Los Angeles Mission Trip
Immediately as we pulled up to our first destination at Los Angeles, my stomach dropped. Pastor Ryan had sent us as an intern and volunteer staff team of four to serve an extremely young church plant, Epiphany, in South LA in whatever way they needed help. Up until that moment, our expectations of what the next 5 days would look like were almost nonexistent. So we definitely weren’t expecting the protest happening at an intersection we were supposed to meet Pastor Tommy at. And we definitely weren’t expecting a call from him informing us that the center of that protest is where we would be serving that first day.
Little did we know that those first raw reactions to the protest would be exactly what God would transform in our hearts over the course of our time there.
A few of us had limited knowledge of the shootings that had taken place throughout America days before. A Black man from Philadelphia and another from Minnesota were shot within 48 hours of each other.
Then, Friday morning we came to find out that five police offers were killed in Texas, with another 6 injured during the shooting. And just like that, we have danced around our PR for mass shootings in America within a month- this being one of the worst mass shootings of police.
And we are left asking why? Why is this all happening? What is going on? Is this all a coincidence? Or is our God really sovereign? Does His rule over the cosmos include the permission of this blatant rampage of evil?
Despite the evil, we all still believed our God was good. We all believed He is bigger than this evil and we were unified on that front. And with that unity, Pastor Tommy began sending us out into the streets of LA with some other students working with nationality specific sectors of Campus Crusade for Christ along with some racially diverse members of Epiphany church.
Our main assignment was to listen: listen to people’s prayer requests, their perception of their communities, their opinions on the current tragedy, and how they think the church should be a light admits the darkness. And with that listening came just as importantly an assignment of prayer; prayer over them, their community, and that God would reveal himself in that place. We primarily accomplished both of these assignments through prayer walks and passing out water bottles with the church’s logo on them throughout potential neighborhoods that the church will attempt to reach.
With this type of research and outreach came a deep need for processing as well. This processing is where the transformation started occurring in our hearts. Pastor Tommy was consistent in debriefing with us and our team after each day of outreach. There were also times of deep processing with the other church and student ministry volunteers that we worked with during the outreaches. And lastly, we as a team from North Valley were in continual dialogue about what all we were taking in. It was in these times of processing that the terms “white privilege” and “white guilt” were defined for us in very novel ways.
I think we were all quick to defend ourselves a little when Pastor Tommy began suggesting that racism was not dead in America, contrary to popular belief, and that because of our white ethnicity, we have experienced a privilege that keeps us from truly empathizing with ethnic minorities, no matter how hard we could ever try. And some do try. Some generate a deep guilt that they are white and therefor do whatever is in their capability to deny their skin color all together. Although many of us had never witnessed racism and “white privilege” to the extent that it was affecting cities like LA, God did soften our hearts to finally except that this was an issue that ran so much deeper in our country than we realized. Because Satan had done it again- he had succeeded in blinding us from recognizing an area of evil as evil.
And so once we began to finally see this deeply rooted injustice in our country, the question still remained- what do we do about it? There truly are so many deeply rooted and culturally accepted areas of sin and suffering in this world and in our country- go ahead and add this one to the list! And now what do we as Christians do about it? How do we even begin to approach a problem like this that does not have a formula or an easy solution?
Through a series of many conversations throughout the entire trip, Tommy and the Epiphany church members at least began to give us some starting points.
First of all, we were advised to remember that Jesus is truly the only answer. He is the only possible key for redemption of ALL evil in this entire world. And so through prayer and intercession, the church has an extremely important mission to beg on our hands and knees for his audacious glory and movement to be revealed in this country! We have a mission to beg for the advancement of his kingdom!
Secondly, we were advised to listen. We are advised to accept that sometimes we are blinded by our sin and flesh, so we should approach our communities of influence in the posture of listening- listening to their suffering, repenting when we have unknowingly contributed to such suffering in the name of the church, and then pointing them to the true healer of all suffering.
Finally we were advised to come together as a church- to be completely unified in the mission and love of Jesus. A member of Epiphany church by the name of Mark specifically poured out wisdom on this subject. As we walked down South LA on a prayer walk one day, he taught us that what we were doing- walking as an ethnically diverse group on Crenshaw street, which was an anomaly. He taught us that his main priority for that prayer walk was to keep us as a group completely connected in our mission and relationship, because he explained that the nature of people is not unity but division. He explained that unity in Christ is by no means uniformity- God made us to be unique individuals- but instead, a unity of love so sweet that it will shine in the places of complete and utter division. He explained that people were watching us walk and pray in that neighborhood in the name of Jesus and they were 100% aware if our unity with one another was authentic or fake. He explained that that type of genuine unity in Christ is more powerful than any sermon we could preach on the street corners of South LA.
And so, we traveled back to North Valley after 4 sweet days of deep sanctification and learning these next steps. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into in the beginning, but in the end we found ourselves in complete worship of a merciful teacher that constantly redirects us to know Himself! And we returned with a deep love for pastor Tommy, the small church of Epiphany LA, and their mission.
And so, if any of this story has moved your heart to pray for them like it has for us, these are the prayer requests Tommy gave us for their young church plant.
• The relationships that they are making in south LA daily- that they might catch vision of the church and bare much fruit
• That the church will increase to 35 fully committed members by September 1st for their preview gathering.
• That they will find a meeting place for the church that could easily fit up to 40 people.
• For pastor Tommy and his family in this hectic season of church planting.
To Christ be the glory!