The Heart of San Francisco
It wasn’t something I had ever seen before, I’d never seen a community so broken. The minute we stepped off the bus there was a man laying on the ground sleeping, at the end of the street were a couple of men just staring at us. It was chilly and all you could smell was weed. You grow up hearing about places like this but to be physically in a place like this was nothing but mind-blowing. The people were different from what I’m used to and the city looked nothing from what I expected. Something about this place made me a little excited but I think it was the fact I wasn’t going to be stuck in my room for another week doing nothing that made me excited…
I was ready for what the Tenderloin had in store for me
Day 1 in the Tenderloin:
The first day there we went on a prayer walk where we walked around the Tenderloin and prayed over certain buildings. While we were walking I’m in awe with everything I’m seeing and everyone I’m seeing. We get to one building called the Power Exchange, which is a sex club that allows prostitution of young girls. In that moment I couldn’t find myself to comprehend that there’s actual things like this that people are very aware about and how many people walk past it everyday and just overlook it. By the time we got back to the building we were staying at I was at loss of words, I didn’t know if I was scared or heart-broken at what i saw that day.
Day 2 in the Tenderloin:
In the Tenderloin we were working with City Impact which is an organization in the Tenderloin itself that spreads the work of God to the people in the Tenderloin. The first day for us ministering to the people my group and I had kitchen work where we prepared food for what they would use throughout the week. After what I had seen the day before I was glad we had kitchen work so I could take that morning and just think of why God called me to such a broken place. While we transported food to different buildings I was really observing how the town looked like in the morning, it was quiet maybe a few loud voices here and there but it was quiet.
Later on in the day we had t-revive where we cooked burgers for the homeless and sat with them and talked with them and prayed for those who wanted to be prayed for. For me I decided to follow Monica just to get a feel of things so we got the job to do nails. With this job we had to walk around and ask ladies if they wanted their nails done. I know 20 minutes in Monica was tired of me and my questions, “can I please use gloves” “what if they get offended I want to do their nails?” “I have to go ask by myself?!”…. We only got two ladies to come to our table and one got her nails done by Monica and the other just wanted to sit and talk to me. She was a sweet old lady probably one of the kindest people I have ever met. She didn’t tell me much about her life but she told me about her wonderful kids and grand children and asked I pray over her. I could tell from that she really wanted to turn her life around to Jesus and it brought me so much joy I got the opportunity to pray for her.
At this point in the day my feet were on FIRE I changed shoes about three times that day I really thought I was about to lose my feet but to the best of my luck we had street ministry! Street Ministry is where we walk around the Tenderloin and hand out sandwiches and actually talk to the people of the Tenderloin. The first couple sandwiches I casually hung around in the back then once I got comfortable I started handing out sandwiches gracefully. The conversations became easier to start but most people didn’t have time to talk. There was one guy who I started talking to and the conversation was going all so well he started asking questions about why we were ministering then told me that I was wasting my time because he was an atheist. In that moment I became frozen I had so many questions but I didn’t know what exactly to ask, I wanted to tell him it was okay none of us were judging him that he wasn’t wasting our time, because at the end of the day our act of kindness could change this man’s life and change his beliefs. When I went to sleep that night I was more than happy I had a purpose to wake up the next day, that I had a mission for the next day not just to lay in my bed all day and watch Netflix. The weather was nice I looked out my window there were men playing dice, ambulance sirens going off all night… San Fran was different and I liked it.
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Day 3 in the Tenderloin:
Now the night before it felt great but by morning it was basically winter in Texas!! That morning we had Church duty at 140 Turk St, basically the central point of city impact. Here we helped set up pastries and coffee for the morning crew that came to eat breakfast and hear people’s testimonies. While I was serving the pastries so many of these people came in with smiling faces probably more friendly than mines. Right after I started sorting out bread so they can make sandwiches for the next street ministry and while I was doing that my friend Lorna was giving her testimony. Out of all my friends Lorna inspires me the most I may have thought I’ve gone through a lot but listening to her testimony that day imagining how strong you have to be in her shoes how going through something she went through how someone could easily give up and lose all hope in the Lord but she didn’t. Anyone could easily go down the wrong path being through what Lorna has been through but she continues to put her faith in the lord and stays strong for her mom. Love you Lo ❤
After lunch we had t-revive again!! But this time we didn’t do nails I really wanted to go around and speak to the people. There are people who God puts in your life for a purpose and people he puts just to put there and this day I met Demetri. Demetri was there for both reasons, in less than 30 minutes it was like I knew Demetri for years the way he clicked with the girls and I, he reminded me of friends we have in Texas one of them being Kelvin. He reminded me of Kelvin because of his personality he had no filter and even though he joked a lot he told us some really valuable things about life. It was like in those 30 minutes we became his young ones, as Kelvin refers to us as and it was a good feeling to have someone like that in the Tenderloin. Demetri also reminded me of a friend of mine called Paul but when it came to him reminding me about Paul this is where Demetri was put into my life for a purpose, he opened my eyes to things I didn’t realize before. Words can only explain so much how great it was meeting Demetri, saying goodbye that day was the hardest because we weren’t sure if we were gonna see him again.
Day 4 in the Tenderloin:
That morning we had duty at the thrift store where we cleaned and organized clothes we also did t-revive where I saw Demetri again and spent the whole time cracking jokes with him and his cousin. It wasn’t until that afternoon where I finally got to minister and see the actual power of prayer. That afternoon we had women’s ministry where we pass out notes to women in the streets, most of these notes contained of positive notes for women and uplifting bible verses. While we did women’s ministry many women didn’t want the notes so I decided to start handing them out to men. I did this because even though these cards were meant for women some men in this area need to be uplifted to. I had one card left and decided why not try to give it to this lady who might take it. To my surprise she was more than delighted to take my card not only that she was even more happy that I wanted to pray for her, once I was done praying I could see the light in her face (literally) but it was as if after I prayed I could truly see how beautiful this woman was she might not have been wearing the best clothes but now I finally understood the purpose of women’s ministry. Too many of the women in this community devalue themselves because of what they’re wearing and how they look like but don’t take the time to see the true beauty in themselves.
Day 4 in the Tenderloin: Jackson Edition
Our second and last night of doing street ministry was the one night where my eyes were really opened. This day street ministry was really slow most of the people I approached myself didn’t want to be prayed for which was understandable. During the walk I got partnered with Jackson whom didn’t talk much which I was fine with because I barely talked myself. There was one point where Jackson and I approached this man who came off with a strong personality right off the bat. Being the person I am I had absolutely nothing to say because I’m not the type to deal with strong personalities but I was intrigued. The first night of street ministry I was speaking to an atheist and watched everyone around me plus myself become completely turned away from him the moment he announced he didn’t believe in the Lord. I wanted to know why so bad but I couldn’t find myself to say the words. This man who Jackson and I were speaking to didn’t believe in Jesus, as I became turned away from him I hear Jackson question his belief. Jackson didn’t question it in an arrogant way or in a manner of shaming him he questioned him in a way it could be discussed. Now I was shooketh (I was in shock) because what Jackson was doing is what exactly I wanted to do a couple of days before. He showed all the up-most respect to this man he didn’t discredit his belief he questioned him in an intellectual way. I feel like a lot of us Christians claim we love God and are 100% by his side until it comes to situations like this, either we don’t care or we judge. I never witnessed someone defend their God the way Jackson did, that day not only did he intellectually question him Jackson came with receipts (facts). I’m glad I got to be there in that moment with Jackson because that exact moment was apart of my calling. It showed me that you can show people that Jesus is real even if it means questioning what they believe. So Thank You Jackson Brumbaugh…
Day 5 in the Tenderloin: what I learned
Last day ministering and that morning we did t-revive where I got to talk to one guy all about the draft and just all things NBA it wasn’t until then I realized how out of tune I was with the social world without my phone. Demetri came to say his goodbye but this time he brought a couple of friends all of them were not like him at all which I observed as well but all had cool vibes like him. I got the opportunity to pray for one more man but this time I got to tell him about God and the works of city impact in the community. He told me how he ended up where he is and how he wants to redirect his life to God.
I grew up being warned about places like the Tenderloin and the people in it. I was terrified when I arrived on Turk St questioning if i made the right decision or not. Funny enough is after that whole week I was ashamed of the thoughts I had when i arrived. I judged these people and the town before I even got to know it. The people of the Tenderloin were just like me in so many ways the only thing that made them different is the situation they were in. the city from first glance looks so broken and ugly but there’s so much beauty in it if you just look. We only allow ourselves to see the brokenness of the town because we allow ourselves. The few drug deals I saw, the couple of people I met doped up on drugs and the graffiti I saw all made up the beauty of the Tenderloin. There are kids who live in the Tenderloin and aren’t afraid of anything, just like Tom. Tom is my corner-store friend who I bought my water from for a week, he’s super adorable and his smile is breathtaking lol. But Tom sees more in a day than I see in a lifetime yet there he is at work just casually working minding his business going about his day. I prayed for Tom and his safety all week because every night id go to say hello there he was with a big ol smile on his face like someone didn’t just walk through his store just a second ago trying to finesse some rillos. This trip taught me more about myself that I thought I already knew, I never realized how blessed I was and how my problems are what most of these people have already gone through and even worse. Yet there they were still as human as me but just in a bad situation. I learned that prayer is the key even if you’re scared to pray out-loud 90% of the time your prayer is more powerful than you think. City Impact showed me what doing Gods work is not just feeding the homeless but ministering to them as well. A simple act of kindness can go a long way but the word of God goes further. Always remember God calls you to places for a reason but it’s up to you to figure out that reason.
San Francisco HPPC mission trip was by far the best experience with it being my first mission trip and first time being out of Texas since I moved here 12 years ago. I enjoyed every minute of it from laughing at my friends crying their hearts out to partying on the staircase to hospital rushes in the middle of the night and to meeting new friends… i’ll never forget this trip and the people on it and thank you so much to City Impact for allowing us to minister with them.
And that’s my story of being in the Tenderloin ❤