I could hear David’s voice, assisted by a portable amplifier, from almost a block away. It was like sweet music to my ears. It had been several months since I preached at the North Hollywood Metro Station with David and the evangelism team from Calvary Bible Church.
I pulled my cross, my box, and my backpack out of my car, and made my way toward David’s voice. Once there, I was blessed to be reunited with some of my friends. David soon finished preaching and stepped down from the box. Aaron Block, missionary to Mexico, who is back in the States for just a couple weeks, stepped up to preach. I quietly stood next to Aaron, holding my cross.
North Hollywood has a significant Mexican and Hispanic population. Aaron heralded the gospel in Spanish. While I did not understand, but for a few words here and there, what Aaron was saying, I knew the content of his message. What a blessing to hear the gospel proclaimed in another language. Although there were not many people gathered there, waiting for the bus or just hanging out, many of those present seem to cling to every word that came out of Aaron’s mouth.
Once Aaron had finished preaching, David decided to move the team down to Hollywood Boulevard. The foot traffic in the area was very light for a Saturday night, likely due to the fact that it had been a cool and rainy day.
The last time I had preached on Hollywood Boulevard was early May of this year. On that occasion, I found myself handcuffed and standing at the back of an LAPD patrol car. My offense: opening the Bible and reading aloud from it, on a public sidewalk.
LAPD had escalated its efforts to rid Hollywood Boulevard of street performers and street preachers. It mattered not to the officers that many of the citations they were issuing were without merit. The officer who issued my citation in May stated as much when he assured me the ticket would likely be dismissed by the judge.
Recently, I read a newspaper article that led me and others who conduct evangelistic efforts on the boulevard that things were changing for the better. Last week a federal judge issued an injunction against LAPD, which prohibits the selective arrest of costumed performers on Hollywood Boulevard, for offenses such as loitering and blocking a sidewalk, until the case is settled in court.
We thought this temporary injunction was significant and helpful to evangelists who once frequented Hollywood Boulevard because LAPD had lumped street preachers into the same category as street performers, having erroneously cited many street preachers for loitering and blocking a sidewalk.
So, we decided to give Hollywood Boulevard a try.
We hopped on the subway and made the short trip to Hollywood Boulevard. As we exited the subway station, my senses were immediately struck by the sights, sounds, and smells unique to Hollywood Boulevard. They served as welcome reminders of the many days spent on the boulevard preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The street musicians were back–paint bucket drummers and hip-hop dancers showcasing their various talents. The costumed street performers were back–vying for the attention of tourists, hoping to make a living by soliciting tips for photographs. The Hare Krishnas were back–worshiping their false god, chanting and dancing in white robes with tambourines. Everything seemed “normal,” again, on Hollywood Boulevard.
We were excited. We missed our time preaching the gospel on the boulevard.
We quickly picked a spot near the Kodak Theater. I jumped onto the box and read from Isaiah 6. I used Isaiah’s cry that he was a man of unclean lips as a springboard into the Law and the Gospel. After calling people to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I stepped down. Brother Aaron had been holding my cross while I preached. I relieved him of duty.
It was now David’s turn to preach. As David flipped through his Bible, preparing to herald the gospel, I noticed two LAPD officers a short distance east of us. They were talking to a woman who was pointing in our direction.
I told David that there were officers down the street. We were both confident that we would not have any problems with the officers. After all, things seemed back to “normal.”
That confidence soon diminished when we were contacted by the officers. One of the officers quickly told me that I could not carry my cross on a public street. He said there was a city ordinance that limited wood signs, such as picket signs, to a certain size.
I respectfully asked the officer to show me the section in the code that pertained to my cross. He asked me if I wanted to speak to his sergeant. I thanked him for the offer.
Within minutes, I found myself surrounded by several officers. At one point, we counted as many as 13 uniformed officers in the immediate area.
About 20 minutes into our contact with the officers, the sergeant arrived. He showed me a piece of paper on which was the municipal code in question.
Section 55.07 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code, entitled “Demonstration Equipment Prohibited,” reads as follows:
No Person shall carry or possess, while participating in any demonstration, rally, picket line, or public assembly, any length of lumber, wood, or wood lath, unless that object is one-fourth inch or less in thickness and two inches or less in width, or if not generally rectangular in shape, such object shall not exceed three-quarters inch in its thickest dimension. Note: Heavy staffs for carrying placards during street demonstrations have been used as weapons, and have injured officers dutifully enforcing laws relating to public assemblies. The above ordinance is directed toward preserving the safety of officers, the general public, and persons taking part in demonstrations.
I assured the sergeant of the obvious. Standing with a wooden cross and preaching the gospel was not the same as participating in a work action such as a strike, or a large-scale protest or rally. The sergeant admitted that the usual application of this particular law was for those types of incidents–protests and strikes. Nevertheless, he told me that if I did not leave the boulevard with my cross I would be issued a citation under the section for prohibited demonstration equipment.
So, instead of things getting better on Hollywood Boulevard, they have gotten worse. Now, not only is it impermissible to verbally exercise one’s freedom of speech on Hollywood Boulevard; but it is also prohibited to silently do the same.
David and I decided that the best course of action was to comply and move the team back to the North Hollywood Metro Station. As we made our way toward the subway station, even the costumed characters, some of whom never appreciated our presence on the boulevard in times past, shook their heads in disbelief.
While on the subway train, David and I talked about whether or not the Lord might have us stop trying to preach on Hollywood Boulevard. Passages of Scripture like the following came to both our minds.
And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. ~ Matthew 10:11-15
And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. ~ Acts 13:49-52
When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” ~ Acts 18:5-6
The volume of people outside the North Hollywood Metro Station was smaller than before we left for Hollywood Boulevard. David decided to preach one last time (since his preaching had been interrupted in Hollywood), before calling it a night. I stood next to David holding my cross.
I scanned the small crowd, watching their reactions to David’s preaching. Some were indifferent. Others listened. One homeless man began to rant about the name of God. One woman sat with her face in her hands.
But there was one young lady who seemed to stand out to me. She stood near the bus bench. She was a heavy-set teenager. She wore a black t-shirt that read: “Haters Love Me.” She wore a necklace with a large, stone-studded, heart-shaped pendant.
As David continued to preach, I glanced at her from time to time. Each time I looked her way, she was a few inches closer than the time before. She stood facing the street, but leaning in our direction. She eventually settled against a light pole, which seemed to provide her with some false sense of concealment. She leaned ever-so-slightly around the pole, making sure not to give up her position of concealment, but yet affording her the ability to both see and hear David.
Her eyes were dark and expressed something I had seen before, during my days as a deputy sheriff–hurt. She had the eyes of a victim. Whether it was neglect or some other form of abuse, I do not know. But I had seen that look before.
When David finished preaching, as is his custom, he offered those within ear-shot free Bibles. He stood next to his box with his arm raised high in the air, Bible in hand.
After a few moments, I turned to the young lady standing next to the pole and gently asked, “Would you like a Bible?”
She silently nodded her head.
I retrieved a Gideon pocket New Testament from David and handed it to the girl. Her name was Jocelyn. She was 18.
I handed Jocelyn the Bible and asked her what she thought about what she heard from David.
“It was good.” She said.
“Do you believe it’s true?”
“Is there any reason why you wouldn’t repent of your sin and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”
“Is that something you would like to do tonight?”
I asked David and Si (Dean’s wife) to join me. I explained to them that Jocelyn had heard the gospel and her desire was to repent and receive Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.
David and I shared the gospel with her again, calling upon her to cry out to the Lord, asking for Him to forgive her sin and grant her everlasting life. She testified that she believed the gospel; that she was worthy of God’s wrath and judgment because of her sin; and that salvation was only available by and through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. She wanted to be saved.
She said she was scared, because she didn’t know how to pray. We told her that prayer was simply talking to God and that God already knew what was on her heart. We assured her that if God caused her to be born again and she repented of her sin and received Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, He would give her a new heart, with new desires–that she would love the things that God loves and hate the things that God hates.
David opened his Bible and asked Jocelyn to read Isaiah 61:10, aloud.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
David then beautifully explained the doctrine of Imputed Righteousness to Jocelyn in a way she could understand–explaining that through the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ one can be looked upon by God as if they had lived Christ’s perfect life, while God saw Christ on the cross as if He had lived our sinful life. God laid upon Christ the penalty for Jocelyn’s sin.
Without knowing Jocelyn’s background, but sensing there was some deep hurt in this young lady, I talked with her for a moment about the Father’s deep and perfect love for His children.
David asked Jocelyn if we could pray for her. She welcomed it, so we gathered around her and asked the Lord to extend to her the gift of eternal life only He can give.
David invited Jocelyn to join him and his family at church, offering her to pick her up if she needed a ride.
I told Jocelyn that it was not by coincidence that she heard the gospel at the bus stop. I explained to her what happened on Hollywood Boulevard, which led us to come back to preach at the NoHo Metro.
Thirteen police officers worked to shut down the preaching of the gospel, on Hollywood Boulevard; but they could not thwart the plan of God. God used what those officers intended for evil and used it to fulfill His good purposes. It happened for Joscelyn’s’ sake.
Pray for Jocelyn. Pray her confession of repentance and faith was and is genuine.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.