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.
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.
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!
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!