This year, we are celebrating the 27th anniversary of the Dream Center. The question people ask me more than ever is, “How have you stayed in the fight for so long?” To answer that, I need to take you back to when I was 20 years old arriving in the city of Los Angeles. The goal was for me to stay here for three months until my father could find a pastor to lead the church. Simply put, I was basically there to just tread water until a real pastor could take the helm. Months went by and no one accepted my father’s offer to pastor this small church in a community surrounded by gangs and drive-by shootings. It was inevitable that my stay would be longer than three months. A temporary assignment was now evolving into a much longer mission. I realized the only options were to cut and run or find a way to see a miracle unfold.
The memories of wanting to be a success radiated through everything attempted. The desire to get people into my church, the sermon series prepared, all were to help me attain a numerical goal so I could validate myself as more than a caretaker of the church. I wanted to be a success! Every Sunday scanning the numbers in the building would give me an indication if the target was being reached. However, the pursuit of being a success was tearing me apart, giving me ulcers, and playing with my self-worth. One day, in prayer, God spoke the clearest impression I’ve ever felt from the Holy Spirit. It has become the one line that has kept me going for nearly three decades. Die to the Dream of being a success and live to the dream of being a blessing! The moment that revelation danced around my heart for a few minutes I committed my life to the city of Los Angeles. Here’s what I realized: I can’t always control the factors of success, but I can control the intention of wanting to be a blessing.
Immediately I tossed aside my five-year goals on paper and simply told God whatever you put in my hand I’m going to use to serve people. My desk was moved to the sidewalk outside the building and every day when mothers took their kids to school I would say, “Hola! Como Estas” in total imperfect Spanish just trying to connect with people. The food ministry was three bags of food I bought at the store that I placed next to my phone and makeshift pastoral office on the sidewalk. Never again did I think about the word success. The truth is, I felt like a city janitor walking through the streets of Los Angeles telling people they could dream again. The simplicity of that revelation drove everything and the impossible began to break loose. Revival in that old neighborhood broke out and people were returning to the church. The community became a bee-hive of service and community action. Today, the Dream Center located in the old Queen of Angels hospital has turned into a shining city on a hill.
The only thing people think about around this Dream Center campus is: How can I be a blessing? Last Sunday, we ran buses to pick up hundreds of kids in the housing project that we visit weekly. We never stopped visiting the outreach sites (even during the pandemic). Imagine a 25-year, weekly investment of time and energy. This is what the Dream Center has relentlessly given to these communities. A young girl who had been riding our buses from the Imperial Courts housing project was listening to the songs we sang at church. She was so captured by the worship team’s passion for God and these new songs that were not on usual radio stations. She took these songs back to her neighborhood and started to perform them on social media. As I watched that young lady belt out the verses of a song she heard from church it showed me just how important it is to give your life to people every day. I teared up as I watched her spread the fame of Jesus through her newfound love for church songs. Yes, it takes thousands of dollars to run a bus. Yes, it costs tons of energy in visitation to get the kids on the bus, but people are worth it.
We all would agree that a bed, shower, food, and clothing are all things people just should have. But if you see the relief of those who desperately come here, having been living in a van or sleeping in parks––running water and clean sheets, is like winning the lottery to them. And now, as we anticipate this rise in homelessness, our Family Floor expansion is ready to house those that come to the Dream Center seeking help and refuge. We are welcoming any and everyone who may be struggling to pay rent and are at the point of eviction. Our Homeless Families program is one of many residential programs at the Dream Center where through it, not only do we provide struggling families with a place to call home, but the spiritual, emotional, educational, and vocational support needed to equip them for long-term success outside the Dream Center. Our residents experience freedom when they’re given a strong foundation and a sense of worth, with opportunities to access their full potential.
What keeps me going you may ask? This massive campus that serves thousands weekly? No! It’s the one. The work done at the Dream Center is thriving beyond our wildest dreams but what allows us to stay in the fight this long? The one! The beautiful thing about dying to the dream of being a success and living to the Dream of being a blessing is that it keeps you going through life’s challenges. The moment we stopped caring about our dream, God’s cause came alive. God’s cause is always bigger than man’s dream. My dream was to have five hundred people attend church in ten years. God’s dream was to give us a hospital where hundreds could be housed every single day. Every act of love matters. We are a success the moment we decide to serve.
This is a very special day and year for us and I would love for you to be a part of allowing us to continue to be a blessing. Maybe there’s a special gift you can give today that would really help us keep moving forward. Maybe you could give $27 today, $270, or $2700 on this 27th anniversary. One thing I can promise is when you give it guarantees that someone is going to be blessed and your legacy of serving will live on.