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The Dream Center: A model program for transforming neighborhoods

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As believers, we are called to reach the whole world, not just the parts we are comfortable with. Jesus touched, and was touched by, those that many consider unclean. When He interacted with them He didn’t become unclean, but they were made clean, whole and healthy.

When believers come to Jesus they are dead in their sins and as unclean things. And He touches them and makes them whole. Now He calls the children of God to reach others with His love and help them the way they were helped. It’s not a believer’s job to heal others, and they certainly can’t save them. God does that by the power of His Spirit working through them as He lets Christians partner with Him.

We often hear about missionaries going into the world to share the gospel with unreached people groups. But what about those who are closer to home, how can they be reached? An example of partnering with Jesus is the Dream Center in Los Angeles, Calif. Last week Pastor Matthew Barnett shared the vision of the Dream Center at the Synergize 4 conference in Orlando, Fla.

At the age of twenty Matthew’s father asked him to help start a church. Instead of an upper class neighborhood, Matthew found himself on the mean streets. His first day on the job, a gang member was killed in a drive-by shooting near the church. He cancelled his service and asked the people to visit the victim’s family with him. No one wanted to go, but they did give $38 in an offering. All alone Matthew crossed the street and knocked on a door which was opened by a muscular gang member. He entered the apartment despite his fear of being killed. There he gave the money to the mother and asked if he could pray with them. Holding their hands, he formed a circle with the gang members and prayed. When he told them to raise their hand if they wanted to be saved, the gang members squeezed his, and then one by one they all lifted them.

Thus the Dream Center was born. And what is the result? They now touch hundreds of lives daily. Matthew told the story of how two young girls, who’d been rescued from the street themselves, reached out to a homeless man living under a bridge. He’d resisted Matthew’s efforts to help him for 15 years. But because of the girls, he started coming for a meal. Yet he would always return to the bridge. One year later he finally entered the drug rehab program. Today he’s a college graduate.

Laboring together with Lord Jesus is a privilege every believer has. As Lord Jesus said, “The field is ripe for harvest; pray the Lord of the harvest would send laborers.” Like the prophet Isaiah we can say, “Here am I, send me.”

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