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Mission Bridge and The Shepherd’s House Weekend Outreach to the Homeless and Impoverished of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District
May 20-22, 2016
Team: 12 persons—5 men and 7 women, two vans for long distance travel, one van for inter-city trips
- Visit, clean, and rededicate the Memorial Cross of 1894 in memory of the service held near Drake’s Bay about St. John’s Day on June 24, 1579, by Francis Fletcher, a priest of the Church of England and Chaplain to Sir Francis Drake; the site of the first Christian service in the English tongue on the coast of California, the first use of the Book of Common Prayer in what became the United States, and the first recorded missionary prayer on this continent. Our prayers included dedication of our trip to San Francisco and the city of San Francisco itself.
- An after dark excursion onto the sidewalks around the SF City Center International Hostel where we stayed the two nights of our weekend. We distributed our homemade hot chocolate to the homeless “street people,” served up from a thermos and with marshmallows and a sprinkling of cinnamon as an extra upon request. If a door to further interaction opened, we offered listening ears, heartfelt concern, joy as appropriate, Scripture, prayers, the Gospel, and testimonies to the love of Christ.
- We broke into two teams. One team served breakfast through San Francisco City Impact by knocking on the doors of single room occupants at a local hotel, and the second team served breakfast to the homeless and many hotel single room occupants through St. Anthony’s Church Dining Room, which serves 2,500 free hot meals daily.
- Carrying two full lunches each from Subway, we ministered in Civic Center Plaza by offering one of the lunches to a homeless person and asking permission to sit with him or her as we ate the other lunch. (Variations to this format did occur.) Stories were heard, love and the gospel were shared, and prayers were given.
- In late afternoon/early evening our street band congregated at Ghirardelli Square to praise and worship God, offering public testimonty to his great goodness that causes us to sing with joy.
- During free time in the Square and on the Wharf, some ministered by engaging shop employees and passersby on the street in conversation and evangelistic blessing in Christ.
- The entire team served hundreds of breakfasts to the poor of the city at GLIDE church within short walking distance of the hostel.
- Distribution of oranges and first aid kits in baggies opened doors of conversation with street residents on the walk both to and from the church.
- Some in the team were fortunate enough to receive a private tour of “Tenderloin National Forest,” an amazing botanical and artistic, forested masterpiece on Cohen Alley, created by the Tenderloin residents in cooperation with the nonprofit The Luggage Store/509 Cultural Center. This alley used to be known locally as “Crack Alley.” Our enthusiasm and interest tremendously blessed our street person tour guide, who played an instrumental role in construction of the park.
Personal Highlights of the Ministry Weekend
Best of Everything: By far and away, the best part of everything we did Friday-Sunday was meeting and greeting the beautiful, welcoming and responsive street people of the Tenderloin District near the International Hostel, many of whom were homeless. Their brokenness was tragic, yet light kept breaking through.
- Cici — I read the word “hope” like a banner across my mind as we talked with Cici, who had just received a devastating medical diagnosis that she needed to share with her wheelchair bound, dependent friend. As I prayed Christ’s hope into her, she responded with thanksgiving and hope! and her friend, who had mostly been nonresponsive up until then, lifted his head and broke into a big grin. I also prayed for healing.
- Charles — Charles gladly received two cups of hot chocolate from us, then began jumping up and down in excitement to show us what he does–he carves bars of soap into the forms of angels and sells them on the street. He has them carefully wrapped in a shoebox inside a brief case inside a cloth bag. He even has a neatly typed order form. They are beautiful, smell great, and are reasonably priced. He began his business while living on the street. I prayed for his success.
- Victoria — a small woman carefully dressed, Victoria became homeless when the client for whom she worked as a live-in caregiver recently died. I have two personal friends who also become homeless when their clients die. Victoria is a caregiver by nature. First, she introduced us to Samuel, a crippled man with an open wound on his ankle. She spoke with great compassion about how his soiling himself causes other street folk to tease and belittle him. Next, when a very tall man came from his “bedroom” on the sidewalk a short distance away to ask her if she had socks, she reached into what looked like her personal bag and pulled out a pair of ankle socks, which she gave him. She didn’t just give them, however; she stooped over twice and carefully placed and fitted one sock on each of his upraised feet. Happy, he ran back down the sidewalk.
In the meantime, Victoria began making a racket with the wooden handle of a broom, which she violently banged against the iron bars of a nearby gate. When another man yelled at her, she explained that she was simply trying to scare the mice away. When one ran out onto the sidewalk near her feet, she scampered and shuddered in fear. I kept asking myself, How is she ever going to sleep peacefully with all these mice running around? We encouraged Victoria to contact City Impact, where we pray she will get a referral for another caregiving placement.
- When we next passed the tall man who had received the socks, he was trying to fit his lanky body between a folded piece of cardboard serving as both bed and blanket, but he needed to keep his legs somewhat bent.
Most Memorable Quote: — from the street man on Sunday morning, who said, “It’s good to look back on the different stages of my life and to now have nothing, because when there is nothing to worry about, I realize how much I have.”
This same man described how the Ku Klux Klan had stolen his father’s inherited land, tortured his father, and killed him in front of his mother (I’ve edited out the graphic details of his story). Cuppng his hands and lifting his tightened arms in an upward arc that began near his stomach, he said, “There’s something in me that says I need to forgive them.” Then he told me what he saw in my eyes–and he was right on. I encouraged this man to be the light-bearer on his street, and I pray that God will use him to plant a street church right where he is in the Tenderloin.
Most heart-wrenching moment: — awakening in the deep middle of the night to the terrified screams of children in great pain, screams seeming to come from one of the nearby hotels, “Mommy, please don’t!” “Mommy, please stop!” Later, an adult male’s loud voice.
Most gentle moment: — the following morning, watching the young, single father spoon feed and care for his 1-1/2 year old son in GLIDE Church’s dining room, seeing him exert the same wisdom and tenderness my own son uses with my toddler granddaughter.
…equivalent fathers, nothing lacking, nothing different
…the young father’s comment, “I’m working very hard to keep him.”
…the way the pre-speech child, almost a toddler yet still an infant, kept his eyes trustingly and expectantly fixed on his father’s face
…the scene a portrait of love and “the way it’s ‘sposed to be” in the middle of tragic brokenness.
…I don’t know why it is that perfect goodness brought me to tears in the midst of heart-wrenching yet dry-eyed tragedy, but this is how it was for me. I saw a portrait of a Father’s love for his own children and how we as children should look to our Heavenly Father with patiently expectant love and confidence that all our needs will be gently and lovingly met, no matter how much the external circumstances and impossible surroundings say otherwise.
- for the street’s own Christian ministry to itself, one homeless person to another
- for sidewalk Bible studies by street Christians, both men and women
- for revival among the homeless of the Tenderloin
- that Christ is everywhere
- to be repeatedly accepted and welcomed as the foreign missionary among people who gladly received what we offered and who purposefully gave back their own experiencing of Christ and God
- joy in giving and blessedness in receiving