It was six months ago when after two years of preparation we left Pittsburgh and headed out to Los Angeles to start serving as urban missionaries. Since the minute we arrived here our life became a crazy rush. Every moment of our days was scheduled. Being a part time missionary on part time pay, I had several weeks when I worked 60-70 hours non-stop. Men’s team, women’s team, kids camps, Mexico mission, Bible study for the kids in one community, Homework Club in the other, meetings, socials and the constant “being available” where we live. Agnes helped a lot in February, but in March she started to work in a full time job as an accountant. The 8 hours plus more than an hour commute both ways pretty much takes up her days. She can only help me in the evenings and weekends with the ministry. She would LOVE to help me more, and there surely is much more work to be done, but right now this is what our funding allows. Since we arrived we had zero time for support raising. What’s worse is that up until now we couldn’t even send any news to our present supporters, even though we thank the Lord daily for them. They are the ones who make it all possible.
If we ever had any doubt about the spiritual battle that is going on for every single soul, now we can be sure it is happening. We are experiencing it daily: attacks from the adversary from all kinds of directions intensified, but encouragement and reassurance from the Lord also. It was a very difficult time of transition for us. We live in the middle of an all-Mexican neighborhood. The streets are covered with garbage all the time, the dumpsters stink, people pee on the wall under our window, teenagers and young adults hang out in groups on the corners, police raids are regular, the police helicopter also, drugs, drunkenness, shooting, beating and gang issues. It is a completely different world, but it desperately needs God.
There was a time when we were quite scared and afraid, but the Holy Spirit reassured us – and keeps encouraging us daily. The kids call us “Coach Csaba, or Mr. Csaba” and “Teacher Agnes”. They flock to us. Some of them only eat at school, so a normal family-dinner is not known for them. Now that it is summer vacation, they munch on junk food snacks from the expired food truck that appears 3 times a day. They show up at our doors in groups at any time of the day looking for attention, something to do and of course some food. Often we find them sitting on our patio waiting for us to arrive.
Only a few teens finished high school from our community. Two of them sometimes say that they dream of maybe going to college one day, but their circumstances are not helping them to ever get there. They have little hope. They do production work at a plant. Most other young adults just “hang”, or “chill”, or into some trouble.
In several apartments, entire families live in each room, including the living room. And since the rooms are small, many just sleep on the floor. And there are families who rent a garage from the existing tenants. No window, no water, maybe some electricity through a long extension cord from an apartment. When we talk to them, they smell of several days of unshowered sweat and dirt. Women somehow have more and more babies but we are not sure who the fathers are. Some are there, some are gone, others are in jail. Most everyone seems to be related somehow in the neighborhood. And this is not temporary situation for them. They live here for many years. There are a few really nice families where mother and father work hard to create a better future for their kids, but they are the exception.
We are the only non-Hispanic people here. We were lucky to be able to join a small ongoing Bible study for the kids, so everyone found out quickly what we were all about. With our presence and the soccer and other activities we started, that Bible study also got revived. Much more kids attend now.
Gang issues are unfortunately difficult here. We work with kids in two neighborhoods right beside each other, but they belong to two rival gangs. The younger kids don’t seem to care, but we have a hard time with the teenagers. This is understandable. A few weeks ago one young man (with mental disability) was shot in the chest 4 times and died because he was “at the wrong territory”, wearing “the wrong color”. One of our area’s gang leaders was just put in jail for two murders. This is good, but at the same time now the other two neighboring gangs are fighting for our streets. We knew nothing about this world back in Pittsburgh. We attended two seminars on how to disciple urban, high risk youth. That helped, but still we often feel clueless.
I could continue writing for hours, because so many things are happening here every day, but I have to go because we have a movie night for the Cypress community kids tonight. Please forgive us that we didn’t write so far, but we are quite overwhelmed even with just our everyday life here. But the Lord keeps encouraging us. We could not do this without Him. Whatever we do, however hard or scary it is sometimes, we remember that He is already here, working in the lives of these people.