Friday nights are the reward of most college students’ week, the first oasis after five days of head cramming. But for a certain group of Master’s College students, Friday nights are important for a different reason. Every Friday at 8 p.m. a dedicated group of students, often referred to as “Skid-Rowers,” meets at the gazebo on lower campus before driving to inner city L.A. These students spend their Friday nights with the homeless of Skid Row. Rats, drugs, and gangs are all part of Skid Row, but what most prominently defines the place are people with no home and no one to love them. An area of the city that most citizens choose to stay away from has become the focus of a ministry headed up and passed on year after year by students of TMC.
“Knowing that things continue down there is a huge encouragement.” Said Former TMC student and ministry founder, Ryan Paige. Skid Row, a ministry he started at Master’s in the fall of 2003 when two friends of the college, Paige (who later became a student) and Bob Stevens teamed up with two students attending the college; Donovan Drew, and Scott Newman to extend their urban ministry efforts to Skid Row. TMC junior Frederick Ruckersfeldt, a Skid Row ministry veteran, got hooked on the ministry his first Friday night on campus. “Skid Row forces you to be grounded in the Word so you can answer all these questions that you have probably never heard before,” said Ruckersfeldt. Carrie Poole, a TMC junior and faithful Skid Row ministry member, is drawn to the ministry by the people it reaches. To her, this outreach is a perfect fit for those seeking to imitate Christ. “It’s all about loving the unlovable,” she said. “Just love, love and listen!”
Each Friday night after crew pools money to buy tacos — the idea being to fill both bellies and souls with warm food and the gospel. “Something that I didn’t realize when I first went down there was that they might need food and clothing.” Poole said. “But what they really, really need is the gospel, and that’s the one way that we can help them more than anything else.” The team splits into groups of three or four, walking the streets and showing Christ’s love to those the world might call unlovable. “I can’t tell you how many times people on the street have told us how awesome it is that we come down.” Poole said. Many nights, Skid Row servants listen for hours to war veterans, young adults, or gang members as they tell their stories. Students that have been involved in the ministry for several years say they have seen lives changed with time. The ministry is going on its seventh consecutive year. The key to it all, according to Poole, is a steady flow of faithful students. “The ministry needs people,” she said. “There haven’t been a lot of people lately.”
Ruckersfeldt agrees that there is a need. “Consistent people,” he said. “It has always been only three or four people that are consistent and the people on Skid Row know that: they know who comes every week.” Interest in the ministry is often high but seldom long-term. According to one Skid Row veteran, “A lot of people say, ‘Ooh that would be awesome, that’s such a cool ministry. But then they never come.’” The ministry needs college students who want to put what they are learning into practice in a real-world situation. When asked what they would want people to know about the ministry, Pool said: “To realize there is a need, and that The Master’s College should be only half of the Christian life for students here. The other half is to live it out through ministry, Skid-Row or any other ministry.” Said Ruckersfeldt: “Knowing that the mission field is not only on the other side of the world — that there are people who need the gospel — you can minister in a cross-cultural context right here.”
Friday nights are hard to give up, but every Skid-Rower understands that following Christ means sacrifice and the Lord is blessing those sacrifices. “Some Fridays have been a little harder than others, but in the end I always end up being so blessed by the people down there,” Poole said. “They give us affirmation about being down there every week by telling us how much we are needed.”
To read other articles from A Student’s Perspective download “The Master’s Piece” To read other articles from A Student’s Perspective download “The Master’s Piece” March 2010 issue.