The Compassion Connection @ Hollywood Adventist Church sits right in the heart of Los Angeles at the intersection of the world-famous Hollywood Boulevard with its walk of fame and the iconic 101 Freeway that tens of thousands of people commute on the each day.
If you aren’t from Los Angeles you might expect Hollywood to be a place of glitz and glamor. While it does put on a show to marvel the eyes, if you leave the tourist area with its bars, theaters and flashing marquees you see a different, less desirable and more foreboding side of the city.
Los Angeles is home to one of the largest homeless populations in the US and over the past few years the number of homeless has been growing. In our city you can’t drive down the street without seeing people pushing all their worldly possession in shopping carts or sleeping on bus benches.
At the Hollywood Adventist Church we believe that God loves our city and compels us to love it too on his behalf. Our mission statement says “A community of God’s friends, befriending the city.” By “the city” we mean, primarily, the people of the city. In addition, we mean the wonderful web of humanity that exists in a rich cultural environment like Hollywood. We also mean the pain of the city. As God embraced the pain of our world and bore it on the cross we hear God’s call to enter the city at the point of its pain and there extend God’s embrace to others. This means extending the friendship and hospitality of God without judgment and condemnation—fearlessly loving the least, the last and the lost in Christ’s name.
Meeting the city at the point of its pain is a daunting task that often seems overwhelming. However we know that loving the city is what God has called us to do and when we work with the Lord all things can be accomplished. To effectively address issues in our city we take a multi-pronged approach that relies on collaborations with our community partners to address issues in our neighborhood. Through our partnerships with organizations like LA Voice we have worked to lobby for necessary legislative and social changes that directly affect our community and nation. Relationships with non-profits like Imagine LA allow us to assist and mentor families transitioning into housing. Our work with the winter shelter program helps provide shelter to Hollywood’s most vulnerable residents during the coldest wettest weeks of the winter.
We also partner with Cal State LA school of social work as an internship location for the social students. Through this partnership and our partnership with A Million Drops we are able to provide case management, goals assessment, and life skills training at our facility.
As a missional church the Hollywood Adventist Church looks for the ways in which God is at work in our community and seeks to join in. A few years ago this mindset was put into practice when the church and surrounding neighborhood started receiving a influx of homeless residents displaced from their encampments along the freeway. This influx disturbed the quiet neighborhood around our campus and presented a challenge to the church. Through hours of community engagement and sitting on the curb with the homeless residents it became clear that God was presenting us with an opportunity. The showers rooms on our campus had recently been refurbished and made usable again and here we were presented with a whole group of people that did not have access to showers or facilities that preserve and foster basic human dignity. So we started opening our building several days per week to provide showers. Since that time our work has grown to provide a spa like shower/personal care experience, case management, counseling, spiritual support and access to GED tutoring all made possible by our staff and community partnerships.
The work of engaging our community is not without its struggles but we believe that we are called to follow our Savior’s leading. As we take a step of faith into the mess of this world God unlocks missional miracles for us that would never have been possible without divine leading.