Experiencing the Dream in Los Angeles
I took a gap year between my freshman and sophomore year of college and lived in Los Angeles, California. Most people assume I went to travel or party, but I did not get to do these things. I was a part of the Dream Center.
I lived at the Dream Center in Downtown L.A. in the Echo Park neighborhood. The Dream Center is a place where many people visit, volunteer, serve, and are changed. “The Dream Center serves as a resource center focused on finding solutions to homelessness, hunger, and the lack of education through residential and community outreach,” the website reads.
I went to the Dream Center for the first time after high school on a short-term mission trip with my church. I was accepted to the Dream Center Leadership School in July of 2017, and by September of the same year, I was on my way to L.A.
I drove to Los Angeles so I would have a vehicle there for the nine months I lived there. I did not understand what I would be doing exactly. All I knew was that I was going to be living in California, more than 1,5000 miles away from Mississippi. I was leaving everything and everyone behind for almost a year.
The Dream Center Leadership School’s website says, “Today, more and more young people are finding the value in taking a season to build a solid, spiritual foundation for their future. The traditional way is not the only way to success. Before you go to college, before you take that ministry or corporate position, take a year to set your roots. Experience a new culture, discover a hidden passion, serve a community by breaking out of the classroom and get true hands-on ministry experience. On top of that, you will develop new skills and build character along-side other young adults from all over the world.”
This was exactly what happened over the next nine months. “Through hands-on ministry training, discipleship and spiritual transformation, our students’ natural leadership abilities are strengthened. We believe that by the time each student has finished their season here, they will be ready to excel in whatever capacity or role God is calling them to. Whether that be college, full-time ministry or the corporate workplace.
I lived in a dorm-like building with other students in the program from all over the world between the ages of 18 and 25. We all had different stories and backgrounds, but similar interests. We were there to serve God, the Dream Center and the Los Angeles community.
My first ministry track was Kidz Jam. Ministry Tracks take place four afternoons each week and are split into semesters, so each student has the opportunity to go through two during their time in DCLS. In Kidz Jam, we went to three different government housing projects in the Watts neighborhoods and also helped with the kid’s service on Thursday nights and Sunday mornings at Angelus Temple. At the sites, Imperial Courts, Ramona Gardens and Nickerson Gardens, we organized an after-school type of church service, played games and helped students with homework. I enjoyed this ministry track and my time with the youth.
After Christmas, I joined a new ministry track, The Oasis of Hollywood. It is a non-profit organization that does preventive work with kids and teenagers living in Hollywood. As part of the Oasis track, students are heavily involved with the Kidz Klub Program and Oasis Youth on Tuesday and Friday nights.
In Kidz Klub, we went to two different schools and held an after-school program with games, singing and Bible lessons each week. However, I enjoyed the youth service at the Oasis of Hollywood. During these, I hang out with middle school and high school students on Friday nights. This was a service to help keep students off the streets on Friday nights. I see these students grow in their relationship with Christ and their peers.
Through DCLS and the Dream Center, I saw the less glamorous side of Los Angeles County. This is a place I came to love. Sure, I went the beaches, such as Venice Beach, Santa Monica Beach and my favorite Malibu Beach, but Watts is where I spent much of my time.
I miss the smiling faces of the students as they saw our van pulling up after school. Hollywood and the big city attract tourists, but there is so much more to offer in L.A. I recommend looking into the Dream Center and DCLS to get a different view of such a unique, cultured city.