Love Your Neighbor: Las Vegas Edition

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“Hey, do you have a lighter?” He asked me across the chain link fence and alley that kept my world from his. My world of worship nights and prayer rooms, financial supporters and the missionary label. His world of fasting for Allah and walking to the mosque, smoking marijuana and making drug deals.

In his request for a lighter, I kicked myself for not having one on me or even in the base. As I had to turn him down, I feared that it meant the end to our conversation, but he was back minutes later and called me over to the fence.

The questions started flowing. Questions about the worship night my teammates were having in the courtyard across the alley. Questions about Christianity. Questions about Jesus. He told me about himself – about being Muslim and about being high and about being Minnesotan. The Minnesotan thing got me jacked and formed an instant friendship as we bonded over having met so few Minnesotans out in Vegas.

In the half hour or so that went on, we talked about our state and religion and race and poverty and drugs and Jesus. He told me about making bank selling Adderall to the U of M students during finals week. He told me about how he took care of his 6 younger siblings for two years while his mom was in jail. He told me about dropping out of high school and running away to Vegas with his dad. He told me about being a student of the Koran and fasting for holy days. He told me about his overdose on pills that should have killed him and we both agreed, God has a purpose in keeping him alive.

And yes, he was openly high during this time.

And true to the nature of the neighborhood, a woman walked through the alley drunk as can be and when I said hi, she stopped to talk. She said that she was drinking to fix the brokenness inside. I got to pray over her and hug her and tell her of God’s love for her.

Loving your neighbor takes on a whole new meaning in the ghetto.

It sometimes means hugging a drunk woman or answering the questions of a stoned Muslim.

It sometimes means forgiving the men who call women over into their cars.

It sometimes means tracking down a sweatshirt for the woman who is mourning the life of her baby-daddy who passed away recently.

It’s a little crazy.

Each day is different.

There is no such thing as predictable.

Like on the 3rd of July when the fireworks were going off and our next door neighbor got locked out of her house. As the boys on our team helped her break in, I had the opportunity to hold her precious six year old daughter who was terrified of the fireworks. For about an hour, I just held and prayed and proclaimed that she was safe. As we stood outside of their little home in this rundown mini apartment complex, we witnessed prostitutes going into cars and drug deals before our eyes. This family has the odd position of being situated with darkness on one side and YWAM on the other.

And while loving your neighbors in this context is definitely an adventure, it is anything but glamorous. It’s staring into the face of brokenness that is so raw and in-your-face.

But there is something so beautiful in the brokenness. It’s heavy, it’s painful, it will tear your heart into a million little pieces – but in those moments, I catch a glimpse of God’s heart for these people and for the world. I see how much He hates the pain. He hates seeing people screwing themselves over time and time again. He hates seeing babies grow up in an environment that breeds fear and sets them up for failure. He hates seeing people chasing after a mirage and passing up on the real thing.

It’s easy to ask Him in these moments why He doesn’t do more. I don’t understand how our neighborhood is full of churches side by side to drug houses and illegal brothels. The problem of human hopelessness is the one that causes me to doubt the most. But in those moments, where the situations and environment tempt to overwhelm me, He reminds me of my identity. My identity is that of daughter of the King, vessel of the Holy Spirit, and one who is redeemed and empowered by the blood of the Lamb. We are meant to walk in authority – to see change and to love the socks off of people.

God never promised us that loving our neighbor would be easy. He never promised that they would love us back. He never said it would be clean – in fact, in the story of the Good Samaritan, the man had to sacrifice, be inconvenienced, and get messy in getting to see a man rescued and healed.

That’s what God calls us all to – whether your neighbor is the drug addict in the ghetto or the middle class soccer mom. Love thy neighbor. Thy messy, broken, and a lot like you neighbor.

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My precious little neighbor girl. She completely and totally stole my heart.