Ventura Corps takes outreach into gang-controlled park.
Ventura, Calif., Corps Officers Lts. Matt and Vanessa Jensen took the ministry of The Salvation Army into one of Ventura’s toughest neighborhoods March 16.
They teamed up with Casa de Vida, a group of former members of the Mexican Mafia, and rap artist Second Chance, to conduct an outreach in an area controlled by three enemy gangs, coinciding with three housing sections. These urban missionaries set up camp in the park located in the middle of the warring factions, where last year eight unsolved gang-related homicides occurred.
Originally, the Jensens had planned to set up for the outreach the day before the event, but after receiving several tips that any preparations would be destroyed, the set-up took place early on that Saturday morning.
“We are driven to make a difference no matter the cost,” said Matt Jensen. “The outreach proved successful.”
The Salvation Army served 300 cheeseburgers and drinks to the people who came out that day. Second Chance rapped, then asked the assembled crowd if they wanted to know Jesus as Savior. Over 20 kids raised their hands to accept Christ.
Every 30 minutes, ex-Mexican Mafia assassin Art Blajos gave his testimony, drawing out those surrounding gang members onto their porches to listen. They would not come to the park since it’s a popular battleground. The men of Casa de Vida continually walked around, evangelizing and praying.
Thirty neighborhood children received new bicycles. Volunteers passed out Bibles and church flyers, while many prayers were lifted up in the prayer tent.
Jensen had heard that many churches used to go into this area, but stopped in recent years as the violence increased. After seeing the potential during the outreach event, he said it is a new location on the corps’ ministry list.
“As violence increases, and as the tensions between warring gangs and families rise, the church should feel the call to go in all the more,” Jensen said. “Apathy is not an option.”