Our AUA mission team this year spent the week of March 14-18, 2022 volunteering at San Francisco City Impact (SFCI) in the Tenderloin District (TL) of San Francisco.
Our SFCI hosts took us on a prayer walk around the TL the first evening. We prayed for all the different ministries of San Francisco City Impact. It was heartbreaking to see all the homelessness, drug use and filth as we walked through the neighborhood. It was shocking that an area with such dire poverty could be just a block or two away from stores that cater to the very wealthy.
On Tuesday morning, we sorted food donations at the SFCI Rescue Mission. Many grocery stores donate food that’s still good but about to expire. We unloaded the trucks that delivered the food and prepared grocery bags to be handed out to residents, along with boxes to be delivered later in the day by Adopt-a-Building volunteers.
We finished out the morning by sorting barrels of clothing and hanging items on racks ready to go to Threads for Therapy thrift store.
In the afternoon, our team split up. Our young men assisted the chef in preparing over 200 meals for the school, the rescue mission, Adopt-a-Building meal delivery, and of course, for the staff and volunteers.
While the boys were busy cooking, our mission team girls helped out with City Kids, an after school tutoring and child care program that gives children a safe space to go after school. The girls enjoyed playing games and helping children with their homework. Sophomore class president Dovan Martella says: “Hanging out with the city kids was extremely fun.”
Our ASB social VP KeAna Tabura agrees: “The kids of the after school program were so much fun. I got a small glimpse inside the lives those children live due to the district they live in, and it’s not safe or nurturing for a child. However, with the after school program provided by SFCI, the kids of the Tenderloin get their daily dose of love, care, and Jesus from the amazing staff members. The teachers and staff of the program had so much patience and love for the kids. The things that the SFCI “City Kids” program is doing for the Tenderloin district is truly beautiful.”
Junior Ronielle Bico also loved working with City Kids. “If I could choose one aspect that I would participate in all over again, it would be the kids. Although they still had their own problems, they tried to help others while still embracing their youth. Once I had to leave them, it was tough walking away from them. In fact, it was tough for them too. I saw some children that we connected with waving bye; it was hard waving back because that meant that it really was goodbye.”
After supper, it was time for street ministry. We handed out boxes of prepared food, GLOW tracts, and invitations to TL Revive (free community barbecue meal on Friday) and prayed with anyone willing.
Junior class pastor, Jesus Lopez (pictured below) says one of the things he most enjoyed on mission trip was “walking around with food boxes in hands giving out food to the people who were in need of it. The coolest thing that I liked was praying for the man that was on the streets, I hope he is able to see the light of God.”
Our ASB president, Bethanee Tabura, agrees. “My favorite part was when I was able to just approach and interact with everyone on the street. Whether it be praying with them, or just asking how their day was, I just loved the opportunity to interact with those who were probably ignored all day.”
The next morning the girls helped the chef in the kitchen. They chopped a lot of donated vegetables. Chef Kevin is very creative and comes up with different dishes to prepare each day depending on what is donated. KeAna Tabura says: “I especially liked meeting the head chef of the organization, Kevin. I already love cooking, and the things Kevin taught me in the kitchen were priceless. I had so much fun working with the amazing ingredients and utensils in his kitchen, and he was such a great person to work with.”
While the girls were occupied with food prep, the boys volunteered at San Francisco City Academy, SFCI’s school. They did some cleaning, and then our host took them to the design lab, where they helped get brand-new clothing ready to give away. The tags had to be removed according to the agreement with the donor stores.
We were blessed to meet and pray with Pastor Roger who founded SFCI over 35 years ago. One day back then, he was sitting in his car, anxious to get out of the bad section of town, when he saw a young boy being bullied by some older boys. It bothered him, but he left without doing anything. As he was driving away, he felt God saying to him, “What would you have done if that were your son?”
Pastor Roger’s immediate reply was “I would have intervened and rescued my son.”
God said: “They’re all the same to me.”
Pastor Roger and his wife went back to the Tenderloin that Saturday with 50 sandwiches to hand out, and their ministry has been growing ever since.
After lunch everyone helped clean up the school and prepare the chapel for the midweek prayer service that afternoon. We experienced heartfelt worship with all the staff and anyone else that wanted to attend.
After worshiping with SFCI, our mission team headed out for our free evening to do a little sightseeing and shopping.
Thursday morning our mission team had a big job to do. We sorted and packed dozens of boxes of school supplies and huge bags of backpacks for San Francisco City Academy.
It was time to head back for an afternoon at the rescue mission. We served a hot meal to the guests, then Jesus and Simon gave testimonies. A regular volunteer gave a short Bible study that was part of a series over several weeks. Finally, our team prayed with anyone willing. ASB spiritual VP Simon Abendanio (pictured below) says: “My favorite thing about the mission trip was the fact that I was able to share the word with others.”
Dovan Martella (pictured below) says: “Helping others in different ways each day was really fun. I enjoyed talking with the residents of Tenderloin, young and old. I also liked helping out in the kitchen. But what I really loved most was the spiritual atmosphere. You could feel God in your presence while working and serving these people.”
On our last day, we helped get ready for TL Revive, a free cookout with the residents of the Tenderloin. We packed up and loaded the vans, but before heading home, we went to Lands End Lookout to get a beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us with your donations and prayers so our students could have this opportunity!
What did our students learn?
“SMALL ACTS COUNT! You might not be able to convert every person in one sitting or bring every individual to Jesus, however, you can take those small steps to eventually bring them closer to Him.” – Bethanee Tabura
“I learned that the people living in the Tenderloin district were in need of help, like they needed a lot of help.” – Jesús Lopez
“I learned that many of these homeless people are actually genuine people, you just have to get to learn more about them and talk to them more.” – Simon Abendanio
“This year’s mission trip exceeded my expectations. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I’d be able to make much of an impact since the location was close by. However, seeing the work that I contributed with, and the work others have helped with as well, even a little help—no matter where you are—will make a huge impact.” – Ronielle Bico
“I learned a lot about different ways you can help out in a less fortunate community. Before going on mission trip, I felt like I was powerless, and couldn’t really do much to help damaged communities. But the story behind SFCI and all the lovely staff and residents there helped me realize that anyone can step up and help out in some way.” – KeAna Tabura
“I learned that the person who created the mission group, was inspired by God to create the mission to help and serve others around the Tenderloin district.” – Jesús Lopez
“I learned how to prepare food for more than a hundred people :`) No, but on a serious note, I learned the different ways you could show God’s love to different types of people. I learned that sometimes, people just want someone to listen to them. The people of Tenderloin are mostly overlooked people because of their appearance and the environment they live in. Having someone to listen to what they have to say really helps them more than I ever thought.” – Dovan Martella
How were our students impacted?
“It showed me that I don’t have to travel far to make an impact! There is SO much need and so many dejected people in my own community”. – Bethanee Tabura
“It changed me by helping me get out of my comfort zone and find a version of myself that I never thought I would have in me.” – Simon Abendanio
“It strengthened my relationship with Jesus, and developed a new care for community service within me. After mission trip, I realized how we, the people serving, need Jesus just as much as the residents of the Tenderloin. It doesn’t matter what district we live in, or what house we bought; we all need Jesus so badly in our lives. Helping other people see that, and watching them seek Jesus for themselves is an experience like no other. While a few of us mission team members attended a Bible study during the trip, we got to witness one of the Tenderloin residents give her life to Jesus. It started by her asking the simple question of, “Will Jesus forgive me of my sins?” That question grew into a beautiful conversation about Jesus’ mercy and forgiveness, and ended with her saying her first prayer and choosing to be baptized.” – KeAna Tabura
“Mission trip changed me because it changed my perception of life. Growing up in the city, I had my fair share of seeing homeless people. But I grew up ignoring them because it was the “safer” option. Meeting the residents made me realize that homeless people are still people. They need to be treated the same as we would treat our friends and family.” – Dovan Martella
Mrs. Kathy Hernandez, AUA Chaplain