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Over the bridge —into another world

San Francisco youth take a day mission to the Oakland Shelter.

by Debbie wilber –



Children experience harp music during the Lighthouse Corps visit to the Garden Street Shelter.


It was a cloudy day in the city as San Francisco’s Lighthouse Corps youth group crossed the Bay Bridge on their way to the Garden Street Shelter in Oakland. They brought supplies for several games, not sure what to expect at a homeless shelter for families.

After breakfast, members of the youth group and shelter residents dyed Easter eggs together, and the ice began to melt. They played a few silly games and soon they were laughing side by side. However, it was the experience of breaking bread (or, more accurately, drinking milkshakes) that really set the stage for deeper connections. These were no ordinary milkshakes: they were Easter milkshakes—a delicious combination of Peeps, hard-boiled eggs, chocolate sauce, beans (for protein), and ketchup (representing the blood of Christ); oh, and milk!

Later, the young people from San Francisco said they forgot they were in a shelter. Athena commented, “It
didn’t seem like a homeless shelter. I was surprised that the kids were so well behaved and sweet.”

The event—part of the corps’ youth group programming—provided an opportunity for character growth and for sharing the love of Christ.

“I believe it is important for young people to have opportunities to serve others—it breaks down barriers by showing us how much we all have in common,” said Debbie Wilber, youth ministries director for the Lighthouse Corps. “It was a great opportunity to take everyone out of their comfort zone so that they could experience and share God’s love in new ways. And it’s just fun!”

The Oakland shelter was ideal—close enough for a day trip, but far away enough to take the group away from what is familiar.

Oakland Garden Center Corps Officer Captain Marcos Marquez reflected: “The children here at Garden Street are at a very crucial time in their lives when things seem uncertain. The one thing that shone out of the San Francisco youth was the certainty of God’s love for all of his children. The group of teens left a lasting impression on our children that will undoubtedly pay enormous eternal dividends.”

God was certainly present that cloudy day in Oakland, teaching each of us about our common humanity as his children.


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