I left the world of entertainment opportunity a little over a year ago to take my dream job. I help people for a living. If you compare the potential of what I left to the pay, the hours, the benefits of what I have, you’d call me crazy to leave. But if you compare the end of my life on this path to the end of my life buying and selling films, you’d call me crazy to have stayed.
Nothing fills me up like serving people and nothing lights me on fire like the dangerous world of Outreach. Every week, we step into war zones across the city of LA and every week, we plot the battles to wage in the years to come.
I didn’t grow up dreaming about living in a city with so many statistics. LA is the homeless capital of the nation. More kids are in Foster Care in CA than any other state. Gangs originated in this city. Reaching our hand into the hell of gang infested streets was in our 3 to 5 year plan… We’ve just begun year 2, and we’ve spent some time in these areas. I’ve spent some time learning.
Speaking of Lisa Ling, she chronicled and narrated a compelling documentary about the Mara Salvatrucha gang that began in East LA with El Salvedorians between Normandie and Union (by the way, we drive between those streets twice weekly for outreach endeavors) and is now in 33 states in the US and 6 countries in North and South America. We deported the original gang bangers from the US, but the plan backfired when they became an international crew of over 100,000 members, involved in drug and human trafficking, prostitution, murder, embezzling money and who knows what else.
We meet an ex-gang member, 17-year-old-girl who decided to leave the life and become a police informant. Too bad when she was hidden in police witness protection programs, she continued to reach out to old gang members. She was driven to a lake, and even though she was 7-months pregnant, was stabbed in her stomach multiple times and left to die by the water. The police gained valuable evidence from her testimony, but because Mara Salvatuchra was the only family she ever knew, she couldn’t let it go.
Her killer was one of her best friends. When Lisa Ling interviewed him in jail, this stood out to me: “When you join the world of gangs, its almost as if a curtain was placed over your eyes and you begin to live in darkness. And then there are only three roads open to you – a hospital, a jail, or death… By the time my eyes were open, I was already in jail paying with my life.”
The young woman’s words stuck with me as well: “Recruiting happens in middle schools, juvenile detention centers, so that by the time they are in high school, their entire life is MS 13.”
Family is important. People will do anything to get it. People will do anything to keep it. The family of God can’t be confined in the walls of a church – it must be active on the streets, dedicated to raiding hell, and committed to cultivating unity in the midst of diversity. We all need each other… and not just on Sundays. The world needs us too.
When’s the last time a friendship made you uncomfortable? When’s the last time you struggled to make a friend family? Its not easy, for sure, but nothing worth having ever is.