by all those around me. I feel called to this ministry based on the work I have been doing, the books I have been reading, and the voices who have affirmed this to me.
I am currently serving as a Young Adult Volunteer in Hollywood, CA. While Hollywood provides the imagery of glitz and glamour, I have seen a much different side of Los Angeles in the last 8 months. I work at First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood with the Lord’s Lighthouse Ministry. The Lord’s Lighthouse is a homeless outreach ministry where we serve a lunch twice a week, lead a bible study and homily, provide basic hygiene and clothing needs, connect our friends to further housing and health care resources, and most importantly, attempt to create a sense of community and church for those experiencing homelessness. What is commonly found among those experiencing homelessness is not only a loss of permanent housing, but a loss of community and a sense of belonging. The Lord’s Lighthouse works to create a church for those most often overlooked by society, most often forgotten. In my position as a YAV, I have the privilege to simply be present with our friends during a shared meal. I have forged real, meaningful, and mutual relationships with many people by sitting with them at the table and eating.
During January and February, I coordinated a winter shelter at FPCH. The shelter, or Winter Refuge, as it has been renamed, has existed for the last 4 years. It was created by a group of Hollywood churches who felt a need to create a shelter model that was intentionally hospitable. While most winter shelters in Los Angeles, run by the county, are first come first serve, we work on a guest list to ensure that our guests receive a full 8 weeks of rest, food, shelter, and love. For 8 weeks I enjoyed breakfast and dinner with our friends in the shelter, I shared in life. Christine Pohl writes in Making Room, “Around a dinner table, family and guest share food and life.”
In the rest of her book, Pohl writes about the practice and history of radical hospitality in the Christian form. She cites the story of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke stating “Jesus redefines neighbor and love for neighbor. The scope of our responsibility to care includes anyone in need. This expands more tightly bounded definitions of neighbor that tends to limit responsibility to those we like or those like us.” Radical hospitality is a ministry that Christ continually calls us all to be a part of through this story. The challenge is to find space in our lives in which we can do this work. I not only feel empowered by Pohl’s words to do this work, but also urged to share her words to create a society that is once again based on radical hospitality. The word hospitality in our modern day typically refers to the service industry in which we pay for people to be overly welcoming to us. What would many major social issues look like if we, as a society, were overly welcoming to all?
Another book that has been empowering me to this type of radical hospitality is Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow. While Alexander does not put this book in a Christian context, it was easy for me to find a clear message in my own calling from her book. She looks at the War on Drugs and it’s persecution of mainly African American communities. Alexander writes “We could choose to be a nation that extends care, compassion, and concern to those who are locked up and locked out or headed for prison before they are old enough to vote. We could seek for them the same opportunities we seek for our own children; we could treat them like one of “us.” We could do that. Or we can choose to be a nation that shames and blames its most vulnerable, affixes badges of dishonor upon them at young ages, and then relegates them to a permanent second-class status for life. That is the path we have chosen, and it leads to a familiar place.” If, at any point, we as a society are choosing to create a “second class status” we are not following in the call of Christ. It is far too often that there are people who have been isolated in society and hurt by the church. I feel called to be a part of a church that no longer feels the need to do this, but instead, truly has doors wide open.
As a YAV, I am urged to discover those isolated and alone. As an intentional community in YAV we have read books on racial reconciliation, gang issues in Los Angeles, toxicity in modern day charity work, the struggles of living on low and below living wages. We all work with homelessness in Hollywood and also run a community center in the primarily Hispanic neighborhood we live in. We are engaged in many facets of life in Los Angeles. I find that the more I engage in the city, the more I am led to be a part of the city. Not just a YAV living here for a year, but truly being in this city for the whole year. While I do not plan to be in Los Angeles after my year, as I am starting school in August, I want to fully be a part of the city. The church is not just the four walls of the sanctuary, for me I find the church in the city. DOOR, the partner organization with YAV in Hollywood, operates by the motto, “Find the Face of God in the City.” God is at work in all places, and not only is this my job as a YAV to seek that out, but also to be a representation of God and the church in my work in the city. My hope is that in any city and any job I am called to, this will forever be my call in the world, to create the Kingdom of Heaven, on earth. To love all on this earth because they are creations of God.
And is anyone surprised that I talked about eating meals with one another. For the 4th of July, I made Lanita and Sara, the only two housemates that stayed in LA for the holiday, a picnic lunch, as is required on the 4th. Here is the result and recipe for Sriracha Bean Burgers with a Bleu Cheese Butter. This is pretty messy to make, so get excited. The best part is that you throw everything into the food processor and let it do the hard work. Here’s what you’ll need:
1 can black beans
1 cup bread crumbs
2 tbsp. Sriracha
1 tbsp. brown mustard
A handful of Cilantro
1/2 a red onion
1 red pepper
3 cloves of garlic
Juice from 1/2 of a lemon(or lime)
1 tsp cumin
Make sure it’s blended well and really thick, the thicker the better. You can always add more breadcrumbs to make it thicker. Cover and refrigerate for an hour, they hold better cold.
After an hour, form into patties, coat with breadcrumbs and cook on a greased griddle or frying pan. I liked the grooved griddle that we have. It is very squishy and messy to form but the breadcrumbs are helpful in keeping it together.
They only need to cook for about 5 minutes on each side. For these put red onion, tomato, avocado, brown mustard and bleu cheese butter on a toasted bun. The Blue cheese butter is super easy to make, combine 1/2 cup of butter with 8 oz. of blue cheese crumbles. Whip together with a hand mixer and serve. It’s also really good on steaks.
Put all together and serve.