The entrepreneurial spirit if North San Fernando Valley (specifically, the City of San Fernando).
Tag Archives: San Fernando Valley
One woman’s husband died at war while she was pregnant. Another lost 198 Jewish family members during the Holocaust. A man witnessed the sexual abuse of his sister and withdrew into himself, drinking excessively to deaden the memory.
How do you move beyond life’s pain and suffering? Between the Lines, Beyond the Pain examines that question and weighs why some people never recover from the injustices of our fallen world.
The author, Dawn Forman, personally experienced her own torment when she was raped by her step-dad.
Remarkably, she makes the case for compassion — and empathy — for everyone. She urges her readers to stop judging others or writing them off. She exhorts them to greater understanding, valuing everyone.
“The stars cannot be seen until they are set against ebony background of the night sky,” Forman writes. “So it is with people… (they) shine as stars (when we learn) what they have endured or overcome in their lives.”
Forman is a poet and includes some of her poems in the small volume. In the process of overcoming pain, poetry can be part of the healing journey, as evidenced by David in the Psalms.
Forman was born in the San Fernando Valley to an angry, distant father, who never processed his childhood trauma and lashed out at those around him, including his three girls.
“Though I have found much healing,” she says, “I still bear scars.”
Absent a loving father, Forman became promiscuous. Sex, drugs and the under-21 dance club “The Sugar Shack” were part of the equation.
“Emotionally crippled by my formative years spent with my father, the choices I began to make as a teenager reflect my aching soul,” she narrates in the autobiographical volume. “Unworthy, unloved and unequal to those around me, I was always searching for a place where I felt I belonged. This left me extremely vulnerable. Male attention became like a drug itself. I was gouging multiple, deeper scars into my already wounded heart and soul.”
Her parents divorced when she was 16. She started spending more time with friends as lost as herself. Quaaludes, cocaine, barbiturates and angel dust became her thing, all to the beat of David Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel.”
She went from hanging out with drug addicts to hanging out with drug dealers. Once she got accused of being a narc at a satanic party in San Francisco. Several times she had brushes with death.
After a three-day drug binge, she overdosed. Only then did she think of the Jesus freaks she ridiculed when she passed them on the sidewalk. They told her Jesus loved her and had a plan for her; she sneered and moved on. But when she overdosed, she remembered.
“My life was a miserable mess,” she recalls. “In my eyes, I was a pathetic waste of flesh, a failure, unlovable wretch, full of anger and pain.”
As she lingered close to death, she cried out. “Jesus, if you are real, I do not want to die.” Read the rest: No easy answers for emotional pain Between the Lines, Beyond the Pain
After his father succumbed to cancer, David Silva Jr. was “eaten up with guilt” because he hadn’t been there for his dad through the chemotherapy and hospitalizations.
So he tried to commit suicide. When his girlfriend left, he tied a noose around his neck, fastened it to the bar in a closet, took a bunch of pills and let himself fall.
But his girlfriend came back in suddenly and rescued him, marking the beginning of David’s turnaround from meth abuser to Christ follower, now 31-years-old. Nearly half his life had been consumed by addiction.
“I never thought it would be so easy for me to quit. It had to have been God. I didn’t have no withdrawals or anything,” says David, who hasn’t been sober for a year yet. “I felt I was on fire for Jesus.”
David first got into trouble because of the kids he was hanging with in Pacoima where he grew up. They took drugs, so he eventually tried them in the 10th grade. Very quickly he transitioned from marijuana to crystal meth.
“I’ve always been upity up. So I liked meth because the feeling you get is you’re alert. It’s a stimulant, but eventually you start losing control of your own mind,” David says. “Because of the lack of sleep you start hallucinating, hearing things and seeing things. When you open your mind up to that much evil, you’re actually seeing things that are actually there.”
David did construction work with his dad, but since the two of them argued constantly on the job site, he eventually left home. He “screwed up” some really good employments because of his drug use.
“Me and my dad had a big blowout,” he says. “We always bumped heads. We had a really bad relationship on the job site. We always wanted to be in control. We had ups and downs. We had a love-hate relationship with me.”
He was sleeping in his truck but eventually found favor with a drug dealer to sleep on his couch. Fixing a car for a friend of his dealer, he met the girl who would become his girlfriend. He fell asleep on the patio at a barbecue at her house and just stayed there.
He would do handyman jobs and install security systems and cameras and home entertainment units. Sometimes, he would be at police officer’s houses installing systems — and he would be high while he was doing it.
By many accounts, methamphetamines are second only to opioids in popularity on the mean streets of America. The drug triggers a jolting release of dopamine, the happy hormone. Users go for days without sleeping or eating as the drug becomes their single focus in life. David stuffed toilet paper in his cheeks for his driver’s license photo so he wouldn’t look so gaunt.
“You can do $300 of meth and it won’t hit you because your body is so exhausted. They call it the burn out,” David says. “No matter what amount of meth you do, it won’t hit you.”
Towards the end, David starting hanging out in underground casinos, “getting involved in some really heavy things, with some really gnarly gang members who were notorious” in the criminal world, he says. “I was involved in all kinds of illegal activities.”
Meanwhile his mom and dad were praying for him. Even when he was high, he would remember God and even talk to other users about God.
“God had purpose for me,” he says. “Smoking with 20 guys I was still talking about God and get into debates about good and evil. I would wonder how I could debate about God while I was high. God never leaves us.”
David’s parents hadn’t heard from him in nine months when his dad was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Mom was afraid to tell her son the complete diagnosis for fear it might make him spin out of control with the drugs, but she sent word that dad was in the hospital through some friends.
David came home and made peace with his father. Eventually he found out he was dying of cancer, and he began to spin out of control.
“I lost it. I started using drugs really really badly, even worse than before,” he says. “I became reckless. I didn’t care.”
When his dad was in the hospital for the last time with liquids oozing out of his mouth and nose, David was there to help.
“I love you,” he told his father, who stared back with eyes of fear, unable to speak himself.
“It was too late,” David says. “It ate me up so bad. I was afraid he didn’t hear me when I told him I love you. We didn’t really make that peace. The guilt was so much. I wasn’t there for my dad like I should’ve been. I was too busy getting high. I got in a really dark place, and I lost sense of everything.”
Two days after his father (a born-again) Christian died, David was overcome with guilt and grief and tried to commit suicide but was interrupted by his girlfriend.
With no sense of closure or peace, David threw himself into rabid drug use with a fury. This time, not even his girlfriend knew where he was, in a tent underneath an overpass bridge. He dropped from 188 to 140 pounds when an acquaintance brought him a message.
“Finally one of my friends came looking for me and said, ‘Dude, your mom is really worried about you she wants you to come home,” he recalls.
He agreed to go with mom to church where he met a fellow former user, Eric, who encouraged him in God. Especially important was that Eric told David his father was proud of him. That made him feel good, but also guilty because he wasn’t living a life to be proud of. So he decided to give it a try.
And then came the radical change in his life: a church camping trip.
It’s funny how the church has advanced to streamed sermons, devotional apps and seeker-friendly sermons, but the old methodology for Christian camping is still one of the most powerful discipleship tools.
David went to the Sequoia National Forest. He had always loved camping, and he made himself useful helping set up tents and doing most of the cooking. He led hikes into the mountains and helped chop wood for the campfires. He fellowshipped with Eric and grew strong in the camaraderie.
But it was the last night that broke his heart and solidified his decision to serve Jesus. At a campfire his younger brother Elijah publicly thanked God for giving him back his older brother.
“I’m sorry for being a screw up all those years,” David responded through tears.
When Moses came down Mount Sinai, his face glowed from the glory of God. Something similar happened to David.
“After the camping trip, I felt I was on fire for Jesus,” he says. “Just having my family back. Just knowing that I was doing something that my dad wanted for me. Just knowing that I was doing something that would make him feel proud of me.”
He kicked meth.
He didn’t suffer the usual physical symptoms of withdrawal. But at night, he saw demons. This was strange to him because he’d never hallucinated while taking meth. It was when he quit meth that he saw the fiendish beings mocking him at night.
“I couldn’t sleep. I’d be afraid to fall asleep because I was afraid I would see more demons. They were imps,” David says. “It was like an out of body experience, like I was watching myself sleeping, and these gnarly hairy creatures, imps with lots of teeth, were moving around harassing my brother as if they were saying, ‘If we can’t have you, we’re going to take your brother.’” Read the rest of the story about meth addict freed by Jesus.
Cindy Stone had an abortion, so she figures she’s the ideal candidate to dissuade anxious mothers from a decision that wreaked havoc in her own heart.
“I’ve gone through the pain of regret,” Stone said. “God put it in my heart that this is what I need to do to help other women and men with my story. I don’t want someone to suffer that kind of spiritual, mental and emotional pain.”
Every Wednesday, Stone, a Protestant, teams up with two Catholic women outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Van Nuys, California. They hold up signs, pray and offer advice to any woman who is willing to hear about the grim realities of abortion – and the positive alternatives that exist.
Call them Sisters of Compassion. The War on Abortion is now 44 years old, and there doesn’t appear to be any softening of the rhetoric on either side of the debate.
Stone and her friends talk with sensitivity, even though they speak a stark truth about what abortion providers understate as “a clump of cells.”
On the one hand, the grisly nature of abortion needs to be explained clearly. But on the other hand, these women are not shaming pregnant mothers already immersed in despair.
“I understand where they’re coming from and what might be motivating them,” said Stone, 66, of Santa Monica. “It’s not that we are trying to condemn them in anyway but let them know that there are people who are willing to help them. We’re helping them see that a pregnancy is a life. People come and say, ‘Don’t shame us. Shame on you for shaming us.’ That’s tough when somebody talks to you like that. We don’t want to come across like that. But we must share the truth in love.”
Maria Barrientos, 50, a Filipino American who runs a Philippines-based engineering firm, shows what they’re talking about when they offer help. She personally cared for a baby for six weeks in 2010 just so that the mother wouldn’t abort. Read the rest of Where abortion in San Fernando Valley.
God’s goodness and unmerited favor is not only for salvation. I’ve been seeing it in the formation of the startup church in Van Nuys, California. The San Fernando Valley Lighthouse Church is running on eight cylinders.
We recently did a drama to bless another, well-established church in Palmdale, about an hour away from L.A.
The church continues to meet at Lake Balboa, when it’s not too cold or rainy. Attendance doubled in December.
I am floored that God would bless me. It’s His amazing grace, usually applied to salvation, but applicable to any and every area of our lives.
What you need in life is God’s favor, which you can’t earn. Jesus earned it for you. The best thing we can do is be grateful.
I was surprised. These church members, instead of taking time off because of Christmas, came out to service. Christmas is a big family time. But the Van Nuys ch
urch members didn’t miss service.
Who would ever have thought that I could fit 25 seats into our apartment? A space efficiency engineer couldn’t have done better. It worked like a jigsaw puzzle.
All these people have been the best Christmas gift to me. One family had been praying for a Christian Fellowship Ministries church to open in the San Fernando Valley for years. Most of the members of our startup church play an instrument or two. Virtually all of them come to serve, not to be served.
This was the blessing of 2016 for me. I’m looking forward to what God will do in 2017.
God brought this blessing after six lean years of almost no ministry in my parent church. I thank God that the lean years are over and now I can function on all 8 pistons.
When Jesus gives, it is the best gift.
Starting my second church was very different from my first church: I left thinking maybe, just maybe, God would help me. If not, I didn’t care. I was going to serve Him. I was going to NOT stress and NOT strive and NOT try to force the Hand of God. I was just going to enjoy His presence and let Him bring growth organically.
It has been anything but organic. Suddenly, disciples are popping up all over the place. It has been sudden. Today, members showed themselves to be true troopers, braving chilly breezes in the park to still attend, despite the risk of getting sick.
I’m awestruck by what God has done. We had a new record in attendance, and the weather pretty much gave everybody every reason to miss service.
By organic, I mean that the church would grow or not grow very much, naturally, easy, slowly. Instead, I got a whole start-up church of members from Day 1 because that church was closing. Then another family who has been praying for the San Fernando Valley for years came. Yesterday, we outreached at the Panorama City Mall, something they dreamed of doing with their church for years.
So what did I do to deserve these multiply blessings? Nothing. I can agree with those who enumerate the long list of my faults.
I just believed and waited on God.
I don’t believe I’m terribly talented. I don’t have such a great charisma. I’m not one of those larger-than-life leaders who attracted followers by oodles with their superman abilities. I’m just a simple guy who got bored sitting around doing nothing in the Mother Church and ask for playing time to get on the field. My pastor sent me out in June. I adopted the nickname the #ValleyBoyPastor as a way to promote the church. And here I am, relishing life, enjoying God.
Because there are far better pastors than myself, who have worked far more, and are way more consecrated to God. And they didn’t get the blessing I did. I was gifted a fully developed (albeit beginning) congregation. I started in June. After one week, I had serious disciples.
I swear: it’s not my fault. Nothing to my credit. I did nothing to deserve His blessing!
Probably any pastor from my church-planting denomination, the Christian Fellowship Ministries, would love to waltz into the blessing of people with virtual no work. Why do I get the blessing? The only answer I can deduce: Life is unfair.
But this time, I’m praising Jesus for the unfairness.
By every measure, this summer has been huge! Not only did I move and start a church, but we got a church — attending members, like out of thin air. When God smiles on a man, it changes everything.
Some of you may know I’ve been moping along for six years since my missionary stint in Guatemala was over. Like the India Maria, I was neither from here nor there. I tried to help out in my parent church but couldn’t do much. I longed to launch out again.
Suddenly, the doors opened. They needed an apartment manager in Van Nuys, now known as the Promised Land. I would start a Bible study and patiently work for organic (read: slow) growth. I was in no hurry. I would let God do it in His time without becoming agitated.
Then the week after I was re-ordained at the Tucson Door Church (Christian Fellowship Ministries), I got a call. A nearby church was closing, and would I mind if its members came to my Bible study?
After I got up off the floor, I said, no, I wouldn’t mind.
Since then things have been going much faster than I could ever imagine. They wanted to start Sunday services. I am applying for a school auditorium, but that’s not fast enough. So we opened in the Anthony Beilenson Park at Lake Balboa Sunday at 10:00 a.m.
Now school is gearing up, and I look back over the extraordinary revival and blessings in ’16. Wow and hallelujah.
Most of the time God doesn’t do things as fast as you expect. Occasionally, He doesn’t do things as slow as you expect.
When I took the step of faith to return to church-planting, I braced for the long haul under the moniker #ValleyBoyPastor. The plan was: After a year or two of holding a Bible study, move to a park building for Sunday morning service. Slow and organic.
Instead, God went BOOM!
How about immediate revival? He dropped four key disciples down out of the sky. These disciples have been pushing me to start our own services (and not go to Santa Monica Lighthouse services). I couldn’t get a building quick enough, so we hit the Anthony Beilenson Park.
It was lovely August day under the spreading tree at Balboa Lake in the San Fernando Valley. The acoustic guitar pumped up lilting chords, and we had a Holy Spirit, unplugged service — the first for the Van Nuys Lighthouse Church. It felt good to preach again, like a player who’s long been sidelined (six years!) to get back out on the playing field.
It seems that what I’ve most experienced is hardship in pastoring. God turned the paradigm on it’s head and brought revival. Only He knows what He’s doing. I can only praise Him.
This is about others. I’m the Valley Boy Pastor, but the church is about the members, and helping them to get into right relationship about God. They are Christ-followers, and He is the center of attention. My talents or lack thereof are immaterial. I dedicate myself to God’s people, not them to me.
So why do I show up at member’s softball game? Because this is about them. They are important (not me). They are the center of attention.
2 Cor. 10:8 says that pastors are supposed to “build up,” not tear down, their congregants. So I strive to show them how special they are to Christ. And in 1 Chron 14:2, David understands that God raised him up for the good of the people, not for the good of David.
Pastor, get off your pride trip. You are just a facilitator to help men get to God. You are tool the toolbox of the Master Fixer, Jesus. When does the tool brag about the fix the Master does. God is moving in the Lighthouse Church in Van Nuys, part of the Christian Fellowship Ministries.
Meet Pastor Matt Sinkhorn. Apparently, I inherited his church members as he moved on to start another church in the Christian Fellowship Ministries.
This is an incredible blessing. I had been hunkering down for the long haul of evangelism, prayer and loneliness to build the church in Van Nuys from scratch. Then I got a call. Pastor Matt had lost his lease. His pastor wanted to move him. His disciples needed a new home.
Presto! Instant church for the Valley Boy Pastor!
And they are good disciples. They invited people to service every time.
I’m in a dream. What did I do to deserve a shortcut on 5 years+ of work?
God is good. Thank you, Matt. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, my friend and blog reader, for your prayers.
I text Pastor Matt my thanks and told him about the kazillion dollars. He said that if it was so, he could loan me $10.
You don’t need a fancy building. As a matter of fact, a fancy building can be the ruin of a church. Where does the New Testament say Christians focused on buildings? In the first century, they met in homes, next to river and then in catacombs.
All you need is the Spirit and the Word. These two activate all the elements that comprise “church.” They — not American luxuries — bring revival. Revival is not getting a fancy building. Revival is the Spirit moving on the hearts of many men.
I got a building once, in Guatemala (so I’m not speaking from a poverty mentality of resentment and envy; I’m speaking from experience). I believe the building has its upsides. But now that I am starting a church in Van Nuys with the Christian Fellowship Ministries, I want to stay as far away from that headache as possible. I want to follow the Acts example. I want the Spirit of God, not a storefront church.
I know a church in Africa that has met under a tree for eight years. It is a church, people congregate, disciples are being raised up, the word is preached with power, transformation is being done, and they have no building. After the building comes the improvements. We end with the Sistine Chapel, gaudy gold and Michelangelo, void of Spirit. Money that should have been spent on getting souls saved is diverted to personal comforts.
When I took to the stage Friday in front of a conference crowd in the thousands, I felt very different from the first time 21 years ago. Last time, I felt like a celebrity. This time, being announced to open a church in Van Nuys, I felt like a CalTrans worker.
One of the sermons that resonated was about pioneer pastors digging for treasure, the souls of men. The preacher talked about how a shovel was the essential gear. Having raised up a church in Guatemala during 16 years, I understood what he was talking about. I was hunkering down for the hard labor again.
So the multiple congratulations from well-wishers has given me a sense of mirth. Do people congratulation highway workers for digging ditches under the blistering sun? Maybe they should give.
If you want to pastor, don’t look for congratulations. Look for work, lots and lots of work.
My sentiments definitely lie with the simplify-life crowd. But while my wife sees out the school year in Santa Monica with my kids, I’m starting our new gig apartment managing in Van Nuys with some Spartan furnishings. All I have are chairs for the Bible study, to which no one has attended yet.
So I’m eating tuna out of can because I don’t yet have a refrigerator. Please don’t think I’m suffering. I was missionary in Guatemala, and I beg to differ — I’m living luxury. I have a cot and a sleeping bag.
And I have a friend. Alex invited me over for dinner last night, but I had already eaten, so I didn’t know how I could fit it in. Luckily, I was able largely due to the fact that it was super delicious.
It’s good to have friends. You might have gobs of cash, but if you don’t have true friends, you’re slumping in poverty. Alex is a fellow Christian, and the handyman at my apartment. We’ve already watched soccer together!
I remember that I cried when I was in Guatemala alone with my wife for Christmas and Sister Lizette, without even really knowing us, invited us for dinner. I cried tears of joy because we were experiencing loneliness. So by significant measure, we already doing much better than our first church-planting venture — I already have a good friend.