On Tuesday, February 22, rain pours down on the Azusa Pacific University campus. Walkways flood as students trudge to class in drenched clothes and soaked hair, toting various colored umbrellas. As the early afternoon approaches and many students wander back to their apartments, 10-15 students venture down to Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles for a unique service experience. The Say Yes! Program, gives volunteers the opportunity to work one-on-one with homeless children. Kelly Hadager '08 observes on the way there, “It’s hard to complain about the rain when I see homeless (people). I think about how we’re gonna get out of the car, get wet and complain about it, but go home later, take a shower, and put new clothes on. These people can’t.”
Director Tim Peters has been in charge of the Skid Row Say Yes! Program since its conception in 1994. Before Central City Outreach sponsored him in 1994, Peters, after witnessing firsthand how the children of Skid Row had been “falling through the cracks” of programs such as Union Rescue Mission, began a tutoring program in 1994. It has since evolved into a small after-school program, with activities such as arts and crafts, Bible study, and games. He credits APU for the program’s recent growth, which has doubled due to the student volunteers’ daily involvement since the beginning of fall 2004.
Peters’ philosophy has never been just to provide homework help, he firmly believes that Say Yes! is not a “program, but a relationship.” He has created an environment where students can receive one-on-one attention from a mentor and that encourages volunteers to attend at least once a week in order to preserve the growing volunteer-student relationships. Peters wants to not only nurture these children academically, but also socially and emotionally. He knows that many of the children come from broken lives and he loves seeing how much joy they have despite what is going on outside of Say Yes!.
There have been some amazing stories of students whose lives have been completely renewed through the Say Yes! Program and Peters’ goal of showing Christ’s love to all. For example, Thomas, a former drug dealer and gang member, completely changed his life around after accepting Christ. Children like Thomas capture Peters’ heart and fuel his intense passion to make a difference in each one of their lives.
For more information on the Say Yes! Program, visit the Office of Ministry and Service (MAS) website.