Author Ray Bakke in “A Theology as Big as the City” refers to Rome when he says: “It was called Caput Mundi—the head of the world—and if all roads went there, so did all the sewers as well.” As time has passed, Los Angeles, the modern capital of the world, can now be held to a similar description.
Over the course of the semester, APU students on Los Angeles term will reveal their insights into the heights and pitfalls of the inner city. Sophomore global studies major Laura Lacombe speaks to the diversity of Los Angeles in the first column below.
By Laura Lacombe, guest writer
It’s just over a week that I’ve been living here in L.A., and it really feels like its been way longer. There has already been a whirlwind of emotions, and I know that it’s just the beginning.
To begin with, I have the blessing of living with a woman who is different from me in almost every way. There’s the age difference—about 57 years, to be exact. There’s the fact that she’s from a different country and she’s a vegetarian. She follows a different religion than I do. And anyone who knows me knows that I am not a neat person. Yet here I am, living with someone who expects all aspects of cleanliness.
Different can seem like such a bad thing. It can seem like our comfort and familiarity is taken away from us, which we like to think we’re entitled to. But the thing is: Difference is so good for us.
Different means new experiences, new perspectives and new ways to see God. Yeah, it’s hard. But I try to think about the fact that I am getting an inside perspective of what it’s like to move to a new country as a young immigrant, and face discrimination for the rest of your life because of it. Or I think about the fact that I get to try a whole new type of food (homemade!) for a whole semester. I get to hear new tidbits of wisdom every day from someone who has many more years of life than me and who truly grew up in a culture of wisdom.
And most importantly, I get to discover God in unconventional ways. Yesterday, Prabha (my host mother) asked me what I learned in church that I didn’t know before. How cool is it that we can share about God across different religions? I’ve learned—and will keep learning—how God is not confined in a box. He isn’t strictly a part of Christianity, but He is in every spiritual realm and is part of all things. I can still learn about the character of God through someone who is not a Christian. Only looking to Christians to find God is limiting the parts of Him that we can discover.
Apart from living in someone’s home, L.A. is a whole new world. After such a short time here, one of the biggest difficulties for me is how much we tend to glamorize L.A. Usually, people like to think of the good food, the endless museums, the amazing street art, famous people, you name it.
Yes, L.A. is all of these things. But it is also so much more.
It’s the struggling family on the brink of becoming homeless. It’s the kids who think they can’t break the cycle of poverty because that’s all they know. It’s the girls who are tricked into human trafficking. It’s the endless number of people slowly losing their sense of identity.
But with all of this brokenness, there is so much room for God’s light to shine through. And that’s my favorite part.
My heart has been breaking for the homeless this past week, and I don’t think that’s going to end or get any easier. I think God has been planting this in my heart for a while now, and He is going to keep growing that. When you ask God to break your heart for what breaks His, be prepared.
I’m learning that we cannot keep turning away because we don’t want to see it. We can’t stare up at the tall buildings, look at the nice art and tell ourselves how great L.A. is if we don’t take a look down at the people lying on the streets and at least offer them a smile.
I want to end with challenging this idea of being comfortable. We so badly want to be comfortable, but God calls us to be pushed out of our comfort zones to love those who are hard to love. Christians are called into the mess instead of away from it. When you read the Bible, it’s pretty clear that Jesus and His followers were never really comfortable. They moved around without possessions or a place to stay. God called them to go into cities that had previously persecuted them, and He called them to become part of new cultures for the sake of the Gospel. So why do we think that’s not still true for us today?
L.A. offers such a beautiful picture of diversity, and I believe that it’s a glimpse into what heaven could be like. When people of different races, ethnicities, backgrounds and languages come together in worship, it’s truly representing the people of God in this idea of unity.
So here we are, a group of 11 APU girls in L.A. for a semester. I pray for strong relationships built and for never-ending opportunities to share God’s love. I pray that we will gain influential knowledge as class starts this week, and I pray for internships for each girl that will allow her to do God’s work in the area. Lastly, I pray for each of us to see the hope of the Lord in this great city.
This article has previously been published as a WordPress blog on September 5, 2016. It has been edited for length purposes.