Breakaway, A New Outreach in San Francisco During Fall Break, Joins Spring Break in the City Under the Newly Formed Urban Initiative
For the first time, Westmont students organized a service trip to San Francisco for the fall holiday, Oct. 8-10, to volunteer with the Rev. Mike and Ann Moberg at San Francisco Missions Outpost. Last year, the Spring Break in the City (SBIC) core team encouraged the incoming student leaders to create Breakaway: Fall Break San Francisco Outreach and put it and SBIC under the umbrella of Urban Initiative.
“I had so many fond memories of hanging out with the youth and praying with the folks in the community that I was thrilled to go back,” says sophomore Paige Harris, publicity and programming coordinator for Urban Initiative.“
Urban Initiative’s mission is to grow deeper in our relationships and expand in the areas we can,” says sophomore Maleshah Bender. “I coordinated with Ann, and everything worked out. God was clearly orchestrating the whole trip.”
The core team kept the cost of the trip to $35 per person, and students quickly signed up. “After four days, all 24 spots were filled, and we started a waiting list,” Maleshah says. “We were pleased to see so much interest for the first Breakaway trip.”
In San Francisco, the group volunteered at CityTeam Ministries, working in the kitchen, serving hot meals and preparing clean clothing for the homeless. “It was a wonderful time of fellowship, hearing how Christ is moving and changing lives,” Paige says. A pastor also led the group on a prayer walk through the South Market District, telling captivating stories of the people in the neighborhood she serves.
Paige and Maleshah both volunteered at City Crossroads, a community center run by the Mobergs, which provides a safe and fun alternative for the city’s multi-ethnic, underserved youth. “I always have the most memorable moments with the kids at City Crossroads,” Maleshah says. “Even though we’re there a short time, we make an impression on those kids. Westmont is one of the few groups that returns, and the kids remember our faces for the next trip. It’s a blessing to be a voice in their lives.”
On Sunday, students hit the streets in groups of four, inviting people to join them for an upcoming church service. “I met so many wonderful people bursting with enthusiasm and joy, especially a man named Roman,” Paige says. After praying for him, he thanked them and encouraged the group in its walk with Christ. Later, he participated in the adult Sunday school, attended the regular church service and stayed for a potluck. “He told several people how he was struggling, but meeting us renewed his spirit,” Paige says. “He promised to come back the following Sunday and called to arrange a time to meet with the pastor.”
On Monday, the students went to Saint Boniface Cathedral in the Tenderloin, a beautifully ornate church that allows the homeless to sleep on its pews. “It was such a beautiful example of what the church should look like,” Paige says. “Come to me all who are heavy-laden and I will give you rest.”
Even the rain couldn’t dampen the students’ spirits. They packed some lunches and socks to deliver to the homeless people in the wet Civic Center. “If I could sum everything up in one goal, however, I believe it would be building relationships,” Maleshah says. “We get to come into contact and transform lives through the relationships that develop during the week.”
“The students from Westmont have been working with us for 10 years,” says Ann Moberg. “The enthusiasm they bring never changes, although the students who come may. Inner-city ministry is often a lonely place, but these students remind us that we’re not alone. They give us a much-needed boost of love and prayer support. We always look forward to seeing them.”
Paige expects the program to continue with the support of future Westmont students. “There is so much need in the inner-city, and I believe we’re called to be Christ’s hands and feet,” she says. “This immersion opportunity is unique because it gives students who may have commitments over spring break the chance to serve and encounter Christ on the streets of San Francisco. It’s radical and life-changing.“
Personally, I’ve been convicted to sincerely ask more people how I could be praying for them. Strangers on the streets of San Francisco were so moved by this gesture. I questioned why I shy away from introducing myself, encouraging and praying for people I’m not familiar with at Westmont or even in downtown Santa Barbara.”
Maleshah says she enjoyed watching her fellow students develop the same love and passion for the city she found on her first journey there. “These trips are about harnessing people’s passions and talents and utilizing them for the glory of the Kingdom,” she says. “The work we do with the homeless is important, but more than anything else, we hold the key that can change their lives. No matter how corrupt the system is or how inefficient the government can be, God can exceed all expectations. God has the power to change hearts, and we are the ones who have come to spread the news of Christ. This is what can truly alter a life.”