One afternoon this week, our group was serving at the Los Angeles Mission. We went into the kitchen and loaded our plates up with delicious food. I noticed there was another gentleman eating by himself at the very far right side of the hall, so I asked the man if he wouldn’t mind if we sat with him. He politely told us to please sit down with him.
Somewhere along in the meal I asked the man what his name was and he told me his name was Robert*. He then asked us what our names were and where we are from. One of the youth group’s leaders cheerfully told Robert that their group is serving with CSM (Center for Student Missions) for the week. After Robert heard the youth leader say “CSM”, he jumped up as if his pants were lit on fire.
“Wait! You guys are from CSM?” asked Robert.
“Yes, why?” I asked.
“CSM saved my life.”
At that moment he sat down slowly and started unpacking his story of how he ended up as an Alumni at Los Angeles Mission.
Back in the early 1990s, Robert moved to Los Angeles with his girlfriend. Some conflicts arose between the two and Robert started diving head first into a drug addiction. He told us that he tried going to a rehab, but he would end up using drugs again. He spent eight months in 1992 using drugs. “It was a dark time of my life,” Robert told us.
Early one morning in October 1992, Robert found himself homeless and sitting in McArthur Park.
“The devil was tempting me...I felt hopeless,” he recalled “He told me God couldn’t us me."
He was wrestled with those thoughts that morning. Things seemed to be hopeless for Robert. He talked to God about his feelings and didn’t sense any help coming his way.
While he was wrestling with those thoughts, he looked over and saw a group of young kids walking through the park. The young kids came up to him and started conversing with him. Their City Host, Rochelle, began telling him that they are from CSM.
They asked if he needed prayer for anything. Robert told the small group about what he was struggling with. How hopeless he felt. Rochelle encouraged him to see what Los Angeles Mission can do for him. She told him about the people in the program and how God changed their lives.
Rochelle and her group decided to pick up Robert the following Saturday morning from the park and take him to Los Angeles Mission. Robert told me that the day he was at the park was the day that CSM changed his life. That because of CSM, God spoke to Him that morning. His life was transformed from that moment on.
Fast forward to present day.
Robert told us that he is now a chaplain for the Los Angeles Mission. He works with individuals that might be in similar situation that he was in. Many of the Alumni will tell you that having received so much themselves, they feel a need to give back to the community.
Hearing Robert's story, I felt true joy. I was crying when he told us about Rochelle and how she led her group in prayer for Robert. I felt joy when God answered Robert and Rochelle’s prayer for hope. I felt joy when I realized that God actually listens to our prayers and He cares about our worries and pain. I felt joy when God started to reveal to me that even the most seemingly hopeless and depressing places are full of hope.
It has been an enormous blessing being a part of God’s restoration and hearing stories of God changing people’s precious lives. I am looking forward to seeing what God has planned for the rest of the summer.
- Andy, CSM Los Angeles Summer 2015 City Host
*Name changed to protect identity.