san francisco, city impact, tenderloin district

I’m pretty sure that Daysha is a transvestite. Sometimes it’s kind of hard to tell. Regardless, she tells her three girlfriends in the room that we are angels, and that they should never turn away angels.

Our team was visiting people door-to-door at the Hotel Fairfax in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco. Our goal was to develop relationships while delivering bags of groceries and praying with people. This kind of activity has become the cornerstone for San Francisco City Impact, an organization devoted to transforming this community and breaking the unhealthy cycles that keep people in the bondage of poverty.

I appreciate Daysha’s openness to our team while her friends tended to shy away. She said that too often you open the door in places like this and it’s the demons who rush in and buzz around like flies. So when angels stop by, it’s important to welcome them. So we prayed for a couple of their needs, but real conversation was still somewhat shallow.

Then there was Pat. It’s easy to see how life and addiction have taken their toll on him. His big (almost completely toothless) grin as we asked if we could pray for him and his transvestite partner revealed that this time with him would be worthwhile. He was proud to show off his pocket-sized New Testament/Psalms/Proverbs Bible, as if he wanted badly to connect with us on a deeper level.

He wanted, like so many of us, to belong.

My favorite moment came when he told us that people (including most Christians) don’t do this kind of thing. He seemed to be on the verge of tears as he expressed his gratitude for our desire to genuinely connect with him. It seemed as though he felt like he just got a visit from Jesus Himself.

I can’t fix all of Pat’s problems, but I can love. I can love as Jesus loved. [Click to tweet!]

The building we were visiting is the same building that Christian Huang, Executive Director of City Impact, saw a woman being forcibly dragged into just days earlier. That experience left him feeling helpless and powerless to do something. It’s very clear that gangs and traffickers run this building. People inside are afraid to open their doors, for fear of what might come at them.

Christian weeps as he tells us that if the whole purpose of City Impact could be summed up in one word, it would be “intervene.” He says that even if we are never able to turn the neighborhood around, we simply cannot sit idle and do nothing. We MUST do something. We must intervene on their behalf.

And it’s hard work. It’s the kind of work that sometimes feels like it’s too overwhelming, or that you’re not making any progress.

That’s  the moment Josh, one of the intern/staff of City Impact dropped some serious God-wisdom on me…

This place.

This is the kind of place where I imagine Jesus spending most of His time. I know that He draws close to the broken-hearted. And I know He seeks to bring healing and restoration to the lost.

Christian also tells us that generally-speaking, most of the people in the Tenderloin fall into this kind of pattern:

  1. Suffer from some form of early-age trauma; often physical, sexual, and mental abuse.
  2. End up falling into addictions of all kinds as a way to cope and numb the pain of that trauma.
  3. Retreat into isolation from others in their community, often dying alone.

I can see Jesus wanting to intervene in each of these areas in people’s lives. But that takes time. And that’s why many from our team went back to the Hotel Fairfax the next day. And that’s why other teams from City Impact will continue to go back.

They We exist to intervene. Because people like Daysha and Pat are worth it. [Click to tweet!]