If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Last summer Jake volunteered at the Dream Center for a week, located in downtown Los Angeles, CA., and he was very eager for me to be able I join him this year. The Dream Center is an organization that was founded 20 years ago by pastor Matthew Barnett. His vision was to create a non-denominational church that would minister to drug addicts, unwed mothers, runaways, ethnic minorities, high school dropouts, at-risk youth and the homeless. Essentially, the “undesirable” population. He did not want another church that only wanted to witness to people about God’s love but a church and ministry that would SHOW God’s love. He wanted a church that actually CARED about people and wanted to help them create a better life, and in that way they would be able to see what Christ’s love is about.
The building itself use to be a hospital, Queen of Angels Hospital. It is located on 8.8 acres and has nearly 400,000 square feet. The building houses staff, short term mission volunteers, homeless and people going through their discipleship program. The discipleship program is a Christ-based rehabilitation program. They take people of the streets, help them get through the process of detoxing and staying stober. They teach them how to develop a relationship with Christ, get their GED, find a job, etc. They find any barrier that may be present and they show them how to overcome it.
Jake and I joined 12 other people from our church in Longview, WA to spend 5 days serving at the Dream Center. It was an amazing and eye-opening experience. As a short-term volunteer we were able to help in a variety of ministries. The ministries varied from helping people move their furniture into a new apartment or bring food and supplies into peoples home who were at risk for having their children taken into Child Protective Services because they did not have the basic essentials to care for their children. Because of donations and the Dream Center the children were able to stay at home with their family and the Dream Center will continue to be involved in that families life.
One of my favorites was the Helping Hands clothing ministry. The room was set up like the Goodwill clothing section, racks and racks of clothing, shoes, belts, etc. The doors opened at 0830 but people began lining up before 0530 so they could have first pick. The line wrapped around the building, and most of the people in it seemed to be minorities; especially Hispanics and Asians. Women and children were allowed to pick any five pieces per person, all for free of course. Men were only allowed 3 items because there are fewer donations of men clothing. It was so humbling to be able to help with this ministry and to see the joy and smiles on the women and childrens faces when they were able to get some new (used) clothes. It definitely made me more aware of the things I take for granted.
I was able to help with the food truck ministry twice. We sorted essential foods into smaller bags, which included bread, fruits, snacks, etc. We then drove to poor neighborhoods and handed out the bags of food. The lines of people would vary from 70 to 250+. We also worked with Kidz Jam where we played with the kids while their parents waited in line at the food truck. I had a lot of fun at this one, I played baseball with a little boy who was about 7. Well, I apparently played baseball with twins. I didn’t realize this until later after I had spent most of the day calling them the same name!
Another ministry we worked with was “Under the Bridge.” They go out every day to provide a warm meal to the homeless population. We went to McArthur Park and another location which was close to Skid Row. The people we provided meals to were beyond greatful.
Another ministry that I really enjoyed was Adopt a Block. A new Dream Center was created in Long Beach, CA last year. The neighborhood is one of the poorest in the area and has a high population of Hispanics. It was a pretty fun day, we played freeze tag with kids and let some feisty little girls paint our fingernails. This place allowed the children a safe (and free) place to hang out after school. This was a place where they could get some homework done, hang out with friends and have a good adult influence/role model that they may not have at home.
It feels like there is so much I am missing and I don’t have the words or skills to adequately describe how amazing this organization is. I have never physically worked harder as I did during those days. Each day was exciting and busy and I felt like I was truly making a difference. It will be a week that I will never forget.
If you want to get involved with an organization that not only cares, but is making a lasting influence then check it out! Spend the day making a difference and have the evenings to check out local attractions in L.A.