Seeking the Peace of the Tenderloin
The Tenderloin - San Francisco, CA. Allegedly it was given the name because police were taking bribes from criminals which allowed them to be able to afford tenderloin steaks. 56 blocks, 263 liquor licenses, and a variety of service organizations sprinkled throughout the neighborhood - it's outwardly the greatest example of need in the city. For these reasons, Center For Student Missions (CSM) comes alongside existing organizations in the Tenderloin, delivering hot meals, sack lunches and hygiene kits and pointing residents towards our existing ministry partners for their ongoing food and spiritual needs.
One of the activities CSM groups participate in is called "City Search". The City Search activity is designed to give participants a small glimpse of homelessness, as well as an opportunity to learn about getting around in a city. Though they will most likely never be homeless themselves, this simulation activity gives trip participants an opportunity to feel a bit of the daily frustration and struggles of a homeless person living on the streets of San Francisco. Students are given four hours and two dollars to buy lunch for themselves and another person. The City Search encourages students to get to know the community, asking questions, understanding the needs that exist, and stepping out of their comfort zones to get to know the people of the homeless community.
This activity coupled with serving the community through CSM's ministry partners gives trip participants the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of urban issues, poverty, homelessness, and how to serve these people in an effective manner. One ministry partner we work with is Project Open Hand. Through this partnership, groups deliver meals around the Tenderloin to people who are unable to leave their rooms due to health issues. Students are given an orientation about delivering meals and are sent out into the Tenderloin with a map and meals. Witnessing students navigate themselves around the neighborhood and eagerly serving this often-forgotten community in providing for their nutritional and relational needs through food and conversation is quite remarkable.
While there are other ministry partners and other activities we do - CSM sees the need within the Tenderloin. The statistics are staggering and everyone around the city knows of its reputation. And yet, the Tenderloin is where we’ve encountered the most amazing people who are passionate about the Lord - organizational leaders and homeless folks alike. The Lord is clearly at work in the Tenderloin and CSM trip participants are joining into what He is already doing - touching the lives and hearts of many in need of Him.