One of the most common questions I get asked is what precisely was I doing in San Francisco. General reply: “Helping young people to help homeless people”. It’s usually sufficient but I realise that people don’t know what that looks like or how I did that and would like a little more information.
Our first two weeks as a Summer of Service team were spent in training. This meant we did all the activities which we would eventually lead the youth groups in. Around these there was teaching on various topics: from responsibilities and boundaries, to public speaking and community living. Doing all that the youth were going to do also meant work duties in the mornings and evenings (will not forget cleaning out the trash cans – translate: wheelie bins – when Bethany was straight in there as Tom stood to the side and gagged, poor guy). We would also attend the worship, bible study and meetings for the base staff as well as having our own team devotions a couple of times a week. It was a very full and busy two weeks. We were all completely shattered by the end but it enabled us to get to know each other, the base, the city and the activities quickly.
I also spent two week in the kitchen at one point. We all took it in turns to be in there throughout the summer. I’m very grateful to God for putting me on kitchen duty when He did – it was another sign of His sovereignty that I didn’t have to deal with some difficulties that were had with those teams. We would be preparing breakfast and dinner for up to ninety people everyday, starting at 6am. There was one day when I was on my feet for 14 hours in total! It was undoubtedly the most physically demanding thing we had to do and often left you feeling disconnected from the goings on of the base and team but it was vital work and a good lesson in humility and hard graft!
I was blessed to be able to spend two weeks working in the Ellis Room drop-in centre as well. This was a much lighter workload, with evenings off and the days spent just chatting to people who came in. There were some heated exchanges at times but I think the most difficult part of this was becoming emotionally involved in the lives of the people who came in and hurting with them as they struggled. It was a brilliant opportunity to spend genuine time with some of the guys though and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
The rest of my time (down to only five weeks) was spent leading the youth groups who came from across the states for a week of urban mission in the city. We would take either a morning or evening shift (though it rarely worked out like that!) and be with them for 8 hours or so, leading them on activities. So, here is a typical day in the life of a YWAMSF SOSer:
7.00 Breakfast (also make sack lunch)
7.45 Work Duties (cleaning kitchen/bathrooms, vacuuming, trash etc.)
8.30 Teaching and Worship (the theme for the summer was “Expand Heaven Here”)
10.30 Prayer Walk (neighbourhood, BJM, skyscraper safari etc.)
12.30 Homeless Sacklunch (you’ve got two lunches each, now find a new friend to share them with!)
15.00 Bucket Brigade (cleaning in the corner stores around the Tenderloin)
16.00 Debrief (sharing about how all the day’s activities went and what we learned)
17.45 Work Duties
18.30 Team Time (time for the team to reflect/teach/worship together without YWAM staff)
19.30 Hot Chocolate (handing out hot chocolate and praying with people in numerous areas)
22.00 Quiet Time
23.00 Lights Out (phew!)
And that was pretty much everyday, just with variations in the activities that were done.
Of course, they’d get one day off from this when they were on Homeless Plunge but that was a whole other kettle of fish.
Although YWAM doesn’t run a soup kitchen type thing we did have two events in a week when we’d welcome people into the Ellis Room for our Dessert Social or Love Feast. We’d pack the storefront out with seating for a hundred and try to make it as anti-foodline as possible with decorations, hosts at tables, waiters and food options. It was one of my favourite times in the week because you got to watch as the young people sat and engaged with the people, loving on them and sharing Christ with them. One of the hardest things I had to do all summer, however, was turning people away from these events – it was heartbreaking and I always dreaded being put on door duty but, thankfully, it didn’t have to be done too often.
There you are then: I’m not sure you could get a more comprehensive run down of what I did without reading through all my timetables and manual.