Jesus and Pizza: the High School Essentials
John, Servant Partners staff in South Los Angeles and an indigenous local leader, shares about how God is opening up new outreach opportunities at his alma mater, Manual Arts High School.
Manual Arts is the local high school in our South LA neighborhood. The school was founded in 1910 in the middle of bean fields. It was the third high school in Los Angeles after Los Angeles High School and L.A. Polytechnic High School and is the oldest high school still on its original site in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). I attended the school during my four years of high school from 1999-2003. I currently live about five minutes away from the school.
Everything started in September. In preparation for the next season of ministry and to seek ongoing confirmation if God was inviting me to pursue campus ministry at Manual Arts, another youth leader and I went on a prayer walk together around campus. What we heard during our prayer walk was remarkable. We sensed that there is a lot of potential for youth ministry at the school, and that there were new doors God wanted to open for our church at the school. As we walked and prayed around the school, we closed the time praying and asking God to build a new kind of Manual Arts.
In late October, God opened a door. I had just had my first day on campus, meeting with football coaches and Manual Arts faculty and helping at the Parent Center. Then I was introduced to One Voice Student Missions (OVSM) ministry and their leaders. My connection with their ministry felt like a confirmation from God. After doing my own research of local high school campus ministries in our area, I was completely surprised to learn about OVSM and their ministry.
OVSM has been around for a few years and is a smaller scale campus ministry organization in California that reaches public high schools with the Gospel. Their whole focus is to partner with the local church to reach students in the city. And now, yours truly and our church are partnering together at Manual Arts! Crazy!! Jesus is AWESOME!!
Every Tuesday during lunch, 100+ students gather in the school's auditorium together with OVSM leaders and myself for pizza and to hear the Gospel preached. We are casting the nets out broadly! I'm really enjoying growing in relationship with all of the youth. And it has been incredible to have partnership as I am on campus.
Another encouraging note about God's ministering presence on campus is that there is also teacher buy-in and support of the ministry at the school. One of the teachers supporting the ministry is inviting all of her students to attend "Jesus Club." I am seeing a revival beginning to unfold at the school!
These are the unreached kids of America. The inner city is hard soil. There are many outside influences that hold kids back from growing in their walk with Jesus in the inner city. I know because I was one of those kids. I lived the hard spiritual reality of persevering to follow Jesus in the city growing up in South LA. These kids remind me of me and when I was a student at Manual. When I was a high schooler in the neighborhood, Servant Partners' interns reached out to me, and I was and continue to be transformed by the Gospel. What I am hoping in this new partnership is to be one good influence together with our church and OVSM that counteracts the spiritual forces that keep students in our community from growing in their walk with Jesus. It's all about Jesus. Can I get an amen? I'm seeing how the spiritual climate at Manual Arts is ripe for more and more students to enter into the Kingdom!
As I've been engaging students at the school, I’m reminded of 1 Peter 2:9-10:
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy."
These kids belong to God and to His family. Jesus cares for them and has not forgotten them. He is calling them into his wonderful light. Thanks be to God.