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12

Feb

A Broken Spirits Anonymous Meeting

 —Aylin Awbrey, Cities Outreach Department Intern

When 2:00pm rolls around each Wednesday, a circle of green chairs reside in the Ellis room, with a warm body hunkered in almost every seat. The smell of brewing coffee permeates the dank air that often escapes into the room from the outside neighborhood. After everyone has had a chance to mingle and grab their coffee, a short prayer ensues and the Bible study begins. “Let’s all turn to Proverbs 16,” directs Ali, the group’s fearless Bible study leader. The whispering sounds of Bibles opening and their thin pages turning, momentarily drowns out the grim urban melody from the streets beyond the Ellis Room doors.

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Proverbs consists of 31 chapters intended “for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair,” (Proverbs 1: 2 - 3). So far, Proverbs’ to-the-point words of wisdom have sparked some insightful discussions. After one or two people read a chapter, the conversation opens to questions, verses that may have resonated with anyone, life-application ideas, and generally any other thoughts, comments, or concerns. Wayne, long-time Bible study attendee and graduate of the 360 Program, claims listening to everyone’s different perspectives of the reading is his favorite part of the hour. “It all means one thing, but everyone has different perspectives on it,” he says.  The book of Proverbs can be summed up in one passage: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7). The discussion, for instance, about what it truly means to “fear the Lord” has been ongoing. Does fearing God mean actually being scared of him, or perhaps it means something deeper? Terms such as obedience, respect, unconditional love, and tough-love have come up in conversation about what it means to both fear and be loved by the Lord. Carmen, another Bible study veteran, agrees with Wayne: “My favorite part is the discussion. Not only reading The Word, but understanding The Word.”

This particular Wednesday-afternoon circle is open to anyone, and attendance consists of men and women, young and old, homeless and housed. The Bible study functions under the umbrella of Restoration Initiatives, YWAM SF’s ministry devoted to reaching out to the community of the Tenderloin neighborhood, most prominently its marginalized and overlooked members often subject to the issues of homelessness, isolation, addiction, and poverty. Carmen feels this Wednesday Bible study fellowship is especially unique because it brings her closer to her community. “I can point people to the Bible study because it’s in the Tenderloin,” she says, “It’s accessible to the people most in need.” Carmen knows this firsthand. She is one of the people who was pointed to YWAM San Francisco shortly after she moved to the city. 17 months after joining the Ellis Room Bible Study, she realized her true call to discipleship, and that she wanted more than a Wednesday a week to study the Bible and learn in fellowship with others. Now almost two years after the day she stumbled upon the Ellis room, Carmen is a member of Restoration Initiatives’ 360 Discipleship Program, and well on her way to becoming its first female graduate! Carmen feels grateful for the source of spiritual nourishment this Christ-centered group has been for her over the years. “The day before I turned 60, I moved to the city,” she says. “The first thing I did was find a church. The second thing I did was find a Bible study. I have been here ever since.”

Apart from the goal to be equipped with Biblical wisdom, the group seems like it functions as more than just a Bible study - several attendees struggle with English as their second language, but still attend faithfully despite not understanding all that is discussed and read. Each week, despite the various roads the group discussion can take, the conversation never fails to open up to people’s own testimonies of how they have grown from their own mistakes, remembering times they have learned from both following and not following what is written in God’s word. The main thing keeping another regular attendee named Salvatori coming is the love and presence of God he feels so strongly each week. “My favorite part is the inviting of Jesus right in the center,” he says. “I feel Christ’s love right there.” The collective transparency of the group almost creates an atmosphere of a support group of sorts. In truth, that’s exactly what it is — a support group for the broken, a “Broken Spirits Anonymous” meeting.  Ali, the Ellis Room’s faithful Bible study leader and first-ever graduate of the 360 Program, remembers back to his days of drug abuse, and the way he witnessed God’s immaculate healing and discipline in his life. “I realized I couldn’t get clean [from drugs] without God,” he confesses. “God got me clean. I’ve been clean over 6 years.” Ali hopes for the same transformation within many of the weekly attendees of the Bible study. He knows the fear of the Lord, taught so explicitly in Proverbs, has the power to clean one’s heart mind and soul, even one’s physical body. One of the best parts of the Bible study is “seeing all the regulars that keep coming back,” Ali says. “It’s amazing to see how far they’ve grown, to see the spiritual maturity in them.” Proverbs 4:20-22 says, “My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.” Jesus came to transform a world full of the poor, the weary, and the oppressed, and apart from His grace, reading His word is part of this nourishment. The Ellis Room Bible study provides not only a place to gain Biblical wisdom and maturity, but a safe place for anyone to become vulnerable to their brokenness.

And just when the coffee has run out a little past 3pm, a loud “Amen” from a large prayer circle marks the end of the Wednesday Ellis Room Bible Study. After half an hour of hanging out, playing some friendly 8-ball or ping-pong, and getting any extra prayer, it is officially time to leave. When the attendees exit the doors, they pass by a mural painted on the Ellis Room walls of a vast, split-in-half heart with a verse whose words seem to hold the two pieces together: The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds, Psalm 147:3. Our hope and prayer at YWAM San Francisco is that each person who walks through the Ellis Room doors would leave with a little more joy than they came in with. We believe that with Christ in the center of something as simple as a circle of green chairs, broken hearts will continue to be mended.

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15

Jan

Double Take

My interest in interning with YWAM San Francisco was sparked by a mere drive ­by last summer. I was unusually inspired by the city’s chaos and diversity and felt drawn to be more than just a spectator. I found myself craving visits to San Francisco during the time I wasn’t working with my church’s middle school ministry, and that eventually manifested itself into an unanticipated desire to be involved in urban ministry. On my way home from the city one night I did a double take as I passed by 357 Ellis Street and saw the sign: Youth With a Mission San Francisco.

My warm summer soon ended, and I returned to college in Antarctica (AKA St. Olaf College in Minnesota). We run by semesters, but a one month long January term separates both semesters and gives students an easy way to seize out of classroom opportunities such as internships. Because of my commitment to being a full­ time student, I felt pressured to postpone this tug on my heart to ministry until the summertime. After wrestling with the prospect long enough, I simply concluded, why not now? and applied for the January internship.

As of now, this is my second week working as a Cities Outreach Department Intern. So far I am loving and absorbing every moment of it. I feel blessed by how the wonderful staff has accommodated my uncommon thirty ­day time span and is letting me help with its various ministries. Unlike usual interns and students here, I am not living on base but commuting from my home in Saratoga. Originally a daunting prospect to me, the commute to SF has been a blessing in disguise: an allotted two hours of my day that I get to spend in prayer, quiet time, and reading. Every day now I look forward to my train ride and my walk from the station to the YWAM base. But by a long shot, the most impactful part of being here has been seeing and experiencing God’s love and power unfold so noticeably. Awakening moments for me are found in serving hot chocolate to the Tenderloin neighborhood, looking up from across the street at the barred rooms of brothels (disguised as massage parlors) and praying for the Lord’s intervention, having heart­ to hearts with visitors waiting in the Ellis Room shower line, and passing out food to over 300 community residents during the Thursday Food Pantry. It feels incredible to tangibly show God’s love to a city I am so fond of, and especially to the unparalleled community of the Tenderloin.

If you’re like me and feel a tug on your heart to work in ministry or missions, I encourage you to ask yourself the same question I posed to myself last year: why wait? John 4:35 says, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” You may have just completed your college applications, but feel called to a gap year with YWAM. Perhaps you’re a full­ time student, or just finished your doctorate degree. High school dropout, senior citizen, young or old, thick or thin - ­­ if you feel called to the mission field, consider surrendering your insecurities and gambling with your time now. You may find yourself doing a double take as you pass by your field.

-Aylin Awbrey (Cities Outreach Department Intern)

11

Dec

Making the common extraordinary.

A haircut seems like such a simple thing, something common for many of us. You might ask, Can a haircut really change a person’s attitude or outlook?

Melissa, one of our regular visitors, came into the haircut ministry time one Wednesday. She entered with matted and unkempt hair, and often carries an attitude that matches. Chops and Jolene, Restoration Initiatives staff, went to work with conditioner and combs to untangle her dry hair. It took them over 20 minutes working together to finally get all of the matts out of her hair. Chops then washed, cut, and styled her hair with a blow dryer, an extra special treat. When showing her the final product in the mirror, Melissa’s face lit up and she squealed with delight, “Perfect!!”

The staff witnessed a change in Melissa, being cared for and doted on, she was exuberant and very interactive. A change from many days as she can be hostile and closed off. She seemed to be a totally different person in the haircut chair and days afterwards. She recently told another staff member she considers YWAM San Francisco her family. Pray with us for her continued healing as a disciple of Jesus.

The haircut ministry is a huge blessing to our visitors, who wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive a haircut. Many visitors have come in for haircuts before job interviews, which are their opportunity for regular income and housing again. In much of the ministry here it can be difficult to see changes quickly in the visitors, usually taking many visits and prayers. Haircuts is one of the few times when an immediate transformation in people’s confidence, attitude, and self esteem is clearly seen. Have you ever felt a change after visiting the salon or barber?

It is people like you who keep impact happening. The doors stay open to our visitors only by your contributions. Thank you for partnering with us to see the common become extraordinary.

Find out more about how you can fund these services here

24

Oct

A couple of our wonderful DTS girls handing out tea to our food pantry guests! #ywam #dts #ywamsf (at YWAM San Francisco)

A couple of our wonderful DTS girls handing out tea to our food pantry guests! #ywam #dts #ywamsf (at YWAM San Francisco)

Getting some help with food pantry from ‘Calling all skaters’ out of @ywamla ! So blessed to have this awesome group here! (at YWAM San Francisco)

Getting some help with food pantry from ‘Calling all skaters’ out of @ywamla ! So blessed to have this awesome group here! (at YWAM San Francisco)

03

Oct

There are only 8 shower locations for the homeless of San Francisco; there are more than 6,500 people homeless in the city. See how Lava Mae plans to help with innovative converted buses, click and be a part. #LavaMae http://bit.ly/YWAMLavaMae

There are only 8 shower locations for the homeless of San Francisco; there are more than 6,500 people homeless in the city. See how Lava Mae plans to help with innovative converted buses, click and be a part. #LavaMae http://bit.ly/YWAMLavaMae

Food Pantry Thursday: distributed 4,605.5 pounds of food!

Food Pantry Thursday: distributed 4,605.5 pounds of food!

20

Sep

17

Sep

A story of restoration.

Thomas is just one of the many people who has visited our drop-in center this year. Every month we have more than 750 drop-in visitors. Some are regulars and some are new people that are struggling with life on the streets of the Tenderloin neighborhood. Thomas visited our drop-in center for the past 10 months, as medical issues and unemployment led him to homelessness. This gave our staff an incredible opportunity, not only to help him with medical problems and a time when he was mugged on the streets, but also to pray with him and share the gospel with him.

Through the care given to Thomas he was able to understand the love of God in a tangible way; seeing that God not only cares for his soul but also for his physical needs. When Thomas needed a phone to use, the staff were able to provide. The days he needed a shower, he was again provided for. In times when he needed prayer, or someone to listen to him, he was able to find that at our drop-in center.

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Thomas isn’t the only one who needed these things. Every Friday afternoon showers are provided for those who usually bathe in fountains or not at all. In the last six months the telephone was used 235 times, and more than 1,500 people have been prayed with. The drop-in center also houses one of the few public toilets in the neighborhood; a much needed service for those who are often kicked out of places that have toilets to use. The bathroom is used by more than 500 people each month. Free haircuts are a recent addition to the services provided, and already 163 have received haircuts. As the ministry grows, so do stories like Thomas’.

Not long after coming to the drop-in center, Thomas gave his life to Christ. Thomas isn’t the only one. Many people have received Christ in the last few months. Each Wednesday we have at least 15 people attending the Bible Study, where they read and discuss books of the Bible. Through this they build community with one another where they can provide support, worship together, and encourage each other to grow closer to God.

Thomas came to visit the drop-in center on his last day in the city, just a few short weeks ago. He has received some disability benefits and finally been able to move back near his family, and he is again in housing. On his last day, amongst his tears, he told our staff that everything helped; the showers, telephone use, soap, and personal prayer time had all made a difference in his life.

Many people wonder how our staff keep going with all the problems they face everyday. It is common to have the emergency services visit our drop-in center because a person had a seizure, someone has threatened violence, or someone outside our door needs emergency care because of drug abuse. It is stories like Thomas that keep them going on, knowing they can make a difference. God is moving in this neighborhood, and he is blessing our staff with the opportunity to share in people’s journeys with an open heart.

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Find out how you can give to the work Restoration Initiatives does here.

29

Aug

Discipleship Training School: Megan

DTS changed my life. My faith changed and grew more in those six months than in the twenty some years before. Now, six months later, I haven’t stopped growing or changing, and I hope I never will. 

I don’t want to go back to who I was before DTS. I can’t imagine going back to that. I had all my doctrinal ducks in a line and went to church every week and did some serving here and there, but my faith was incomplete. I was bound by so many things—cultural expectations, pride, generational sin, idols…and I knew I was missing something, something important about the Gospel.

During Lecture phase, I learned from speakers who constantly made me question my worldview, my actions and my theology. I felt broken and remade almost every day. It is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I learned that, after twenty some years as a Christian, I hardly knew anything at all. Doctrines that I’d thought I understood (“God loves me.” / “I’m saved by grace through faith.”) finally hit home, and I found myself weeping from the awesomeness of it on a regular basis.

God freed me during DTS, and I am now 100% his, and I can’t wait to see what he does with me!

Find out more about DTS here: http://goo.gl/lK2Xg