In 2013, I moved to the South Bay of L.A. It was an area that I felt called to serve. We came with a big dream and no guarantee of a paycheck. A few friends said they would come to help us. Some did. Some didn’t. Nevertheless, we had humble beginnings. Meg and I rented a room in North Redondo Beach to live out of. Someone recently told me that church planters have to be a bit naive or else no one would do it.
I’ve had my ups and downs throughout the last six or seven years—but I think I just had my favorite Sunday since moving to the South Bay.
Now, something about Jesus Center, the community I lead, is that we have moved around the South Bay. We probably used over 10 different buildings. We finally secured a more permanent home in 2017 in South Torrance, and that’s been wonderful. Jesus Center has grown into a multi-ethnic, multi-generational community, comprised of hundreds of people who live in the South Bay.
One of the areas in the South Bay that I’ve been infatuated with is downtown San Pedro. I found myself wanting to hang out there. A few years ago, a group of us were going down there every Friday evening and found the people to be very real, conversational, and open. It’s a beautiful port city that has millionaires and people experiencing homelessness, high achievers and those in recovery homes.
This year, I committed to giving my best in San Pedro—to serve the city and to grow a life-giving community there! I found a building I really wanted and we secured our spot. I have friends who are even more passionate about loving on San Pedro than I am. I expected them to be at our first gathering—and they were.
On Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, at 4:30 p.m., we had our first Sunday Service, and about 50 people attended. It’s at 4:30 because we have two Sunday morning services in Torrance. I got to teach on mercy and justice in the morning—about how God backs those who are passionate about helping the disadvantaged.
Most of the 50 people who showed up in San Pedro are already part of our community. We had a time of singing, praying, sharing, eating, and then we took about 30 people down the street to share warm blankets with those experiencing homelessness. It was such a beautiful and fulfilling experience.
I study stats and try keep up with trends. I’ve read and witnessed that people are not coming to church services with the frequency of other eras and decades. I think one of the reasons is because this generation wants to DO something, not just HEAR something. It was so cool to merge worship and compassion. This is our game plan in San Pedro for 2020.
I couldn’t stop smiling. My friend Amy pointed that out.
My wife says I’m a visionary. So I don’t see with my natural eyes, but rather with the eyes of my imagination. I don’t see what is; I see what can be. I was so excited because I see healing and joy coming to the city of San Pedro. I see new outreaches being launched. I see hundreds of new people joining our community! I see us serving with excellence, passion, and compassion. I see all kinds of people joining forces to bless a city. Today, they are strangers. In a few months, they will be best friends. I have to work on enjoying the present, because I tend to live in the future.
So, I made some new friends on 1.5.20. People who want to help us serve the city and the disadvantaged. I also made some new friends who live in tents and are praying for jobs. We got to pray with them. I’ll check up on them next Sunday and continue to sow into the friendship.
Jesus Center is full of amazing people.
We filled our Compassion Wall at our Torrance campus with new socks, clean blankets, and tissue boxes. Then we loaded it all up in our cargo van and distributed the goods after our San Pedro Sunday Service. It was a Sunday Service, indeed, because we didn’t just worship—we serviced the city. That felt so good. I think maybe because it made God-within feel good.
I was so impressed watching my friends—Abe, Julie, Brian, Nick, and Esther—give the biggest hugs to people who haven’t had showers in quite sometime. They said prayers for them with such love and faith. Brian took off his own jacket and gave it to someone.
My friend Paul lives in San Pedro. He makes friends with everyone. Some of his friends live in tents too. They were the ones who took us down to meet their community, so we were especially well-received.
My other friend Kendrick bought a ton of food to feed everyone. He likes doing that, now. It’s a recent thing for him to be super generous. We had a number of families with young kids who also live in the streets come to hang and eat with us.
It was such a cool night—and it’s just the beginning. I can’t wait for the next Sunday, and I’m so glad we have 51 more this year.