Welcome To My World!

In this blog I will give you a glimpse of what I'm doing in Los Angeles this year and I'll keep you updated with all of my experiences with the other Dwellers in Door Hollywood.

Location: 5846 Gregory Ave., Hollywood, CA 90038

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A m o n g T h e B r a v e

Another day has passed and I can honestly say  “I belong here.”  It’s been over month since I moved to Hollywood, California [and since I last posted a blog].  Life has been crazy.
I write you from the discomfort of my hot, dusty room and I apologize that it has taken me so long to get you any sign of life from me. I have been extremely exhausted lately and a couple of times I have felt myself on the verge of getting sick. I am emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically stressed but I am slowly getting the hang of it and I know that soon enough it will become… well… “normal.”
Chapter Uno:
I work with an organization called PATH [People Assisting the Homeless] for the Hollywood Navigation Team. As an Outreach Case Manager Intern my job involves 1) Going out through the cities of Hollywood and West Hollywood doing Outreach (handing out lunches, hygiene kits, and building relationships with those experiencing homelessness, etc.), 2) finding shelter for clients who follow the right procedures, 3) manage their case and ultimately navigate them to permanent housing- whether subsidized or unsubsidized.

Early Wednesday morning, my housemate, Jenn and I got picked up by our boss, Rudy Salina, on what we like to call “the PATHmobile!” Our task for the day was to assist the LAPD on their 'Clean-up Task Force' in partnership with the Department of Sanitation. The police officers thought it would be appropriate to bring PATH Outreach into this effort so that we could offer services to any homeless people that were encountered. Some of the people I encountered were reluctant to cooperate and were then taken into custody of the LAPD through a warrant. Some were able to avoid us and/or the police officers and remained off the radar. Others were willing to go into shelter and did not refuse services. One of the clients, “Hopeful” I will call him, caught my attention while conversing. He seemed desperate and wanted as much help as he could get. Hopeful is in his late 50’s and he has recently been struggling with depression and alcoholism. “I love you guys,” he said in a soft voice with tears in his eyes “I love you guys for doing this.” “We love you too,” said one of my colleagues, “but you don’t love yourself.” He closed his wrinkly eyes and shook his head no. Hopeful expressed that he was willing to take small steps towards getting his life back on track and that even though he didn’t have much hope, he trusted all of those who were willing to help him. Hopeful stole my heart today so I decided to volunteer to work on his case. When I first saw him he was pushing a stroller around with all of his possessions, and now he is in our shelter at PATH Hollywood.   
I felt very encouraged by all of my co-workers that day. When I got to the office later in the afternoon some of them told me they were hearing stories about me. They said I had been on the field working “some magic” on clients. Everyone was impressed- even my director and I was just amused by people’s reactions to something so small. Here is why:

Earlier in the day we encountered a client who has always refused services. The 21 year-old has been approached multiple times by different people within PATH and in different agencies in many different occasions. The client was wearing torn clothing and carried himself in a way that made it seem like he had just come out of a building that collapsed. It was obvious that he had mental issues by the way he acted when we approached him and by the things we noticed he did as we watched him from afar. He had crossed the street many times without watching for traffic (which in LA especially is NOT a very god idea.), and he would spit out food and put it back on his mouth from the floor continually. In my mind, he looked like the face of poverty. The only people who were usually able to talk to him was some Officers with the LAPD. Then today… he talked to me. I don’t know what I did… probably nothing. The client might have felt a bit more comfortable to talk to me because I was younger than all the others and maybe I didn’t seem like much of a threat. I was able to communicate a bit with him. He was very polite, but he talked in a whisper and I could tell that my voice was not the only one he wa hearing at the moment. I offered him a lunch and he took it. I sat next to him as he ate the half he wasn’t planning on saving for later. I then noticed that he had no socks on and I happened to be carrying a hygiene kit with socks in it. I offered him the hygiene kit and told him that it had socks in it but that he could also keep the bag (a gym bag) so that he could put all of his belongings in it. He didn’t have much but what he did have he put it in his pants pockets and since those were torn, it kind of looked like a hot air balloon’s sand packs around his waist. I can’t quite explain it. The moment that made me realize I was actually doing something to move his case forward was when he put the bag on his back. Although his eyes remained distant, he exposed his teeth in a huge smile that lasted about 4 seconds. I almost missed it. It was that smile that reminded me that I was at the right place at the right time.
I know that there are many more smiles to come and I am eager to work with more clients and to help them reach their goals. It was very encouraging to me because the past few weeks I have been dreading going to work. I was initially going to be part of the Outreach Team which only involved the outreach part of the navigation process but then it all started changing and that’s when I arrived. I came in as everything was shifting around and nobody was sure on how to train the new interns because they hadn’t quite figured out how to do the job themselves. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I was getting sick of going to work just to sit at a desk or to follow people around. I had started questioning my purpose in this place in time. Things are slowly falling in to place and hopefully in a few weeks I will feel like part of the team as an equal, and not as the kid who is standing in the way of their daily duties. 
Thursday even looked even more like one of my co-worker’s normal days. I did an intake and got a new client and I replied to emails, scheduled appointments, and met with clients. I think it’s going to be ok. ____________________________________________________________

Chapter Dos: 
This part I will explain mostly in pictures. 
We run a community house called "La Casa de la Communidad" which is directly attached to the front of the house we live in. For the first hour the kids from the community can come and do their homework and study and we help them as best we can. We tutor the kids with whatever they need tutoring and if they do not need anything they can usually come and small games, read a book, or use one of the coloring books. La Casa is open on Tuesdays (6-8pm), Thursdays (5-7pm), and on Sundays (3-6pm). The second hour we try to have a planned activity for the children/community such as sports, dance, crafts, arts, cooking, music, etc. 

Looking spiffy before the Young Life Gala
Life has been pretty stressful. I think most of us have had a moment where we either break down crying, when we want to quit, or when we just want to run away. It can very very stressful. We all have different personalities, habits, ideas, quirks, etc. and when you put them all in a box it can be pretty crazy. 

We have had to deal with a lot of conflict resolution but it's normal. 

At the end of the day we all love each other (I think/hope). I personally have been struggling a lot to open up to them about my feelings and what is going on through my mind because it can be very intimidating to open up to such a large/diverse group of people especially when there is so much going on during the week.

Most Monday we have a community day and during the prayer time we share something we need prayer for and something we are grateful for and.... it can be hard for me to share but I am learning to be more vulnerable- not just for my sake but for the sake of building up our small community. 
At Forest Homes Retreat


Chapter Tres: 

Joanie takes a picture of me because supposedly
I look like Taylor Lautner. haha!
As City Dwellers in the city of Hollywood we are all required to have a prayer partner. 

Prayer partners, or mentors, relate to Dwellers as individuals as a spiritual companion in their lives (work, spiritual life, personal relationships, community living, etc.). A mentor in the Dwell program is someone who is willing to:

  • commit to being a part of a Dweller’s life for their year of service
  • commit to meeting together or connecting at least every two to three weeks
  • listen, encourage and support the Dweller
  • share some of your walk with God and life experiences
  • pray for the Dweller and their communities, ask them to pray for you
  • communicate with the City Director on the relationship from time to time
  • make an effort to attend a welcome for the new Dwellers
  • have met one-on-one with your Dweller by October 10th
  • hold them accountable to their learning agreement.
  • report, to the City Director, any information that may have implications to the larger program (major depression, intentions of harm, etc.)
My prayer partner's name is Joanie Miller and she is an amazing human being. Her and her family have been very warm and welcoming since I got here and they have adopted me into their family. They seriously treat me like one of their own and I am so thankful to God that he has given me another small family that can care for me and love me aside from the one I already live with. 
My prayer partner is engaged to Jeremy Miller whom some of you might recognize as Ben Seaver from Growing Pains. Jeremy is going to be my co-prayer partner and will step in whenever he has time or when Joanie is too busy. They are amazing people and they have are probably the best prayer partners I could ask for. Not to mention that Jeremy is a chef and when I stay at his house the food is amazing! 


Chapter Cuatro: 
I have gotten to do a bunch of fun stuff since I've been here. I have visited the set of one of my all time favorite shows- Community. And I actually got to meet one of my favorite actresses ever, Yvette Nicole Brown. We can pretty much visit whenever they are all filming- we just have to text Joel McHale which is pretty cool!  
I have learned how professional I really do see the film industry and how passionate I am about pursuing it. I can't wait till I have the chance to show the world what   I can do but I acknowledge that there are necessary steps I need to take in order to get there. I have applied to  a couple of art schools but I am really hoping to get into AMDA (American Musical and Dramatic Academy) next year for a BFA in acting. Those are just future goals and totally unrelated to this year- but I just thought I'd let everyone known what's on my mind for the future. I have an auditioned scheduled and it is coming up soon so if you can all please pray for me I would greatly appreciate that.  AMDA is not an easy school to get into.

Now that I have mentioned the future, I cannot help but to mention the past. I am eternally thankful for all of your donations and all of your support to me while I have been up here. Although I am only half way through with my fundraising, a lot of you have shown me your love through letters, love packages, and through encouragement and prayer. I am working on getting some thank you notes out there so that I can talk to you guys in a more personal level. Thank you so much. Please keep in touch. Give me a call whenever we both have time (notice the time difference of three hours and the busy work schedule) or you can Facebook me! 
It has been really hard keeping in touch with all of my loved ones back at home. I have lost complete contact with a few people and some relationships have even fallen apart which breaks my heart. It's been really hard for me to continue this walk while picking up the pieces as I go along. 
Chapter Cinco:
conclude by saying- honestly, that I have grown a lot as person in general. I have matured in so many different ways in my spiritual walk and in my general walk in life. I have been broken down and pieced back together so many times that I do not feel like I am the same person I was a month ago. I can see the face of God in the people here and I can see his mighty hand working in so many different ways.  I have seen a whole other side to humanity through the homeless population and it is truly changing my life. 
I am almost settled on a church but I will talk about it in a later blog. 

I belong here. 


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

N e w S e a s o n

My Week at Stony Point Center in New York is one that I will never forget. Although I seriously went through some intense culture shock because of the age groups and belief systems, I still had tons of laughs and made great friends that I hope to keep in contact with until we meet again at the end of the year. It's nice to see that I am part of something so much bigger! I have really had an amazing time getting to know my roommates and I already feel like I've known them forever. I met Jenn, Britney, and Eva at Stony Point (and of course, I already knew Nathan) and we had the most amazing time getting to know each other and being in awe of how carefully our site coordinator [prayerfully] made up this new and beautiful household.

Today I woke up and I was in Hollywood. 

It's weird to even think about it. I walked outside and it was sunny and the weather was perfect. I met ben adam and Tyler last night. They too fell perfectly into our group and I can already tell that the seven of us are going to have the most amazing year. 

Our first activity was to walk to Hollywood First Presbyterian Church which owns the community house and the duplex we stay at- live in. It was a fun walk. The air was thick with a blanket of pollution and every car that passed by made it harder for me to breathe in or to even take another step, but the graffiti was a sight to see. The temperature was perfect and I think I could get used to the air. At the end of our street- about a block away- is Paramount Pictures and it is really cool to just walk past it all the time and seeing signs such as "Dr. Phill..." blah blah... Stage 24 and stuff like that. We are really in the midst of celebrity culture and it is a bit odd and shocking. We turn a corner and there we can see the Hollywood sign sitting on a hill in the distance. 

We got to the church, met the pastors and the board of directors and had some fun chatting and getting to know them and time flew by- next we knew we were already home.  

Activity number two involved grocery shopping. First time. We had to shop for two days and take into account everybody's taste. We did pretty good with the latter, but we did end up buying for more than two days. This was a no budget shopping time and it was our last chance for the rest of the year to treat ourselves with comfort food and at the same time buy what is necessary to live here in community. It was an interesting activity. 

Our third activity involved actually sitting down and going through the handbook and orientation procedures which was actually kind of nice in my opinion. Learning what we (DOOR) are here for and where we came from is a good way to start my first day in LA. Alayna lead this group activity and she has been great at it. She is a past dweller (2010-2011) and we are all grateful for her. 

Sheldon, one of the past dwellers from a few years ago cooked our dinner. She made tacos that actually looked like real tacos and not the typical american commercialized tacos from Taco (H / B)ell!  We ate outside- some community friends had come and joined us and we had a great time laughing together and sharing stories. It's been nice to speak some real Spanish with Latinos again. It actually feels like I am an Latin America- a mix of the culture, language, people, and the way the buildings look! It's like I'm in a Spanish novela on Telemundo and I am loving every moment of it. 

Some of the things I've learned today:

1) I might be a vegeterian by the end of the year with some help- let's see how this goes. 
2) I might not be a germophobe by the end of the year with the help of my roommates- again, lets see how this goes. 
3) Just because I can dance doesn't mean that I can play "Just dance" on the Wii and ever win. 
4) God is testing me. 
5) It's going to be an amazing year.

Friday, August 26, 2011

S e l f C a r e

As dramatic as this might sound, this has been one of the best weeks of my life so far. I can't believe it is only the beginning to this amazing adventure. As I look to the side I see a community of young adults playing Frisbee, laying on the grass, going out for walks, sitting around having tea, and hanging out like a beautiful, united, miniature society.

I am having so much trouble reflecting and documenting what I have experienced here because it has been so big and so great. I promise more detail in the future. I have learned so much in the past few days to the point where it has been overwhelming.

Here's a list of some of the things I've learned-

1) We are all in this together. We all chose to serve God and to serve God's people and the same fear, anxiety, and excitement that I am feeling, my neighbor is feeling as well.

2) There are tons of amazing people in the world and I kind of just want to meet them all. I've made such great friends in such a short time and I rejoice in God's creativity when forming people.

3) I need to take care of myself first before anybody else. Before I give myself to people I must make sure I have a self to give.

4) I need to stop denying the voices in my head in order to get rid of them as a whole.

5) God is at work in my life and his picture of the plans he has for me is way bigger than what I thought he was painting.

6) I need to start taking notes in order to start avoiding cheap lists and to make my blogs a bit more reflective of what I'm actually experiencing.

7) It's going to be a great year.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

M i g h t y Y o u n g

I opened my eyes to a bright, warm, light shining on my face. My eyes adjust to the light and I think to myself, "Where the heck am I?". Then my memory started replaying the previous day and I realized I was at Stony Point and that my life had just began changing.
At first I didn't know how I felt about it but as my day went on things only got better and better. I have to admit- there have been a few times when I just want to go for a run because the lower part of my body cannot handle the sitting any longer and my brain cannot retain any more information, but it is helping me build patience.
During the bible study time we were under the topic of "Called to Follow" and were introduced to different times in the Word when people such as Mary, Jeremiah, Moses, Ruth, etc. were called to follow and what obstacles they faced when they were called. We had to choose one story and answer questions about it on a worksheet and I immediately decided Jeremiah. Gut reaction.
The passage was Jeremiah 1: 4-10 and that was a verse that really spoke to me. I have been struggling with the fact that out of all of the people in this orientation, I am one of the two people who are 18 years old and just graduated from High School. Everybody else is older than me and I have been struggling with it because I don't want people to shove me into the box of "He's just a kid" or "You're so immature" or even "How's it going BUDDY!". The Lord said to Jeremiah “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah said just what I was thinking,
Stony Point, NY locator map
6 “Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
 7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD.
YHWH spoke.
9 Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.

This brought me such comfort! I don't think I have to explain how clearly the Lord is speaking to me. Now, I have nothing to fear. I'm embracing that I am young because I have a Mighty God who is backing me up and passing the burning coal through my lips.
The rest of the day has had its ups and downs and I am expecting the same for the rest of the week. Between forced interaction with the other YAV/Dwellers and SOME boring times in seminars I can say that I have had a few moments that I have dreaded but all the good has over shadowed. it. Feeling like a black sheep is only part of becoming part of a developing intentional community. Besides, all of the negative parts have been overshadowed with lots of clapping and singing during worship, laughter with new friends, amazing weather (you should be jealous actually), great food, fun new people, great facilities, and the list goes on. I am starting to get comfortable and I am super excited for Monday when my time to enter DOOR Hollywood as Dweller approaches.
Thank you so much to all of you who have kept in contact and/or have supported me this whole time. Your donations have been for an amazing cause, I promise, and are appreciated. I still have quite a bit to go with my fundraising but I know that I have a lot of people out there that have big hearts who will continue to support me, spiritually and financially. Also, God is amazingly faithful so I am not too scared. ;)

Make checks payable to “DOOR”
In the memo line write “DOOR-Hollywood, Isaiah R.”
Send checks to:
DOOR-National Office
430 West 9th Avenue
Denver CO 80204
Credit Card:
By phone: Call the DOOR National Office at 303-295-3667 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            303-295-3667      end_of_the_skype_highlighting      .
Online: Click the donate button from the front page of the DOOR website. In the description
field, type “DOOR-Hollywood, Isaiah R.”
Financial Due Date: August 25th, 2011                         *All Donations are tax deductible.

I had to throw that in, just in case.
The Lord is definitely at work up here at Stony Point and the YAV staff is definitely doing a great job at training us and teaching us how to be more prepared for what we are getting into. Greater things are yet to come and the Lord is making me stronger and transforming me into a Mighty Young one to work out there in his kingdom.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

F u t u r e D w e l l e r

One Radical Way To Spread God's Love This past year has been a year of change and of growing up. Now, after graduating from Lancaster Mennonite High School, through a lot of prayer and guidance from the Lord, I have been lead to working in the missions area of God’s kingdom. 

I am very excited to tell you that I am going to spend a year living and volunteering in Los Angeles, California with Dwell. This program emerges out of DOOR’s (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Reflection) partnerships with Mennonite Missions Network and the Young Adult/National Volunteers Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 

I will live in a house in Hollywood with several other young adults (approximately seven or eight) and together we will explore what it means to be a Christian community in an urban setting. DOOR provides opportunities for groups and individuals to learn about the city by coming to the city and serving alongside the people already working there. 

The Dwell Program provides housing, groceries, insurance, emergency medical grants, and travel reimbursement. It costs them $14,000 to host a volunteer for an entire year. Part of my responsibility is to raise $6,500 of the total. The remainder of the cost is covered by the agency where I will be working and the partner denominations. I appreciate all the support you have given to me through the years. As members of my home community, I ask for your support again both spiritually and financially. I have been greatly blessed by the Lord with an amazing support group and I am glad you are a part of it. Whether it has been through your prayers, encouragement throughout the year, helping me attend Lancaster Mennonite High School, or supporting me financially in other ways, you have all been a blessing and a gift from God.


Make checks payable to “DOOR”
In the memo line write “DOOR-Hollywood, Isaiah R.”
Send checks to:
DOOR-National Office
430 West 9th Avenue
Denver CO 80204
Credit Card:
By phone: Call the DOOR National Office at 303-295-3667 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            303-295-3667      end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
Online: Click the donate button from the front page of the DOOR website. In the description 
field, type “DOOR-Hollywood, Isaiah R.”
Financial Due Date: August 25th, 2011                         *All Donations are tax deductible.