Jesus, Justice & Poverty in San Francisco

“What’s your picture of Jesus?” One hundred thirty-three college students and 25 InterVarsity staff discovered that their beliefs about Jesus were too small as they shared the gospel with residents of the Tenderloin district of San Francisco during the Jesus, Justice, and Poverty conference held this past February 23-25.

Participants’ backgrounds and views varied significantly: from Christians to non-Christians, international students to a student body president, from a conservative youth leader to protesting activists.

As students passed countless people on the streets with carts containing their belongings, they began conversations with some sharing the hope of Jesus Christ with them. Noel and D, a hungry, homeless couple, were ignored for hours by wealthy young people in BMW’s and nice clothes waiting in lines for dance clubs and fashionable restaurants. A student from San Francisco State University wondered, “What must it be like for Noel to sit there and see all that wealth, and have no one even look him in the eye? . . . I wonder why BMW’s are my favorite car?”

Participants gathered to study 1 John 3:17, which reads, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (NIV). As students discussed God’s Word, they recounted their experiences with residents that morning and saw God’s compassion and provision for his people.

The next morning, students had the opportunity to participate in a Discovery Walk, where they prayed for and talked with people on the streets, asking God to provide for their needs and heal their hearts. “Jesus spent most of his life walking with the poor, with the marginalized. If we practice any form of Christian spirituality and aren’t involved with these people, it is not legitimate Christianity,” said Kevin Blue, Urban Project Director.

Later that afternoon, as a group of students helped an elderly man back to his feet, he picked up a beautiful necklace out of a crack in the sidewalk. At first the students paid little attention to his action, but the man began telling stories about all the treasures he’d found over the years. As students listened, Anna pointed out, “We need to keep our eyes open but to also change our perspective, because the Lord is offering us treasure where we wouldn’t normally look.”

One of the non-Christian participants responded to the weekend experience saying, “If there is a God, I want to find him or have him find me.” While six students decided to make Jesus Lord of their lives, 31 students decided to meet on their campuses and continue living out what they’ve learned during their experiences throughout the weekend.
Students learn about God’s heart for the poor as they put their faith in action by serving.

This summer, InterVarsity staff and students have the opportunity to participate in 14 Urban Projects to cities like Oakland, CA; St. Louis, MO; and Greensboro, NC. By sharing the gospel on campuses, InterVarsity seeks to transform students and faculty, renew the campus, and develop world-changers.