1,800 Christians partnered with San Francisco City Impact ministry in a day of massive outreach featuring eclectic venues of services to the residents of the Tenderloin, the poorest and most violent neighborhood in all of San Francisco.
That day, the fragrance of Christ carried by believers to those living from within the one square mile of Tenderloin district, where 37,000 residents and 6,000 homeless live. The Warfield Theater sign read “City Impact Conference,” “Francis Chan,” “Brian & Jenn Johnson,” and “Jesus” in the third row. Ironically, the wordings on the sign sharply contrasted with the strip club ‘Crazy Horse’ sign, located next to the theater, but aptly represented the conference’s Christian mission in loving the marginalized and the sinful as Christ has taught and lived 2,000 years ago.
The conference reached its pivotal point when believers converged that night for the evening worship session. Volunteers testified of life-changing encounters that day, including a Chinese lady who came from China and was a Buddhist weeping upon hearing the story of Jesus, a homeless man repenting for throwing curses at City Impact, and a girl who had been reportedly missing to the police was found and reunited with her mother. These stories were only a glimpse of the transformation taking place in the Tenderloin through City Impact ministry, intervening in the lives of the poor seven days a week.
City Impact executive director Christian Huang.(Photo: Gospel Herald)
Christian Huang, executive director of City Impact and son of founder Roger Huang, said, “We’re not just about social justice. We want to see spiritual justice. We want to see a spiritual awakening in the inner-city of San Francisco. There are a lot of great cause and charities, but if we are not preaching the gospel and sharing Jesus, then we are just doing works, but we need the Good News.”
Huang worked as the ministry’s youth director for about nine years but took off selling occupational medicine in the last seven years. Two years ago, a girl who he and his wife used to reach out as youth director called him and said she was in trouble and needed help. The girl, Anna, spend two hours explaining how she was trafficked for two years out of San Francisco, down to Los Angeles and back.
The girl’s story came as a wake-up call to Huang and his wife. “My wife and I were just sitting there crying…we just couldn’t believe it,” he said. That event stirred his heart on going back to the Tenderloin for ministry. When he was the youth director, the most fruit that they’ve seen was when they went inside the apartment buildings to spend time with the youth in worship and fellowship. As a result, Huang envisioned going to every floor and every door of Tenderloin to share the gospel and pray with people, which was how Adopt-a-Building campaign started.
Laura Soun credits Jesus for changing her life.(Photo: Gospel Herald)
Huang then shared another story of Laura Soun, who is now the kindergarten teacher and youth director at City Impact. Soun grew up going through physical abuse and seeing her father bringing prostitutes back to their family’s apartment studio. After her parents had died, her brothers joined gangs and sold drugs to survive, and they demanded that she stay behind and cook for them. “Isolated, depressed, hopeless, drops out of high school, gets addicted to weed,” he said. “She gets kicked out, homeless, couch surfing, finally one of the brothers has enough sense and gets a secure apartment complex…this story belongs to one of my closest friends in life.”
Soun recalled how she was rescued. Huang and his wife persistently came to knock on her door, but she had been trying to escape the physical reality through getting high on weed. “The presence of God that believers carry” drew her close to the then youth directors, she said, who was “hungry and desperate” for God’s love. One night, she dreamt about Jesus. “I was not at a Bible-study conference or with a pastor, but Jesus came and changed my life like crazy,” she said.
A week after her graduation, Soun walked down a block to City Impact and told Huang that she wants to follow Jesus. “I’ve learned forgiveness. I need healing. No one can convince me that God is not real,” she testified, drawing the applause and cheers from the crowd. Huang later testified that Soun has been a role model in the Tenderloin. As he proceeded to describe her as the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, another City Impact staff knelt before Soun and proposed to her.
City Impact staff Josh proposes to Laura Soun.(Photo: Gospel Herald)
Adopt-a-Building volunteer Ashley shared that after volunteering the biggest miracle that happened occurred inside her heart. She was in an abusive relationship, which left her feeling insecure and losing her ability to open up. She suffered from strong anxiety and insomnia, but doctor’s prescriptions didn’t help her at all. When Huang asked her to share, she almost had a panic attack. So for the first time, she revealed to her friend the abusive past, and she felt there was something that stemmed from it. She said her friend prayed over her and then she was completely healed. Her biggest realization was that there must be so many women in the Tenderloin suffering from PTSD, insomnia, and anxiety. She wishes to reach out to them just as her friend fought for her.
“If you self-forget, then you free yourself. When she focuses on others, then God sets her free,” said Huang.
San Francisco City Impact has now adopted over 18 buildings and has access to over 2,000 doors. They have 70-80 volunteers on the Adopt-a-Building project, and they are requesting that the communities across the Bay Area can partner with them through sponsoring a building for $38 a month. The sponsorship would help provide the following: groceries, hot meals, cleaning services, medical care, clothing, school supplies, care packages, counseling, discipleship, personal prayer, leather Bibles, weekly visits. Meanwhile, updates of the lives in those buildings will be provided.
Map of Tenderloin with blue post-its on buildings adopted.(Photo: Gospel Herald)
After the testimonies, Brian and Jenn Johnson from Bethel Music led worship. In between the worship, New York Times best-selling author and pastor Francis Chan delivered a message.
Pastor Francis Chan kneeling on the stage in prayers.
Brian and Jenn Johnson from Bethel Music led the 1,800 participants in a night of worship. (Photo: Gospel Herald)