By Julie Bruun
YWAM San Francisco hosts several ministries each month who are collectively focused on reaching the Tenderloin neighborhood. We believe in the importance of not only deepening our relationships with God internally, but also reaching out and caring deeply for the people around us.
Meet Gabby Alzate, who did her Discipleship Training School in 2010 and for the last 5 years has been staffing at Because Justice Matters (BJM), one of our neighborhood ministries.
Julie: Can you describe BJM and the needs of the women who you are serving?
Gabby: BJM engages women and girls of the Tenderloin and aims to offer comfort, relationships, and resources for women taking steps towards freedom. We provide support to women that have been victims of sexual exploitation and domestic violence and we also offer ministry to girls in the neighborhood, hoping to prevent cycles of violence and challenges that they can often times be exposed to while growing up in the inner city. In our work with women and girls, we desire to see them explore their true identity and grow in community.
When we walk on the streets, we do not necessarily get to see their story. But in our ministries, we get to sit across the manicure table and listen to them.
As walls come down, we try to come alongside these women and build relationships, providing a community and a safe space.
We have many different ministries to help go deeper, these happen at The Well – a women’s center we opened up in 2013, that is located on the same street as YWAM San Francisco. We have small groups to discuss Jesus and Bible stories and art classes where the women get to encounter God through the arts. After opening The Well, we were able to start ministries for girls in the neighborhood. As a very natural extension of our heart for women, we want to prevent some of the cycles of violence that can occur in inner city neighborhoods.
One of our larger ministries is our dance class that we offer to about 30 girls from the neighborhood. We also have a discipleship class called The Tribe consisting of girls who have been coming for the past four years. It revolves around having them encounter God, hearing God’s voice, and letting Him minister to their hearts.
We want to empower them and help them take ownership over their bodies and spiritual lives and have God be the one that defines them rather than the things of the world. Oftentimes, domestic trafficking, abuse, and gang violence is based on lies about who people believe themselves to be. We believe that there is so much power in true identity and value and hearing it from their Creator.
If God can minister to their hearts, telling them that they are beautiful and valuable, then they are going to be able to recognize lies and live in Truth instead.
We also build creative communities among mothers in the Tenderloin. Every week, we host a program called Mother’s Brunch where we get the chance to gather and share a meal. It's beautiful to watch as moms from across cultures come together to encourage encourage each other. We are honored to facilitate and watch God move. We also partner with another organization and teach ESL classes for around 13 Arabic-speaking ladies three days each week.
Julie: Looking back, can you see a development in your own heart when it comes to the Tenderloin and coming to BJM?
Gabby: The first year was very hard, I did not really like San Francisco or the Tenderloin because I still was holding onto things God was asking me to surrender. It took me about a year to adjust to life in the city. I was asked to pioneer a work with the girls that required a longer time commitment. God spoke to me very clearly, and I decided to be all-in. Since that decision, God has been so faithful to shift everything in me, and now I love San Francisco and the Tenderloin. I really cannot imagine my life in any other place.
Looking back, is there a woman who made a deeper impression on you?
There is one lady who lives in the apartments above The Well and she came in interested in the work we did. She has a very intense, powerful testimony and life story, but she started coming to our programs and rededicated her life to the Lord. She now has a beautiful and vibrant relationship with Him and was baptized. Her previous lifestyle had really taken a toll on her body, specifically her kidneys, as she had been on dialysis for years.
We prayed and prayed and prayed for her to get a new kidney and God, of course, provided a kidney but after her transplant her body started to reject it. During this time she fell and broke her hip, and we cried out for help and healing, and miraculously, her kidneys began working again and her body healed quickly! Now, she is active within BJM and is part of our leadership group among women. It is incredible hearing her say that her calling in life is to walk women out of prostitution and drug addiction and into relationship with Jesus.
Julie: How do you cope with the injustice you see everyday?
Gabby: We always pray before our programs, and we debrief and process afterwards. It has to be a constant thing going back to Jesus and get his perspective on things. It's also been important to create a culture of celebration and celebrate everything - even the small victories - reminding myself and our team of how God has been working in the women and girls.
We need to believe and have hope for the women we work with and trust that changes do happen. Ultimately, the coping has to be done with Jesus. He's the only reason any of us have the grace to do what we do.
Julie: What do you long to see in the Tenderloin?
Gabby: There is so much goodness and potential here that people do not often see. I would love to see the mindset change. I believe the Tenderloin is a canvas for hope and the new things that God wants to do in and through this community. I would love for the people that live here, along with others throughout the city, to see through a perspective of hope.
As for BJM, I am hoping to see these girls come to know Jesus in a very intimate way, to watch them grow and be invested in God’s Kingdom here. I would love to see them empowered and be raised up as leaders, committed to this city’s restoration. Right now, it's like planting seeds. I am excited for the girls' futures and giving them the tools that they need to feel confident of who they were created to be.
I'm excited for the day when I get to hand the keys of The Well over to one of my girls, releasing her into ministry and watch her thrive as she impacts the lives of many in and beyond San Francisco.
Would you consider investing in Because Justice Matters as they continue to engage women and girls of the Tenderloin while aiming to offer support, relationships, and resources for women taking steps towards freedom? All gifts support their work as they seek to help women and girls explore their true identities and live from their truest selves.
As YWAM San Francisco, we’ve been able to partner with God’s greater vision for serving the city by hosting ministries like Because Justice Matters. Would you consider investing in our buildings that are solely devoted to Engaging San Francisco with a Loving God? As we seek to pay off the $1.9 million remaining on our building loans, each and every gift has a tremendous impact.
If you would like to find out more about Because Justice Matters, the work they’re doing in the Tenderloin and within the lives of women and girls, or more about their programs and opportunities to serve check out: http://www.becausejusticematter.org/
If you’re interested in finding out more about the work we do here at YWAM San Francisco, opportunities to serve, give, or about attending an Urban Ministries DTS, you can go to: http://www.ywamsanfrancisco.org/