The Beauty and Ugliness of Cities

In our trip to the Tenderloin in San Francisco, the beauty and ugliness of a city hits you in the face quickly. Living in Minneapolis, I realize this as well. Every city has its “gorgeous” side that shows up on TV during “game day.” New Orleans is like this. TV crews at the Super Bowl will show you Bourbon Street and the Dome, but they won’t show you what is literally three blocks away from either of those places.

But even in the ugliness you find beauty.

City Impact, where we worked, was in the Tenderloin. Glide Memorial Methodist Church is two blocks away. YWAM has a base a block away. Teen Challenge has a center around the corner. In the midst of ugliness… beautiful things are happening. And you meet beautiful people.

The contrast of the beauty and ugliness was experienced when we came out of the BART station and thought we were going to be in the Tenderloin itself. Instead, we came up staring at beautiful buildings that make up one of the richest shopping districts in the nation. Three blocks later… the Tenderloin.

Then, there is City Impact itself. The main building is right next door to something San Francisco seems to be fairly proud of in their history. There is a historical marker in front of that building marking it as the birthplace of the adult film industry. Today, it’s a sex club. Hooray.

Birthplace of the adult film industry.
Birthplace of the adult film industry.












Power Exchange
Birthplace of the adult film industry is now a sex club.











And City Impact is right next door.

Beauty. Ugliness. Same place.

Salt and light in the midst of decay and darkness.

It’s a visual reminder everyday in the Tenderloin. For our own lives, it’s not so obvious, but the reality is often it can be the same. We deal with the potential of the beauty of Christ in our lives, or the ugliness of sin. It’s there, but not as obvious as a place like the Tenderloin.




San Francisco, the Tenderloin, and the Supreme Court

We were in San Francisco the same week as the Supreme Court made two key rulings on gay marriage. Several people set me texts or messages asking how things were going in light of that decision.

Some of the messages I didn’t get for a little while because we had lousy cell reception in the Tenderloin. Go figure.

Here is what I realized while involved with City Impact: you’re basically too busy with the poor to follow the news closely. For me, that was refreshing since I’m a huge news junkie. But it also helped me understand the heart of Jesus a whole lot more. I was so busy with City Impact, I didn’t even give much thought once I knew the decisions. 

It doesn’t mean I lack an opinion. I just found myself with a refreshingly different focus and while we were there, it was indescribable. I can’t explain how it felt to not let the news bother ministry. We fed all kinds of people. I don’t even have categories for all of them. We just tried to bless as many people as we possibly could, and it was exhausting and joyful all week long.

City Impact Front