On the bustling streets of San Francisco you can see them
every day. More than 14,000 strong, they push battered shopping carts full of
tattered belongings, grope through dumpsters and back alleys for food, or stand
idly among the busy throng. Their vacant gazes and world-weary expressions tell
stories of untold heartache, wasted lives and lost hope.
They are the city’s homeless — part of a burgeoning
population wandering the streets of communities across America. But to Pastors
Evan and April Prosser, they are people with faces, names and hearts that cry
out for help and healing. They also make up the core of the Prossers’ vibrant
Assemblies of God congregation, appropriately named the Homeless Church.
How God has moved on this nontraditional congregation to
partner with a young missionary called to a land thousands of miles away is a
story that is challenging to churches of all kinds.
“Homeless people are just like anybody else out there trying
to make their way in life,” explains Evan, a Harvard graduate and 1960s hippie.
“The difference is that these folks have been knocked down one too many times
and have stopped getting up to try again.”
While defeat and discouragement have chained thousands of
homeless to a desperate cycle of misery, God is powerfully using the Homeless
Church to heal and transform lives every day. “These precious men and women are
like diamonds in the rough, waiting to be polished by the power of the Holy
Spirit,” says Evan. “God is going to get value from their lives.”
In 1994 God called Evan and April to leave the pastorate of
a conventional church and minister among San Francisco’s homeless. They
purchased and moved into an old school bus, which they now call home. “We felt compelled
to cast in our lot with the people,” says Evan.
They quickly discovered that the homeless community is
composed of people from all walks of life. “One of our first contacts was a
woman who had worked for NASA,” recalls Evan. “She got trapped by alcohol, lost
her job and was living in a van with her young daughter. I gave her my Bible.”
As the Prossers lived and moved among the homeless, they
quickly realized the potential in front of them. “We didn’t have any problem
seeing beyond their current trouble and issues,” says April. “Right from the
start God gave us the eyes of His Spirit to see clearly what He wanted to do
with their lives.”
Today, as their lives are transformed and empowered through
the gospel, these same individuals have begun to reach out to their community
— and beyond. That is precisely what happened when missionary LaDawn
Rance called Evan and asked to come and share her heart for the people of the
Dominican Republic at his church.
As with all AG missionaries, LaDawn raises her support by
appealing directly to pastors and churches. But, the people attending the
Homeless Church lacked enough even for their own needs, let alone extra to give
“When LaDawn called me and asked to have a service, I
basically told her, ‘I would love to, but our members are homeless and don’t
have any money,’” Evan recalls.
Undeterred, LaDawn asked to come anyway, just to share her
vision and ask for prayer support. “I wanted to share my heart,” she says.
“Even if they couldn’t do anything else, I knew they could help me through
The awesome move of God that took place at the simple,
outdoor gathering has continued to affect not only the Homeless Church, but
also far beyond the city limits of San Francisco. As Evan introduced her that morning,
he did so with some trepidation, realizing that the people had little or no
money to give.
“But as I stood there talking with my hands open, a
wonderful thing happened,” he recounts. “People came up and began putting money
in my hands. The Lord touched their hearts and things just broke wide open.”
That Sunday the Homeless Church received an offering of $19
and followed up the next Sunday with $72. “You could just sense that something
had begun there in the hearts of the people that God was going to use for His
glory,” says Evan.
Many of those attending the Homeless Church earn what little
money they have by collecting and selling aluminum cans to local recycling
centers. April encouraged them to commit just a few cans each month to LaDawn’s
work in the Dominican Republic and trust God to honor their faithfulness.
And He has. Currently the Homeless Church is collecting an
average of $50 per week for LaDawn’s ministry. Evan explains that it is a step
of faith that has stretched him and blessed his congregation with the joy of
pouring themselves into the work of God’s kingdom.
“Every Sunday I
remind them of the support they have given to LaDawn’s ministry and how they
are lighting a fire in the hearts of others to support God’s work throughout
the world,” he says. “Then I hold out my hand, and they come up and start
putting in money — a few coins, maybe a dollar, and sometimes $5 or even
$10. It’s a sacred moment of worship that I know deeply touches the heart of
For some, the response is almost beyond comprehension. Here
are individuals with no money or means of support, struggling and living by
faith each day for every mouthful they eat. Yet they give what they have with
joy and a sense of expectancy at what God will do with their gifts.
“They see this as an opportunity to give back to God, who
has done so much for them,” explains Evan. “I tried for years to get people to
tithe on even the little they have. But since this has happened, I’m surprised,
blessed and moved every Sunday.”
What has made the difference? What is it that has caused
these men and women of the streets to open their hands and their hearts to
LaDawn and the people of the Dominican Republic? The answer goes right to the
heart of the gospel and is the reason the Prossers came to San Francisco in the
“I’ve got Christ in my life, and other people need Christ,”
says Cameron, a homeless man. “That’s what our work is for — to bring
Christ into other people’s lives. It’s not about what we hoard; it’s about what
we have to give. If we don’t give to them, they’re not going to be able to give
Another man, Lionel, tells of hearing about people in Africa
who are so destitute they resort to searching for food on garbage heaps. “We
don’t want that to happen in the Dominican Republic,” he says. “Jesus says, ‘If
you love me, you should do unto the very least of these, my little ones.’ And
if you do this, you did it to Him. We give because we are commanded by Jesus to
give to the poor.”
“We give to
missions because God says we are to support those who do the work of the Lord,”
says Marvin, another homeless man. “We want to support missions.” He adds that
while the amount each person gives is never very much, “God says if we give, He
will bless it — He will double it — some sixtyfold, some a hundred,
For LaDawn, receiving monthly support from a congregation of
homeless people is a humbling, moving experience.
“I feel challenged and honored to be somebody they believe
in — somebody they want to partner with to be Kingdom builders,” she
says. “It has made me know that God is in charge, and even in the midst of
impossible circumstances, He can touch people’s hearts.”
To Evan, the steps of faith his congregation has taken to be
a part of missions present a huge challenge to conventional churches
everywhere. “God’s heart is missions,” he says. “As a pastor, one of the
greatest things I can do is give people a chance to have a part in the work of
The response of the Homeless Church to God’s heart for missions
has raised Evan’s level of expectation. “I was asking for cans to crush, and
they came up and put $5 or $10 in my hand,” he says.
“The missions call has a hold on their hearts and has made
me realize that people want an opportunity to give to God. I am absolutely
convinced that if churches everywhere would commit to giving to missions, God
would bless mightily in ways they can’t even imagine.”
Dave Bohon and his family attend the Grove Christian Center,
an Assemblies of God congregation in Maple Grove, Minnesota.