by Chaplain Dave Casebeer
As I traverse the streets of Los Angeles when the sun is coming up each morning on my way to the Union Rescue Mission there is an evil that seems to permeate the entire area south of Fourth Street. The people living in the tents and makeshift huts are beginning to come out of their stupor induced by drugs or alcohol. The streets are lined with garbage to the point that it is hard to drive in the right lane, and a sickening stench emanates from things I cannot mention here. A large number of these people are on some type of government assistance and choose to live that way. There are two other types of people living on the streets of Downtown Los Angeles, those that are there by circumstance, and those who have hit bottom with the drugs and alcohol and want to change their lives. For these two groups there are many avenues they can take to get their lives back on track.
Within two blocks of the intersection of Fifth Street and San Pedro Street there are at least four missions both Christian and secular, not to mention the government programs that are also in the area. The Los Angeles Homeless Authority Coordinates over 70 million dollars a year in government money to provide services to the homeless but homelessness seems to be growing. There are many reasons given for this, but the major one is that we have turned away from God as a nation.
There are many programs that offer a meal and a message, but the message is shallow, and they offer only “cheap grace.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer defines cheap grace as follows, “Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, so everything can remain as it was before.” In other words you can be saved and continue to live the lifestyle you were living before. This message is emanating throughout Skid Row, and throughout many churches in America today, but it is not true. A true confession to Jesus Christ means a changed life.
Of the 70 million dollars given out by the government each year the Union Rescue Mission receives none because we speak the truth according to God’s word. It costs 15 million dollars a year to run all of the Mission’s programs. This is why Evergreen’s role is so vital to the Mission. We save them about 60 thousand dollars a year, and that money can be used to expand programs that bring people the truth and turn lives around. Please keep us in prayer and feel free to come by and visit. Just let me know and I will set it up so you can see the real face of Skid Row.