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Matthew Barnett: Serving needy during coronavirus — this calling exists for communities worldwide

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We’ve now completed more than two weeks of non-stop, 11-hour days of feeding families at a drive-through and a grab-and-go we implemented here at the Los Angeles Dream Center.

During the lockdown established to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, numerous families have depended on us to provide basic necessities for them during this crisis. We are also delivering care packages to the homes of our most vulnerable seniors in the Echo Park community and to mobile food banks.

Thanks to the generosity of so many, even when finances are tight and jobs are in jeopardy, we have been able to provide more than 120,000 meals in collaboration with several food vendors around Los Angeles. Through a campaign to give just $20, we are hoping to sustain this effort as we combat a sudden hardship. Every penny given makes a massive difference in the lives of people throughout this city.

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Looking back on these past two weeks — which has felt like an eternity! — I’ve come to the realization of why God gave me a dedicated grandfather of Christian ministry and an equally dedicated father of Christian ministry. When I was younger, I often wondered if my calling was to build a bigger church than they had built or to be more successful and climb a ladder farther than they had climbed.

But that wasn’t the purpose of my upbringing at all.

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God brought me to my ministry for one reason, and that is to give a voice to people that have no one to fight for them. And I’m confident this same calling exists for Christians worldwide.

Sadly enough, even with the stimulus bill that just passed in Congress, many of the people that we serve won't be eligible for that. But we are here, a refuge along the highway in downtown Los Angeles, just making a small difference in people’s lives. We’re letting them know there’s still hope and there are people out there that care and recognize the desperate position this crisis has brought upon so many.

My prayer for the church, here in LA and in every corner of the globe, is that we will wake up and realize we were made for this moment. As I look out across the normally jam-packed Hollywood Freeway, one of the busiest corridors in America, it is nearly empty. But behind the quietness that has settled in, there are people in this neighborhood that are scrambling. Many can't afford to take a simple trip to the grocery store.

I never thought that handing someone two rolls of toilet paper would be so meaningful. But that’s exactly what I experienced this past week. I broke down in tears at that moment, humbled by the weight that has been thrust upon us.

Standing out on the blacktop of the Dream Center, morning until night, we aim to be a voice in the wilderness for those who are watching things quickly dry up around them. Jobs are drying up. Finances are drying up. Opportunity is drying up.

But there's still hope. There’s always hope.

We believe this because we know a God that sees every tear that falls. We also believe the love of Christ compels us to step up every day and help anyone and everyone in their hour of need.

We’re doing everything we possibly can to say safe and keep others safe in the process — wearing masks and gloves, and maintaining safe distances, understanding our responsibility to prevent the spread of this deadly virus.

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Yet I believe the greatest risk of all is playing it safe when we have the ability to help people who need it. I don’t ever want to look back on a moment like this and realize we missed an opportunity to help or realize we didn’t give everything we could give.

If we have the power to do good, then we must do it!

I never thought that handing someone two rolls of toilet paper would be so meaningful. But that’s exactly what I experienced this past week. I broke down in tears at that moment, humbled by the weight that has been thrust upon us.

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I don't know what tomorrow holds. But I know we'll be out here doing what we’ve always done. I’m thankful to everyone that’s stepped up, put in the long hours of serving our community, and for those who continue to give of their precious resources to help our neighbors. We’ve had to adapt, and it’s been challenging, but I have a clarity and renewed sense of purpose I haven’t experienced in a long time.

I love this city, and I remain confident we're going to make it through the other side. In fact, we're going to be stronger, more resilient, and more united than we ever have been.

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