We are also blessed with a home for two weeks - one bedroom apartment with 6 people excited to be there, since it means we don't have to pack up every couple of days. And Lois and Lorianne even got to decorate the place for Christmas! (By the way, if you ever hear someone tell you celebrating Christmas in a warm climate just feels weird, believe them, because it really does!) We hang up stockings because they are used for our Advent season celebrations.
As most of you know, we are in LA because it is on our "Adventure with God" route. But we are in downtown LA, one block of the Santa Monica Freeway and about a mile from the Staples Center because we are serving with World Impact, a ministry that focuses on reaching the urban poor with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God led us here via different connections in Winnipeg, and it has been great to serve along side the different admin staff, church planters, health workers, thrift store staff, and others.
So getting back to the differences between LA in Winnipeg, which you probably realize are many. Here is a short list (some with pictures, some without) of what we have noticed in our first week of living here.
Life in LA is different than life in Winnipeg because:
-In LA, buildings are protected with razor wire, electric gates, and iron bars. This is a picture of the LA Christian school that WI runs. It is located down the street from where we are staying, and like many buildings in the area, is surrounded by a high gate with topped with both barbed and razor wire. While we haven't seen much evidence of crime (outside of a burned out Honda Oddessy which looked like it was out of a movie scene), clearly it is an issue here. We have had the privilege of helping decorate this school for Christmas, and to get into the building we have had to use our garage clicker to open the gate, or knock at the locked door and wait till someone lets us in.
-LA has termite infestations, and Wpg doesn't. On our first day of work me and the boys got to play demolition crew and take out a deck that was completely rotted through. Termites had been in there for years, and destroyed it completely. We all got an education in termites when the pest control guys showed up to fumigate the basement. Did you know that termites can dig through painted walls, and that the reproducing termites fly away from the colony to start other colonies?
-The "Projects" in LA are truly deadly places to live. On Sunday we went to a WI church plant called the Powerhouse Church. It is located in the Watts area of LA, the birthplace of the Crypts gang, and the heart of the projects. While the kids at the church really reminded us of Tadoule Lake kids, their lives are much harsher. Everyone had a family member in jail, fights and rapes are common, and I talked with a man who had two stepsons murdered within 10 months of each other. Truly, this is a place that is hopeless without Christ. The pastors working here realize that only the gospel of Jesus can bring hope to this dark place. Please pray for the Watts area of LA, that this Christmas those who are walking in darkness "will see a great light" Isaiah 9:2.
-As whites, we are in the minority, meaning the street signs aren't for us! We are living right between Korea town and the much larger Hispanic area of South Central LA. By far the majority of the people we meet are Hispanic, and we really wish we knew some Spanish - the signs are in Spanish, the people in the stores speak Spanish, and our friends here at WI speak Spanish. While we were in Watts, there were no white people at the church except those helping serve -almost everyone else was an African American, as is most of the area. It is a first for our family to be in a situation where we are the ones that stick out.
Being in a different cultural area has its benefits, as we have experienced so many new things: buying flowers and corn on the cob from a vendors on the street (think of the Dickie Dee ice cream man with coolers of hot corn in front of his bike instead of a freezer), and going shopping at street vendors selling really yummy food! We haven't tried tamales yet, but the fruit and Mexican baked treats are delicious. And we even met someone selling bunches of live crabs!
And LA is also different than Winnipeg because:
-There are Superheros in LA, both big ones and small ones! On Saturday we had a great day as a family at Six Flags Magic Mountain park. We encountered some heroes that you just don't see walking down the streets of Winnipeg. The park had a whole "Gotham City" section, with great set decorations, and some really neat rides that the kids liked.
And later, we spotted two new Superhero sidekicks, doing their very best to help save the world from trouble, while looking really cool in the process!
-Winnipeg just doesn't have Roller Coasters with cool sounding names. Have you ridden on "Mighty Mouse" the coaster at Tinkertown? Lorianne and I have, and it was kind of fun at the time. But now that we are the official Roller Coaster Buddies (it was Lorianne's idea), MM just won't cut it anymore. Now we are into rides with names like Goliath -with speeds up to 85 miles an hour, Scream - where you are hanging on a seat in mid air (see picture), Tatsu-fly at the speed of Fear - where you literally are flying like Superman, Riddler's Revenge -the world's tallest and fastest stand-up roller coaster, and X - EXTREME -a crazy hanging, spinning, 4-d gut-wrenching ride that was worth the 20 minute wait (but wouldn't be worth a 4-hour wait on a typical summer day). Who would of thought that me, a guy who hates most rides at the Red River X, would be spending a day going on world-record beating coaster rides with my 10 year-old daughter?! It was sure fun! (And a big note of thanks goes to Lois, who graciously took the guys on rides and carried the back pack around while I went and did my part and supported my daughter's new love for roller coasters.)
-As is to be expected, it has WAY more lanes of traffic than Winnipeg. The most we have seen so far is 16 lanes across, and thankfully, the most we have had to wait is about 20 minutes in traffic. God has been gracious to us and Lois and I have really worked together well navigating all the different freeways and exit ramps. The kids have learned NOT to talk to mom and dad (or even breath loud!) when we are trying to navigate going 75 miles/hour, and we have arrived everywhere we want to go on time and schedule. But I do wonder how we would have managed all this before Google maps!
Lots of differences, lots of experiences, lots of learning and lots of fun. Tomorrow I am off to Target to pick up some stuff for Sonshine Shop Thrift store, while Lois and the kids will help sort the 500-1000+ dollars of slightly broken merchandise that comes in. Many of the missionaries of World Impact are very blessed by all the household supplies, diapers, food, and misc. new stuff they get that would otherwise go in the garbage.
Thanks again for your prayers for us. We are thankful for all that we have, especially as we meet many who have so little, and/or have experienced so much hardship.