University News

Messy Church

Posted: May 4, 2018



A group of current HIU students have teamed up to serve a local homeless community, offering food, friendship, music, and the Gospel each Sunday afternoon. The following is a first-hand account of “Messy Church” from one of its founders, Alexio Gomes.

This all started when my friend Devin offered to buy a Subway meal for Ray, one of the about 40 people that live under the 57 overpass off of Placentia and Crowther. They struck up a conversation in which Ray told Devin, "I'm homeless, not phoneless." They exchanged numbers and for about a month nothing happened.

Until last December.

Devin and I were leaving Costco and Devin said, "Ray is probably hungry, I'm sure he would like some pizza," and he bought an extra pie and called Ray up. When I met Ray for the first time I was surprised how put together he was, he seemed “normal” and well connected with everyone else underneath the 57 freeway.

We made several trips after that just to meet with Ray and a couple of his friends, John and Don. We got them Bibles, had open discussions about their backgrounds and who God is, and that's how it started. There were times where we would come and no one would show up, but we would pull out our guitar and sing songs for everyone in their tents to hear under the bridge.

Now we show up each Sunday at 1:30pm, and everyone in the community knows to expect food and music. The whole thing is centered around food. We eat together and have church like this. Perhaps the greatest impact we have noticed is how the community is now caring for each other like never before.

I have met over 30 individuals who all live under the bridge and have different stories and situations.

  • Ricuco is an illegal immigrant who works Monday-Saturday from 7-4 cleaning pools to make 250 dollars a week and gives all the money to his daughter who currently attends Fullerton College. He and his wife both live outside under the freeway and work to pay for their daughter’s college.
  • Margaux and James are married and faithfully come to Messy Church each week. They tell everyone they know about it, and I personally baptized them as they confessed Jesus' Lordship over their lives.
  • Brenda came the weekend before Easter, broke into tears at hearing the Gospel, and gave her life to Christ. She has a background of prostitution and being a mule for drug runners.
  • Nate is 30 years old and gets into fights all the time. Francis baptized him this Easter Sunday and now wants Nate to go to rehab for his drug addiction to heroin, what they call "black.”

I understand why this is such a hard community to reach; it can be uncomfortable to talk about crime and drug abuse and endless broken relationships, but what compels us is that Christ would have been down here with the vulnerable and wounded. He spent His last moments with those that betrayed and abandoned Him. Jesus never once turned His back on me in all my years of rebellion and sin, so how can I turn my back on those whom He calls beloved?

The core team of HIU students involved in Messy Church meets on Monday nights inside the library, and as we’ve prayed about what we are doing, the following Bible verse has really influenced this whole thing:

"But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Luke 14:13-14

Messy Church has truly been a team effort and it couldn't be possible without the support I have received from my HIU friends, including Devin Greene, Josh Guzman, Francis Lazaro, Ellie Turner, Tyler Green, Dakota Noxon, Matthew Lund, and Jacob Knopf.

 

To follow Messy Church on Instagram, click here.