When I moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 2015 to begin a graduate program at California State University, Northridge, I had just completed a summer of driving tour buses in rural Alaska. To say I was experiencing culture shock would be an understatement. Additionally, I had no family in the area, nor did I know anyone else with the exception of one friend-of-a-friend who was also in my grad program. My first few months in LA were a tumultuous time. I bounced around from somewhat stable housing to even less stable housing for a while. In 7 months, I had lived in 6 places ranging from shared rooms to living rooms to friend’s couches. I knew from experience that I could pack up all my belongings in my Toyota Corolla in under 30 minutes.
Throughout these first months in Los Angeles, I would often call my mom back home in Spokane, Washington to catch up, vent, and seek support. At the end of what felt like every call, she always asked if I had found a church home yet and if I had checked out a church she knew of- First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. She knew Dale Bruner from his Spokane days and knew the Bruners attended FPCH. I had dodged her questions asking me if I had checked out FPCH time and time again until she wore me down, as moms have a unique ability to do.
The first time I stepped into FPCH’s sanctuary was in March 2016, and I was immediately reminded of previous church homes I have had in the Northwest. I remember holding back tears during the prayers of the people. Since moving here months prior, it was the first time that I felt a sense of home. The warmth and sincerity of FPCH was overwhelming and provided the spiritual support I didn’t realize I needed.
Even though I knew FPCH was my Los Angeles church home, I didn’t get plugged in or give back immediately. I was still struggling to find stable housing, support myself through grad school, and survive living in a big city. Eventually, I began regularly attending the City Lights young adult’s group and found myself wanting to transition from an attender of FPCH to a member and active participant in our church community.
As I became more involved, I began to look to the past for how to move forward towards active participation. Specifically, I knew from past experience that I love to worship through acts of service. I was involved in my college town’s church, First Presbyterian Church of Bellingham, and found remarkable spiritual growth from leading worship, serving on student leadership and tithing.
The pouring out of myself to others helps me engage in the life that Jesus has set out for us as his people. As I have become established and settled into a more stable life since I first moving to Los Angeles, I delight in the ways I can give back to the community that was my sanctuary and home when I needed it the most. I spend Sunday mornings before church helping our 1st graders learn about Jesus and Wednesday nights learning myself alongside our other young adults. I try to say yes to opportunities that arise that utilizes my experience in teaching and public speaking. I have been so filled with support, love, and care from the FPCH community. I give myself from a posture of joy, humbled to contribute my time, talents, and treasures to further the kingdom of God. In this season of grateful giving, I give alongside other FPCH members as a communal act of worship to recognize the work God has done in my life and come along side the work God is doing in others.