S.A.Y. Yes! impacts Skid Row

Originally published Sept. 27, 2007

Less than an hour away from the Biola community, more than 10,000 homeless men and women can be seen sleeping in rows of cardboard boxes along abandoned brick buildings. The Skid Row community of downtown Los Angeles runs rampant with drug dealers, addicts and prostitutes.

What most people don’t know is that a rising number of families with children live in rescue missions or low-cost hotel rooms in the same community. Children play and even walk to school on the streets of Skid Row, an area far more dangerous than the quiet suburbs of La Mirada. The Biola student ministry S.A.Y. Yes! has decided to do something to create a safer community for these children.

S.A.Y Yes!, which stands for Saving America’s Youth, helps run an after-school program for children living in inner-city Los Angeles. Monday through Thursday children can come listen to Bible stories, play sports, do arts and crafts and even receive homework help from Biola students. Through the after-school program, S.A.Y. Yes! hopes to build relationships with the children and ultimately reach out to their families through means such as offering ESL and Computer Skills classes.

Beyond the after-school program, S.A.Y. Yes! also hosts numerous outside events for the children.
“The most memorable experiences have involved putting on events that bring the children to Biola,” senior Caitlynn Pearsey, the ministry’s team director said.

Past events on campus have included sleepovers in the dorms, Halloween events and a drama production called “Character Matters.” The children’s production, put on for Biola students, raised enough money to send all the children to summer camp at Forrest Home.

Pearsey joined S.A.Y. Yes! as a sophomore because she wanted to work with children.

“My first time at S.A.Y. Yes! was a bit of a culture shock,” said Pearsey, who had no previous experience of inner-city life. “I was uncomfortable and by the end of the day I was emotionally drained.”

Despite her initial response, she felt God calling her to commit to leadership her junior year. By finding strength in the Lord, she learned to trust in God and not in her own abilities.

“I didn't enjoy the ministry at first but I gave it time and the Lord began to work on my heart and develop in me a passion for the people of skid-row,” Pearsey said.

Another leader in the ministry, sophomore Matthew Moss, got involved with S.A.Y. Yes! through Biola’s Community Service Scholarship. He admits, however, that S.A.Y. Yes! turned into much more than just a scholarship requirement.

“I fell in love with the program and what it stood for,” Moss said.

Through the after-school program, Moss witnessed drastic changes in the children who had grown up on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. Children who were “really rough around the edges” were not only happy to see Moss but showed drastic spiritual changes.

“Some of my most memorable experiences are seeing the young kids grow in their knowledge of the Lord,” Moss said.

The leaders of the ministry have no intention of stopping there.

“I would like to see S.A.Y. Yes! as something that is not just a ministry for the kids but that it has an overall effect on the entire community,” said Moss.

Only with the help of dedicated members can S.A.Y. Yes! expand into other areas of ministry on Skid Row. The ministry still needs students to tutor and mentor, as well as to assist in teaching English to Spanish speaking adults. Students interested in helping children and adults acquire computer skills are also needed in S.A.Y. Yes!. Students interested in joining the ministry or in praying for the youth of inner-city Los Angeles can email Caitlynn Pearsey through BUBBS for more information.

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