LU Send Now Helps the Homeless in Los Angeles
Before Liberty University students returned to campus for the spring semester, an LU Send Now team of students was deployed to California Jan. 14-21 where they partnered with the Dream Center and worked with those suffering from homelessness in Skid Row, Los Angeles.
Initially, Send Now planned to send a team to do disaster relief following the 2017 California wildfires—the most destructive fires ever to be recorded in the state, according to the Washington Post.
But due to California state restrictions, LU Send Now had to think quickly, as plans were changed about a week and a half before departure. Instead, the team worked with the Dream Center, a Christian organization that meets community needs in Los Angeles where there are a number of homeless and low-income individuals.
The downtown area, Skid Row, has one of the largest homeless populations in the United States, according to trip leader Leah Summers. The team of 10 students went to neighboring areas to help with the communities. The team helped with food truck lines, delivered groceries and put furniture in a family’s home.
Summers believes it is vital for Christians to be proactive in serving their communities and staying aware of issues going on.
“There’s so much going on,” Summers said. “I think people continuously have to keep being active.”
It was a surprise for the whole team, as they did not know what was in store until they arrived in California.
This trip was an eye opening experience for Liberty senior Jeffrey Thomas. Thomas said he gained a new perspective on various things and learned not to take any day for granted.
“Growing up the way most of us do, being able to have a meal every day, a house, a place to sleep, not having serious problems in life,” Thomas said. “It brought a new perspective.”
The team leaders challenged the students by not giving the students their upcoming work assignment until the night before. Thomas said this stretched him in a way that allowed him to focus on serving in whatever way God had prepared for the team instead of worrying about the logistics of the trip.
Working with the Dream Center, the team assisted with foster care intervention. In Los Angeles, every foster child is required to have a bed, dresser and a table for the family. If not, the families are at risk of losing their children, according to Thomas. The team delivered all of the furniture bought by Dream Center to a woman’s home and assembled the furniture for them.
“We set (the furniture) up and she was just in tears,” Thomas said. “Even though she couldn’t speak English, we could just tell the feelings that she had.”
This trip was different than past LU Send Now trips because the team was not working with immediate disaster relief, but was rather meeting the disasters that happen every day in some of these people’s lives.
“So many people look for mission trips outside of America when I feel that we should all look for opportunities to serve those in need right here in the country we live in,” Liberty student Sierra Campbell said.
Campbell is a third-year nursing student who was able to use her skills learned in the classroom to relate to others who were in need or hurting.
“I was able to minister to those (who) I came into contact with, just as I do when I am at the bedside,” Campbell said. “I was able to pray and try to comfort the people and interact with the kids as I would in the hospital.”
The team spent time with the children from the low-income neighborhoods, and this was one of Liberty senior Hannah Ginion’s favorite parts.
“All we did was show some attention to these kids and their faces lit up,” Ginion said. “Most of them don’t get much one-on-one attention at home, so being able to love on them was really special.”
The team’s main mission was to serve the Dream Center in any way that they could, according to Summers. Flexibility was key for the LU Send Now team, and that is what let them make an impact in others’ lives in the Los Angeles area.
“Simply handing out water or some snacks, and asking to pray for people is a way to meet not only a physical need for people, but also a spiritual need that will last much longer,” Ginion said.