From March 13 – 15, an all-generational team of 10 from St. Andrew’s embarked on a journey to City Impact, which ministers to the people of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. The Tenderloin is the poorest district in San Francisco, home to over 36,000 people of which, 4,000 – 6,000 are homeless. Since it was founded over 30 years ago, City Impact has stood in the gap and interceded for those who do not have the hope of Christ. This has led City Impact to minister through very tangible acts of love and kindness, such as feeding the hungry (rescue mission, meal deliveries), clothing the naked (thrift store), educating the children (school), planting churches (adopt a building), and making disciples.
Upon arrival, the team was greeted by City Impact staff, briefed on the activities for the day and quickly sent out to our assignments. One team prepped food for lunch and meal deliveries from the donations received by local restaurants and grocery stores, while another team invited people on the streets into the Rescue Mission for church service and our third team served at the Thrift Store by sorting donations and welcoming customers. By lunch, we were eager to share with the team what we had experienced. Later that day, we went on a prayer walk to pray over each of City Impact’s buildings and the specific ministry taking place within.
On Saturday, we started the morning with a team devotion and prayer to prepare our hearts and minds for whatever the day would bring. After breakfast, we packed up the donated meals and headed out to a few apartment buildings to distribute and pray for those we met. Knock, Knock, Knock… “City Impact, we have a free meal for you” and we waited… The responses varied. Some doors didn’t open, some opened wide with smiles and welcomed the food and prayers. Other people took the food and quickly closed the door or just stuck out a hand. We wrote down names of everyone we met so we could continue to pray for them, even the hand without a voice. This was such a rich opportunity for our team to bless and pray over strangers. It was probably something most of us had never done before. There were a lot of seeds planted that day.
The reality of the brokenness in the lives of those who live on the streets was very apparent. Our hearts broke for the people we met. Each person shared their own story. As we listened, our simple aim was to respond in love, just as Christ did for us and to pray with them. We would end each conversation by inviting them to the church service on Sunday and were delighted at those who ended up joining us!
We also had the opportunity to do a prayer walk in Union Square, which has a similar demographic as that of Fashion Island. While the distance between the Tenderloin District and Union Square is only three blocks, the economic disparity between the two was enormous. While the streets of the Tenderloin were filthy and smelly, Union Square was neat, tidy, organized and boasted of beautiful trees, flowers and other signs of life. Likewise, the people in Union square were laughing, smiling and carrying shopping bags. This contrasted sharply with people a few blocks away who pushed all their earthly belongings around the streets in stolen shopping carts. While the outside appearances differed greatly, our team prayed over the brokenness that was hidden in the hearts of those walking around Union Square.
We realized many things this weekend. Namely, that we are all God’s children and are loved equally in His sight. We learned that rich or poor, everyone desires to be heard, known and loved. And finally, sharing the truth of the gospel and the profound & indescribable love of Jesus, is the only thing that transforms lives.