By Araya Moss
More than 30 years ago, Sali Butler, a member of Valley Crossroads church, often joined friend June Williams, a member of Altadena church, and Williams’ two young sons on Sabbath afternoons to feed those facing homelessness in MacArthur park, Mid-Wilshire, and other Los Angeles neighborhoods.
After having a conversation with Irma Woods, a member of University church, about what they could do on Sabbath during this pandemic aside from joining online worship services, Butler was reminded of that ministry and came up with a plan.
Butler sent a request to friends and church family who might be interested in serving local homeless communities. “The need to do something is probably there for all of us,” Butler said, “however, most of the time we are waiting for someone to get something started.”
Those who could not go out donated cases of water, snacks, food containers, condiments, ziplock and grocery bags, plastic cutlery, and money to help with anything else needed. Butler’s dentist even donated masks and gloves that were included as PPE packages to go with the lunches.
By the next weekend, Butler, Woods, Williams, and Stacy Moss, a member of Valley Crossroads church, set off for Hollywood. Coming from different cities—Redlands, Thousand Oaks, Santa Clarita, and Pasadena—together they caravanned from encampment to encampment. Williams served as the navigator.
“My inspiration actually came from praying mid-way through the COVID-19 pandemic that God would reveal to me something I could participate in,” said Moss. “Then, along came Sali.”
When the group was down to the last four bags in Hollywood, they pulled up to a street and saw three people sitting together on the ground and a fourth person about 100 feet away. Butler went to give a bag to the lady at the other end of the street. “As I walked toward her, I just began calling out, ‘Sister, sister, where have you been? I’ve been looking for you all day; I have your lunch,’” said Butler. “The lady looked all around her and then back into my eyes and said, ‘You lookin’ for me? Somebody’s looking for me?’ As I handed her the bag, she said, ‘Thank you, sister. Thank you for looking for me.’”
The following weekend, Butler and Moss were joined by Loritha McDuffie, and her daughter, Glory, members of Ventura church, to hand out lunches in Oxnard. Each person brought different items to pack in the bags that included veggie sandwiches, a fruit cup or sliced watermelon, a bag of chips, trail mix, PPE, and bottled water. In addition to handing out meals, they also shared GLOW tracts and copies of Steps to Christ, talked and listened with some, and prayed with others.
Butler plans to continue serving as often as God allows, welcoming anyone so moved to join her. “Although we all belong to different churches,” Butler said, “this effort is one way to serve during the pandemic and let people know that COVID can’t stop love.”