And we’re back! On our last day at the YWAM base, we prepared a restaurant-style lunch for those on the streets. Our preparation included baking cookies, cooking spaghetti and meatballs, prepping a salad bar, passing out flyers, and making blessing cards. We opened the doors for people to come in at 12:30PM. Each of us was assigned different roles which included welcoming and ushering our guests, sitting down to talk with them, being waiters/waitresses, and taking food orders & serving individualized plates for each guest. The YWAM workers explained that it is important for those experiencing homelessness to choose their meals because they are usually never given a choice of what they want to eat at other shelters. By giving them the option to choose (i.e. meatballs on their spaghetti or bell peppers on their salad) allows them to make decisions that they usually do not have the opportunity to make.
During lunch, we met another transgender woman named Ms. JT. She shared her story of how she always believed that she was a woman but never came out to anyone until her 30’s. Before coming out, JT was in an abusive relationship with her significant other which led her to get a divorce. However, JT’s abusive relationship is what finally pushed her to change her sexual orientation. She shared more about what it is like to be a transgender in the Tenderloin District. What we found very interesting is that she has a degree in Graphic Design and studied at UCLA and MIT. She went on to become a professor and later left that career. She chose to live in the Tenderloin even though she has the option to re-establish her career and stability.
We also met Elias on the street after dinner at a local ethnic restaurant. We had enough food leftover for one person, so we decided to give it away. As we walked past the restaurant we saw Elias sitting down with his head lowered and asked him if he wanted food. Suddenly he looked up and started to cry and in Spanish, he said “thank you” to God for sending us to him. As we asked him about his story, we discovered that he was in the military in Mexico and lost his job due to someone stealing his car. Eventually, he made it to San Francisco and is now living on the streets of the Tenderloin. When we asked him if we could pray for him, he started to weep. Then all of us in our small group joined him in his tears. We all gave him a hug and walked away with sadness for this man, hoping that God would encounter him in a powerful way and help him off the streets.
JT and Elias are among the many people we met and exchanged stories with. JT shared she felt comfortable, respected, loved, and heard by us. These are the very things she cannot experience from her own parents and siblings. How incredible that we were able to reflect the Father’s love to JT, Elias and so many others this week.
Thank you for all your support and prayers! We ask that you continue to pray for those experiencing homelessness. Please also pray that all 35 of us will remember all we have experienced and learned. We concluded our trip being challenged to ask people “what is your story?” as we share our story of God’s transforming grace in our lives. We pray that you have been encouraged and challenged with life lessons from our reports as well.