There’s a lot of activity that takes place in the streets of our city; drive-by shootings, violence, drugs, gangs, homelessness….we are too familiar with it all.
But there’s a wind of change blowing through our streets, and I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of it.
“I had no idea this was happening every week in the streets!” We’re the words of the young adult next to me with her jaw dropped last Saturday. Our Young Adults Ministry “Shift” decided to join The Rock Church’s weekly outreach called “Rock in the Streets”. They go to locations all over the city, last week we arrived in an area near 21st street. As soon as we arrived we began unloading and within minutes we transformed this empty space in front of the complex into what felt like a block party! We had music bumping, we were handing out snow cones and popcorn, we helped set up a food distribution area where they could receive bags of groceries, a clothing center where they could pick out nice clean clothes, and areas for adults, teens, and children to hear an encouraging message about Jesus.
It was a hot Saturday. Sweat dripped down our faces as we served snow cones, played with the kids, set up chairs, tents, and tables. It was not glamorous at all. So I asked Marcella, a leader in “Rock In The Streets”, why she spends her days off, when she could be resting or spending time with family, in the streets of San Bernardino every week? She said, “Every week we say in Church, “And the Inland Empire shall be saved!” We need to live out that confession by our actions…..It’s heartbreaking when one of the kids asks you to pray for their mommy because daddy beat her up or they ask for prayer because they are scared of all the shootings. These kids need to know there is hope and a better way and it’s Jesus. The same goes for the parents. They are broken down by life’s circumstances and they want something positive. The answer is Jesus.”
She later told me, “What good is a Church if we can’t share what we have?” And if they won’t come to us, then let’s go to them. I cannot help but think about when Jesus was speaking and said “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” He said “go”. He didn’t say “wait and let people come to you.” Go. There is action in that word. Go. There is movement in that word. Go. There is initiative in that word. God wants his goodness and acts of love to fill the streets of the city, not just the sanctuaries of the Church.
Our team went out to knock on doors, inviting people to come out and join us. There were signs of need everywhere we looked. One of our volunteers Jasmine had knocked on the door of a woman who needed food but was unable to walk from her apartment, and our team delivered her groceries right to her door. Jasmine got a chance to pray with her as well, “This lady asked for prayer and she seemed grateful that we remembered her.”
People were beginning to flood out of their homes and into the streets. I introduced myself to two young girls. One of the girls was 18 years old. She was holding the red ticket we give out to receive groceries at the end of the day, but there was an anxiousness in her face. I asked her what was going on. She explained to me she has 9 family members to feed, they are all living in her apartment and she needs to get back to them. She was frustrated she had to wait until the end of the day to get her groceries. I don’t know why she was 18 years old and had the pressure of feeding her family on her shoulders, I don’t know why there was such an urgency to get back to her family, but I do know that God had more in store for this young girl than just a bag of groceries that day.
Just moments later were all sitting in under a tent and there two elderly women began to tell me about their faith in Jesus Christ, and keeping the faith while out here in the streets. I wish a notepad in the moment, to write down all the wisdom that was being shared. I also spoke to a brilliant 19 year old about her dreams for the future, as she spoke it was like she dusting off these that she had forgotten about and that laid dormant in her heart, but they were awakening again as we talked about the steps and plans she needed to take for these dreams to happen.
Just then one of our volunteers Anthony got on the mic and began to invite the adults up for a game. This game is one you would have seen on “The Price Is Right”. But we all got really excited, one after another got up to play. For a moment it felt like we were on “The Price Is Right” and Anthony was Bob Barker! And for those moments nobody was thinking about the frustrations or pressures that they walked up with, nobody was thinking about the chaos and dangers of where they live, we were too busy cheering and strategizing. We were too busy laughing and having fun. I think moments like that are a gift in themselves. Shortly after that there was an opportunity to receive Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, the two girls I had spoken with earlier had both raised their hands and prayed the prayer. Their eternal destination was now sealed in Christ and that was well worth the wait for the bag of groceries.
“I wasn’t too excited about it because I am so shy but God called me to be there for a reason.” Is how one of our volunteers Andrew described his emotions before the Outreach. Though I am sure many of feel this way when going to a place that will push us out of our comfort zones and require us to talk to complete strangers. Andrew was introduced to and hung out with a Young Adult named Rob while at Rock in The Streets that day. Rob loved what happening in his neighborhood, and wanted to come check out The Rock Church campus for Sunday. Andrew was able to help him call the Church and set up a bus to come pick him up the following day. The very next day Andrew received a text from our Welcome Team volunteers that Rob was at Church, “my heart jumped out of my chest with happiness for this young man, so I left band practice to go and greet him and make a plans to go to service with him. I’m very honored and happy to say that Robert gave his heart to Jesus that day, and it was a privilege to be able to stand right there with him as he prayed that precious prayer.” Rob didn’t know that on a hot Saturday in October a Church of passionate people would overtake his neighborhood, Rob didn’t know he would meet a group of new friends who really loved him, Rob had no idea he would be on a bus to a Church the next day, and I would take a guess that Rob didn’t know he would make a decision to follow Jesus that would change his life forever. Andrew’s experience, “Moral of the story, get out of your comfort zone. There are many Robs out there that need you.”
God has called us to “Go.” I am thankful to say we have amazing Outreach Ministries here at The Rock that we can join so that we can “go” into all the world, into our city, and into our communities. We are a Church with a vision to tell people about hope in Jesus and transform the Inland Empire. And it can only happen if we do it together. I want to encourage you to check out Rock In Streets on a Saturday. I know your life and the lives of the people you come in contact with won’t ever be same. Remember, The Inland Empire Shall Be Saved!
Rock In The Streets
College Room 105