My flight out of Los Angeles wasn’t until 10:30 that evening, so I had most of the afternoon to kill. I ended up connecting with a friend from college is now working for the Los Angeles Dream Center, a massive community outreach project that seeks to meet the needs of local urban neighborhoods. I had previously heard about the Dream Center, and had even heard Matthew Barnett (the local pastor who founded the Dream Center) speak when I was in college. But visiting the campus and touring the facility was deeply impacting—and even after spending a few hours there, I realized I was only just getting a glimpse at the difference they are making.
As I walked from the gym (which charges just $5 a month for people in the community), through dormitory areas for recovering addicts to the Internet café, I passed people whose lives were being radically changed. Nestled in a rough area of downtown Los Angeles, the Dream Center is a place where people go and experience the love of Christ.
My friend walked me around the facility, which is an old converted hospital, and explained to me the food drives, outreach projects, Bible studies and community initiatives (like giving basic groceries to young, at-need mothers). We eventually made it to the roof of a wing of the building that is still being renovated. It was a large, open air space that overlooked the city of Los Angeles. In the safety glass that extends around the railing there were three bullet holes.
They were sobering reminders of what this community was facing. Since the Dream Center moved in, violence had dropped 70% in the neighborhood and people that once faced the realities of gang life, prostitution and drug culture alone, now have a place to turn and get their life on track.
Like many Christians, I often struggle with the how we in the Church can actually make difference and help those that are suffering. Visiting the Dream Center wasn’t only encouraging; it was inspiring. It showed me that with God’s help and His vision, we can make a real difference in our communities and His kingdom.