SoCal Day 5

“We had the opportunity to go to a Buddhist Temple and learn about the Buddhist Religion. The temple was made in 1988, but it had a very old traditional Chinese look to it and you didn’t even realize that you were even still in the United States. Our tour guide was a very contemporary, young Buddhist who explained the pictures and sculptures within the temple, along with how the people meditate. Then we had a Q&A with a female monk, also known as a nun, where we got to further understand how Buddhism works. It was really hard for most of us to understand the concept of Buddhism and what would happen when you die and how you get there. But to get to that “Second Life” or to “Become Buddha” you have to have good Karma and work hard to try and reach “enlightenment”. After the temple we went to a Chinese restaurant and eat some amazing, but different food. While at the restaurant, the man who rented the houses to us, Ray, shared his story about how he came to the United States and how he found Christ. The end of the day was lesser of a learning day and a very engaging. We split off into small groups of two or three, went around a mall, and tried to learn others’ stories and show Jesus to those who didn’t know him. Finally, to end the day, we made sacked dinners, took them to a homeless community in Santa Ana, and had more conversations with the homeless community there. We got to learn how things run there and how hard it was for them, but also how much of a community they are.” – Micah Boggs

 “After our time at the Buddhist Temple, the students got to have conversations in the mall while the leaders went shopping to collect food for lunches. Then, we all made two lunches each and drove to the Civic Center which has a large population of homeless people. Everyone broke off into groups and went to go find people to share our lunches with. This was a new experience for many on our team but the impact it had was incredible. We were able to share our stories as well as hear the homeless peoples’. Many students were also able to share the gospel and pray with the people they met. This experience changed the hearts and views of the students towards the homeless, not only in California, but in Wayne County as well. This opened our eyes to the brokenness of the world and it broke our hearts. We were all brought to the realization that we are incredibly blessed and we want to be able to take a next step to make a difference at home. Many students heard unique stories that will not soon be forgotten, here’s one: Mark and I had the opportunity to meet a couple on the street, their names were Joe and Roxanne. The first thing Joe said to us when we walked up was, “Oh, are you going to tell me the sinners prayer?” This took us by surprise but we also saw it as an opening into an even better conversation. Joe told us how he was raised in a church his whole life and was very involved. He got into trouble with drugs and his pastor brought him to a men’s home. At this point he felt that his pastor was wanting to become an idol in his life and he didn’t want that. He knew that he had to please God and not people so he just left. A few years later he ended up on the streets with his girlfriend Roxanne. After hearing his story we asked if we could pray for them. They readily agreed and told us the things they needed prayer for. Mark and I walked away from this with sadness in our hearts. This man was once a believer but because religion was forced on him, he completely turned away. 

There were so many more stories like this that we heard and every person walked away changed from this experience. ” -Gabrielle Swartzentruber

SoCal Days 3 and 4

It has been a busy two days! We have done so much and we wanted to give our students an opportunity to recap what they have experienced and learned yesterday and today. Yesterday we spent time learning about Islam, even spending time with an Imam and observing the Ramadan feast to learn more about their culture. Today we interacted with kids and families from a Hispanic culture and helped a local church organize a park program. Here’s what our students had to say:

Day 3

Yesterday at the Mosque I noticed a lot of ritualistic activities. What stuck out to me the most was the fact that the Muslim people were praying the same prayers at the same time. Later that day at the Ramadan feast, we were talking to a Muslim man. In the middle of our conversation with him he stopped and told us how he needed to pray now because it was what the Islamic faith told him to do. Dropping everything, the man went to pray because it was “What he had to do.” Seeing this happen raised a question in my heart, “Do these ritualistic prayers even mean anything to these people?” I often find in my life, that rehearsed prayers don’t mean as much to me; I would rather chat with Jesus like one would with a best friend. Seeing these rituals at the Mosque made me thankful for what I have in Jesus. I don’t need rituals to feel confident in my faith. I know that Jesus will accept me where I am and for who I am. -Lexi Miller

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Day 4

Hispanic culture was something that maybe we take for granted. With everything going on politically, or just around the world in general, I know personally, I had a bad taste in my mouth not in judgement of them by any means, but because it’s all I’ve heard. Let me tell you, it is a wake up call. We got to visit their community firsthand where in this city, hispanic culture makes up nearly 50% of the population I believe. The interesting thing that was much different from going to the Muslim culture was that they shared their faith with us in full and held nothing back that we wanted to know. The Hispanic culture on the other hand seemed a little bit lost with their faith, but not as a human being. They were the same as us and wanted the same thing as us, happiness. I’m learning on this trip through all of these different cultures that we all have the same end goal – happiness and joy. But how we receive this happiness and joy is what sets us apart. I learn more and more everyday with a broken heart that these people need to see Jesus as their joy and happiness. Everything else will fade out, but God says that he is the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega. And when someone comes to understand that, it’s so beautiful to know that they will never again thirst or desire for something more in life because they have everything they need. These people aren’t different. These people are lovable, fun, inspiring and creative. But most importantly, these people were created by God – and I hope that they one day get to see that through some of the work we are doing on this trip. -Darin Phelps

SoCal Days 1 and 2

It’s been a great two days so far! This SoCal trip is all about developing a greater heart for the world and training in sharing the Gospel and that is happening already! After waking up at 2am on Sunday morning, boarding our flight in Cleveland at 5:55am and arriving at Los Angeles at 9:50am after 7 hours of flight time (you do the math – 3 hour time change), we meet up with our leaders here at Encompass. Ed and Brittany (and the rest of their team) led us to our first California experience – In-N-Out Burger.

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After lunch we headed to our homes for the week and were led in Cultural Orientation by the Encompass team.  We learned about how our typical “American” responses and actions may differentiate from those of the cultures we will be interacting with in SoCal – and we’re interacting with quite a few cultures this week: Cambodian, Vietnamese, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, and German, along with others. These people we will be meeting identify religiously with Protestant Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam, Atheism and Hinduism. Talk about a culture shock.

After orientation, our team went to Downtown Disney for some dinner and finally headed home for the night after being up for almost 20 straight hours! Don’t worry, the team slept VERY well that night.

On Day 2, we woke up and gathered together for an orientation on the Vietnamese and Cambodian cultures. Encompass had set up a few experiences for us to be good learners of those cultures: we spent some time at the Asian Garden Mall, getting Pho lunch with some local Vietnamese, hearing from a woman named Julie who is a part of a company that reduces women and children in Cambodia, and enjoying a family-style Cambodian meal.

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In the middle of the day, the team went to Target to pick up a few items and we decided to leverage the time and get our students interacting with people to share the Gospel! Students split up into groups of 2-3 and spent 30 minutes at Target meeting people, learning their stories, and sharing their own stories and the Gospel. This was an out-of-the-comfort zone experience for sure, but it was such a positive experience for our group to have the opportunity to share the Gospel with people. One of our students even led someone to Christ! Praise God!

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To end the day, we drove up to a place called Signal Hill that has an absolutely UNBELIEVABLE view of Los Angeles. We spent some time reflecting on the day, worshipping together, and studying God’s Word. As we looked out over the city, we were all reminded to “see the invisible in the visible”. There are 24 million people in the SoCal area – that’s visible. What’s invisible is that every single one of those people has a need for Jesus. In fact, every single person in SoCal, all around the world, and even back in Wayne County has a spiritual need for Jesus – his forgiveness for their sins and his hope for their lives. It’s our prayer as a team that God would place a holy burden on our hearts for people – please join us in praying for that this week!