Halloween in Hollywood!
The director of operations at the Center at Blessed Sacrament thought the idea of a Spanish group was a bit silly and doubted that anyone would actually come, let alone benefit from it. I was persistent because I wanted to practice my fading skills and help others develop some basics, but mostly because I wanted an excuse to act like an elementary teacher again creating games, lesson plans, and songs set to nursery rhymes. After director approval, each Friday a few participants would show up to the patio, pour a cup of coffee, and sing the Spanish alphabet.
Lenny would make the trek from his new apartment on a weekly basis with his notebook in hand (or call the Center in advance to let me know that he would not be present). He was diligent about taking notes from the white board and it was clear that he practiced his newly acquired skills throughout the week. While he did not master the Spanish language in the few months while we held our Spanish group, he did learn some basics. Lenny was visibly upset when I announced I was moving back to Honduras, but came on my final day to drop off a letter (in Spanish!) and a few of his original poems as well as a box of sugar-free chocolates.
A few weeks ago I received a call from my former supervisor at the Center. After catching up on how my studies were progressing and how the daily operations were going at the Center, Spencer shared some sad news. Lenny had passed away. I was invited to come and participate in the memorial service the following week and gratefully accepted the invitation.
I borrowed a car from my gracious roommate and zipped to Hollywood between classes to hear people close to Lenny share stories and memories from this wonderful man’s life. I pulled the yellow letter from my purse (that survived 3 moves!) and shared.
Viernes, el 12 de junio
Buenos días… muchas gracias… como se dice “teaching” en español?
Dios la bendiga.
I am grateful I had the opportunity to meet Lenny and so many others who each had their own story to tell.
I know that I share opportunities for giving frequently on my blog and here is one more option! The Center at Blessed Sacrament is beginning a campaign to help 10 people, like Lenny, get off the streets and into permanent housing. Go to this link to help end homelessness in Hollywood: https://www.crowdrise.com/thepowerofonein2015/fundraiser/karenanoelle
As always, thanks for your prayers and support.
Apologies for not blogging sooner… It’s been a whirlwind of activity since I arrived in Hollywood and shortly thereafter, in Pasadena. I was greeted at the airport by smiling, familiar faces and brought to my new home that I would share with 4 old friends. It was as if I had never left Southern California!
I stopped by for a quick visit at the Center at Blessed Sacrament and was caught up on all the new happenings by my friends living on the street (or recently housed, as was the case for several friends!) Biking home from a hike at Runyon Canyon, I ran into Mike waiting for a bus to take him to his new home. He proudly wore his key around is neck and was eager to greet me with a hug and show me a youtube video of him performing harmonica, his specialty.
Shortly after being welcomed into my new home I started my search for a server position in the Hollywood and Pasadena areas and within a week was blessed with a job opportunity! My original intention was to continue working while studying, but many wise people have suggested that with my full load in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at Fuller Seminary, it might not be a great idea.
After getting a job in Pasadena I decided it was time to relocate closer to school, even if it meant I wouldn’t be able to live with my Hollywood community. Their house is a quick metro ride away and they gifted me a key so that I can swing by whenever I have the chance. Although I miss being with them, I’ve joined a new intentional Christian community at Fuller. I share a small house with three other lovely ladies (2 who have previously lived in Guatemala and one from China!) and am part of a community of about 30 people!
I have much to look forward to and prayers are appreciated in my next adventure! Also, if you feel inclined to give to the organization (BECA) that I worked with for two years in Honduras, please visit the link here:http://www.becaschools.org/content/support-our-dreams
The goal is to raise $25,000 by October 6th to fully fund the dreams that my kids have! Donating just $30 sends a child to school for a whole month. Join me in supporting this amazing organization.
Another way to support BECA is with purchases you’re going to make on Amazon. When shopping on Amazon, instead of using amazon.com, you can use smile.amazon.com (and select Bilingual Education for Central America ), and Amazon will make a small donation (0.5% of the purchase).
After eleven beautiful months with four wonderful roommates, saying goodbye was naturally difficult.
I flew back from Honduras specifically to spend a final week with my DOOR roommates and friends in Los Angeles and could not have wished for a better conclusion to a fantastic year in Hollywood. After my plane arrived at LAX two hours late (while my friends and director waited in the car for me to arrive since I had been unable to communicate my delay to them), I was tackled post-baggage claim with hugs and shouts of love. We traveled back to Gregory Ave. swapping stories from the last month when I was in training in Hondu and they were all experiencing their final days of work. I was greeted at home with even more friendly faces of people whom I had been missing!
It was a week of scrumptious food (remember that now I’m eating a lot of beans, rice and tortillas so everything in the States is AMAZING!), memories and forgiveness, and a mountain of hugs. Up at Lake Arrowhead we spent hours laughing, hours eating, and even a few hours getting tattoos as a permanent symbol and covenant of our time together. My year in Hollywood was not easy by any means, but challenged me in new ways to grow in areas of my life I wasn’t aware I needed growth. I will never forget the year and I would never want to. There are moments when I wish I were in LA where three of my roommates have chosen to stay, but when I stand in a prayer circle holding hands with 80+ children at the orphanage home here in Honduras, I know God has put me here for a reason. A great part of my heart will always be in Hollywood, and maybe I’ll be there again someday soon!
Filipenses 4: 6-7 = Philippians 4: 6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything with prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
I will only be updating my Honduras Blog from this point forward and would invite you to check it out:
“I haven’t felt like I was chosen for something in a long time.”
After picking up a few participants from the Center and heading for a quick breakfast, we arrived at the Grove, an outdoor shopping and dinning destination. We purchased our tickets to see the matinee of Man of Steel and sat back in our comfy seats to enjoy the show. Despite the demons that Alejandro* had to fight off during most of the movie, it was quite an enjoyable time. After the theater, we strolled through the Grove and headed to Umami Burger, a DOOR favorite. Stuffing ourselves with sweet potato fries, a burger, and ice cream sandwiches, we enjoyed each other’s company and reflected on the movie.
We hopped back on the bus and headed back to the Center and the participants each remarked that they were so thankful and honored that they had been chosen for such an event. Alejandro commented that it’s been years since he felt like anyone’s favorite. I hope that every person experiencing homelessness in Hollywood might have the chance to relate to this feeling, and feel like he is a part of an awesome community and is cared for as an individual. The Center has recently started a Field Trip Group where we travel to places like the Science Center, Griffith Observatory, and the Getty Center in order to create more intimate community where people belong.
People like Alejandro express their gratitude frequently, but it is I who am really grateful to be accepted, welcomed, and loved in this community. Some participants have already begun to say that I’ll be missed when I scurry away to Honduras. It’s difficult to face these feelings and say goodbye to these friends, but I know that new staff members at the Center will soon be blessed with new, wonderful community.
I appreciate all of your prayers and financial support… but I’m still about $400 short on my fundraising goal. If you have any last minute gifts you’d like to give toward my DOOR year, please let me know! A special thanks to the Sister Bay Moravian Men’s Fellowship who have been supporting me consistently throughout this year and to the Sister Bay Moravian Women’s Fellowship who gave me a generous donation toward classroom materials for my upcoming year in Honduras. I’ve made my shopping wish list and will be filling up my suitcase soon!
Here’s a poem I recently wrote at a retreat with other volunteers in Los Angeles that reflects on my time so far in Hollywood and how I might explain where I am coming from to people at my next destination. If you have any questions or comments, send them my way! Also, I’ve currently raised $6,025 of $6,500 – I’m so close to the goal!
Where I’m From
I am from sirens, a black cat, and talk about the weather.
I am from the purple porch, the graffiti graced walls, the green curtain (keeping out those who wouldn’t dare come in.)
I am from a stiff, black chair supporting my weight during Morning Mindset and coffee brewing in the kitchen. I am from an unpleasant odor living in the carpet, masked by incense. And the day old pastries falling apart as they make the trip to my mouth.
I am from banana-peanut-butter-oatmeal and a nalgene of purified water.
I am from La Casa de la Communidad, from community dinners and hands held around the table giving grace.
I’m from standing in line at X2, eating umami burgers and sweet potato fries. From realizing that I can hurt others. From joyful.
I am from do not be anxious about anything, and a story that each friend has to tell, about alcohol and drugs, a broken family, and anxiety about where he will sleep tonight and where his dinner might come from.
I am from Hollywood.
After blessing a meal prepared by one or two of my roommates, we share
bits and pieces about our days and nourish our bodies while getting
ready for the neighborhood kids to come over. Several begin to bounce
the ball outside before hours officially begin, but we quickly clear
the table and head out onto the court and into the community house.
It’s a Tuesday and we’ve told some of the older boys that they might
get to play basketball with some of the men from the First
Presbyterian Church. Drew (a housemate) and I take the two boys that
showed up on time and direct them to the van after calling parents and
making sure that the field trip is ok.
We shoot for teams and I am even welcome to play with the guys for a
pick-up game. The neighborhood boys seem to be enjoying themselves
throughly and are reluctant to leave when I tell them we have to get
back to the house but we’ll be able to return another day.
When we get back to the Community House I’m greeted by several kids
that have showed up while I was gone and one individual asks for help
with his homework. It’s math, of course, and my roommates promised him
that I would be happy and willing to help him out once I got back from
the church. We solve some problems together, clean up the community
house with other kids and send everyone home until Thursday’s hours.
It’s amazing to me that shooting hoops with friends and playing with
numbers is considered ministry! I continue to receive so much joy,
honor, and purpose from our community. Even though we only officially
open our doors 3 times a week, the hours spent with these kids are
always cherished (even if they’re running through the house, refusing
to clean up the messes they helped make, or begging to jump rope for
Minutes after arriving at LAX, Lauren (a dear friend from Chicago) and I headed to Santa Monica beach to have a lovely picnic gazing out at the Pacific Ocean. After munching on tuna salad, squishing our toes in the sand, and enjoying the brilliant sun, we headed to my home in Hollywood to show her my neighborhood. After a quick tour of my house, we hopped on the metro and headed to Olvera Street and Chinatown for a tasty dinner and great conversation.
The next day was filled with miles and miles of biking and hiking, exploring different parts of Los Angeles. We started at the Center where Lauren met some of my friends experiencing homelessness, headed up to Runyon Canyon to hike and picnic with Drew (another YAV volunteer), and spent some time observing tourists walking down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. With Trader Joe supplies in hand, we headed over to a neighbor and friend’s apartment for a grill out and relaxing evening.
On our final day we started with a jaunt through the Hollywood farmer’s market before catching the subway to Grand Central Market, Angels Flight, and a lovely Mediterranean lunch. We returned back to Hollywood in time for community hours at La Casa de la Comunidad, service and worship at Reality LA, and pupusas and frozen yogurt with a new friend from church.
Lauren was just the taste of Chicago that I needed! It’s always encouraging and uplifting to talk with her on a regular basis, but even more so to spend quality time with her in person. I was grateful for our meaningful conversation, shared prayer, and fun!
Lauren also came at an important time of discernment during this year. I’m excited to share with you that I have committed to teaching another year in Honduras with BECA! I would greatly appreciate your prayers that I would stay present in this year and present with my community even as I begin to prepare for Honduras.
Want to read more about my previous year in Honduras? Check out last year’s blog: http://karenagoestohonduras.wordpress.com/