It’s hard to fathom that I’ve been ministering in Los Angeles since 1994. Despite facing significant challenges along this journey, I’ve stumbled upon a hidden gem – the secret to success – which I’m eager to share in this blog.
In the year Forest Gump, Lion King, and Shawshank Redemption came out, I started my journey in Southern California. In 1994, gas cost $1.09 per gallon, and a dozen eggs were 86 cents, a significant contrast to current prices.
It feels as though a full lifetime has passed since the mid-90s!
When I first came to LA to pastor Angelus Temple and create the very first Dream Center, I struggled in this big city. I went from one failure to the next. There’s no more appropriate city to have your dreams crushed than in LA, right?
Back in 1994, my father was looking for a pastor for a little church in inner-city Los Angeles. But because of the neighborhood, many others turned down the offer. So, at 20 years of age, I found myself tasked with leading this church.
The absence of staff and church structure led to low attendance; our efforts to attract attendees were largely ineffective. I was discouraged.
But one day God spoke to me and told me, “Forget about where you want to be, and just start serving with whatever I put in your hand. My ministry began as I moved my desk outside, equipped with food bags and a soccer ball for neighborhood kids.
The birth of a vision
That’s where the vision for the Los Angeles Dream Center began. God soon opened doors and provided us with the old Queen of Angels Hospital on the 101 Freeway, and the rest is history. Fast forward 29 years, and we’re serving 45,000 people every single month, distributing 5 million pounds of food per year, and we can house over 750 people at our campus in Echo Park.
In just the past year, we’ve served over 10,000 unhoused individuals, ministered to over 8,000 inmates through our prison ministry outreach, and even distributed over 200,000 clothing items to families in desperate need of basic necessities.
Thousands of youth volunteer, hundreds of Dream Centers worldwide. Lives changed for eternity in my city, my new home.
The Secret to surviving in a city like Los Angeles
The secret to surviving in a City like Los Angeles can be narrowed down to one thing – saying “Yes.” “Yes” to help the man or woman with a needle in their arm by bringing them to a safe place to start recovery. “Yes” to creating shelter for a homeless family living in their vehicle over the last year. “Yes” to providing five million meals during a pandemic with a drive-thru that lasted 380 consecutive days.
The word yes is powerful. And why do we keep saying “yes?” Because we see everyone’s potential like God sees our potential.
Thanks to nurtured relationships and divine blessings, we’ve been a site of miraculous healing for almost three decades. Any program we operate not only provides struggling individuals and families with resources to fill their basic needs, but also provides spiritual, emotional, and vocational support needed to equip every soul for long-term success outside our walls.
The battle continues
While it’s important to recognize how far God has brought us, it’s equally important to remember the battle is not yet over. In a county where 1 out of 4 people suffer from food insecurity, homelessness rose 9% this past year, and fentanyl deaths soared 1,280% in a five-year span, our mission to find a need and fill it and find a heart and heal it are as important now as ever before. We must stay vigilant and agile in the face of evolving struggles for the people of Los Angeles.
Wherever you find yourself – whether it’s one more setback away from throwing in the towel, waiting on a miracle of Biblical proportions, or finally on the cusp of a breakthrough – always remember Paul’s encouragement to the church in Galatians 6: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up,” Paul said.
I know we are in the middle of something special here in LA. I hope you feel the same way wherever God has placed you in this season. Yes, it’s true, a lot has changed since 1994. But some things are the same. Year after year I am amazed at God’s consistent, unwavering goodness no matter the obstacle. He has never failed me. That promise alone will carry me through wherever I’m called to minister.