Monday, December 10, 2007

Fun in the LA Sun!

LA is a hopping place, both in terms of ministry needs and church options, as well as places to have fun. While we haven't taken a lot of time to do tourist things, we did manage to see some pretty cool sights in the past few weeks.

While at Magic Mountain two weeks ago Caleb got picked to be a volunteer for the Bird show. He had the opportunity to feed a baby emu (which was almost as big as him!), and also entertained the crowd with some very slick dance moves during a 15 second lull in the show. As a reward for his efforts, they gave him a free photo holding up the parrots that were in the show - he was pretty pumped as you can see.

I have been playing basketball a few times in the mornings at the LA Christian School gym with a some of the World Impact staff, and while I am not great, it has been really enjoyable to play some competitive sports for a change. Maybe that was what inspired me to take Caleb and Joseph to an LA Clippers game (Lakers tickets were too expensive!). We had a blast at our first ever NBA game, and the boys were cheering right to the end. We even got to see a statue of Gretzky right outside the Staples Center, which was something I wasn't expecting.

On Friday the school had a Feliz Natidad party and our kids got to go. The party was a lot of fun for the kids and since our kids aren't shy, they got right in there. Caleb entered the "Fat Santa" contest and was given a XXL shirt which his team proceeded to stuff with newspaper. They even made him dance afterwards! (I had to promise him I wouldn't post the dance video online - too bad, because it was hilarious!) Lorianne was wrapped up with paper as a present, while all the kids got treats to take home.

Hollywood was an area that we just couldn't pass up. While we are thankful that movie stars and the entertainment industry in general aren't a big draw for us, it was very interesting walking along Hollywood Blvd. seeing who the the world deems to be famous. We saw a few people that our kids knew (like Walt Disney, Charles M. Schultz and Big Bird), as well as many that we didn't know. The big draw seemed to be to go visit the homes of the stars, with every 2nd person on the street trying to get us to go on a tour with them. Lorianne thought it was just rude that people would go tromping right through other people's houses until we explained to her that that you only drove in front of the house, and didn't actually go inside!

Mann's Chinese Theater and the hand prints (or in case of the Star Wars characters pictured with Caleb, the footprints) of a whole variety of people and characters were really interesting to see. Some of the prints dated back to the 1930's. One of the most recent additions was Johnny Depp. There were a lot of dressed up characters on the street in front of the theater who were trying to earn a living by having people take their photographs - Superheros, Villains, and of even Charlie Chaplin. The whole Hollywood experience, while only lasting an hour or so for us as we walked around, gave some insight into a very real part of North American culture.

Churches in LA are also quite unique. Sunday morning we joined Bishop Ulmer at his Faithful Central Bible Church, held every Sunday in the Forum Arena, former home of the Lakers and Kings. The congregation was at least 95% black, and while me and the 5 blond members of the Dueck 6 stuck out, we were warmly welcomed. The music was lively, the sermon long, but challenging (including a lot of "Stay with me now," "Now listen up" "Someone is going to get deliverance today, I can feel it!" and if we weren't responding enough to his message, a "I don't think you are getting this!"), and we left being reminded to stay on the road, follow the truth, and have faith in God.

Sunday night I was very blessed to attend Mosaic, a church started by Erwin McManus. The church meets in 4 locations around LA, and doesn't own any property. I attended the Mayan Theater campus, which is a downtown salsa night club. The crowd was mostly 20 - 30 something, the music was hip hop, and the atmosphere was very refined and cool (they even had the disco ball and a smoke machine going!). Erwin preached from John 8:1-12, and the challenge was for believers to stop being the ones holding the rocks, and start being the people who show the grace, mercy, and compassion of Christ.

One final fun thing we did this Sunday was to go to Venice Beach, (otherwise known as Babylon according to one WI staff member). The atmosphere was very crazy, with all sorts of people, and activities there. We shopped at vendors, watched graffiti artists, Joseph and Caleb were volunteers for a break dancing/gymnastics show, and we avoided the opportunities to try legal marijuana.
One hour of walking on the boardwalk was enough for us, and we were very happy to stop at our first Cold Stone Creamery of the trip and enjoy some amazing ice cream and sorbet.

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