Liz Wong is the first person that comes to mind when I think of spiritual heroes in the City. She and her late husband, Ed started a ministry in San Francisco’s “worst” neighborhood, the “Tenderloin” twenty-five years ago or so. Before coming to Jesus, Ed had been an addict and frequent flyer in this dark and scary section of the city. When the Lord delivered him, it didn’t take long for him to become a flaming evangelist and street preacher back in the hood from which he came, preaching two or three times a week in Boeddeker Park. Ed and I became friends in the 90’s when he and his family (Liz, Candace, Hosanna, and Elijah) joined our church in San Bruno. Though tireless in his efforts to lead everyone he knew to Jesus, Ed bore in his body the effects of his many years of heroin use (and all manner of other drugs). He suffered from Gout, Hepatitis, and eventually Liver Cancer, from which he succumbed in May of 2008.
Liz made the radical decision to carry on the ministry by committee – finding other people to do the preaching while she would do all the administration, legwork, and preaching from time to time. For many years, Ed did all the preaching and most of the administration, his family and others serving in supportive roles. Now, the leadership of the entire ministry would fall on Liz and her children, with friends to back her up. The family has lived by faith (i.e. all of their income came from the offerings and gifts that people and churches sent them) for over 25 years! Liz and Elijah continue to live in this same faith-based way. She brings food every Thursday and once-a-month on a Saturday, clothes donated by churches are distributed, worship leaders sing their hearts out, and a rotating team of preachers declare the good news over the din of traffic, sirens, and the sights and smells of this depressed urban park. This is one of my favorite places in the City to make friends for God. It’s an honor to work alongside Liz and the team in the TL.
Check out Liz’s Calvary Street Ministry Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/calvarystreet
In my estimation, Evan and April Prosser, who lead the “Homeless Church” on the streets of SF are heroes. Old hippies themselves, they’ve served homeless people for decades, the first twelve years they lived in a bus, parked among the homeless encampments in SF. When they finally moved into a house in which 12 other people (disciples of theirs from the street) live along side them they called it, “The Grace Healing Home.” They do their outdoor services on Sunday mornings at Pier 32 off the Embarcadero and in the afternoons at 16th and Mission, the latter of which is a particularly challenging venue – addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill people, pimps and prostitutes galore! Though I’m accustomed to, and love doing church on the street, 16th Street at Mission is one of the toughest I’ve encountered. Sometimes I’ll go to this same urine-reeking corner with my guitar and sing worship songs – until I’m out of air or drowned out by blaring boom box music. The Prossers seem to be un-phased by the distractions or difficulties. They persist in their simple love for people most of us rush past on corners like this one everyday.
Evan and April are amazing servants of Jesus. http://www.homelesschurch.org/
Jessica, Clare, Luke, Courtney, and Jerod are infectious dreadlocked young followers of Jesus who love and serve the drug addicted and outlandish denizens of the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in SF. They live by faith in community in the Mission District, bring a camp stove and pancake mix to “Hippie Hill” in Golden Gate Park, sit on the ground and, along with Jesus, make friends. People emerge from “campsites” and hovels in the park and Haight Street doorways where they’ve slept the night before to eat pancakes and interact with these simple-living servants of God. During the summer they travel to the Rainbow Gathering, set up a tent, and in the name of the Lord, serve any number of the tens of thousands of camped out / drugged out hippie travellers. These young disciples live simply and serve passionately. I like their style! I’ve had some of my best conversations about Jesus serving with these new missionary friends of mine.