Have you ever had a dream from God to do something great and the thought of fulfilling it burned deep within you? No matter what life tossed at you, it produced a tenacity and determination to keep moving forward toward the goal.
This was true of Pastor Matthew Barnett, a New York Times bestselling author of The Cause Within You and co-founder of the Dream Center in Los Angeles. He said, “I was 16 years old at youth camp in Prescott, AZ when God called me to do something for Him in Los Angeles.” Barnett went on to say that he “thought God was going to bring him to L.A. to build a great church” and at 20 years of age he stepped out to do that. But God brought him to a place where he had to die to his dream of building a great church and he felt all alone. Barnett said, “At this point, God spoke to me and said, ‘Die to your dream of building a church and build the lives of people.’ God’s cause was reaching hurting broken people and I had to learn to align my life with His cause.” Barnett explained that he went into the community surrounding his church with this new revelation from God. He started addressing people in the projects of Los Angeles and began to fill the needs of the people. Drugs, prostitution, homelessness, crime and gang activity were the norm and he had a dream from God to reach these people. Barnett said, “I started the Dream Center in 1994 and eventually moved the Life to its current location in 1998.”
According to their website, “The Dream Center is located on 8.8 acres, just two miles from downtown Los Angeles and a little over two miles from Hollywood. The 360,000 square-foot facility has over 1,000 rooms and a total of 9 buildings on campus. Formerly the Queen of Angels Hospital, this impressive 15-story building is viewed by over two million motorists each week on the Hollywood Freeway.”
According to Barnett, the Dream Center is a non-profit outreach dedicated to helping inner-cities. “Our Life provides hope by meeting both tangible and spiritual needs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
They provide food, clothing, shelter, life rehabilitation, education and job training, biblical training and much more through their 273 ministries and outreaches. “We reach thousands of hurting and needy children, families and adults across all racial and cultural lines each week” explained Barnett.
The Dream Center strives to help solve moral decay, crime, drugs, gangs, homelessness and poverty epidemics that exist in our nation’s inner-cities. The vision of the Dream Center is to see thousands of hurting people come to know a new life through the efforts of our staff, volunteers and recently rehabilitated individuals whose lives have been dramatically changed. There are many ministries and outreaches that make up the Dream Center organization as a whole. Its motto is: “Find a need and fill it, find a hurt and heal it.”
A Few Ministries That Make the Dream Come Alive:
To adopt means to take in as one’s own. Every Saturday morning, an average of 350 volunteers reach out to the residents and the homeless in the surrounding communities of Echo Park, Silverlake, Skid Row and South Central L.A.
Over 5,000 families are visited weekly on a total of 85 blocks. With the goal of serving, teams ask residents, “How can we help you?” Teams mow lawns, clean homes, paint over graffiti, complete minor home repairs, organize games with the children and visit with the elderly. They also provide emergency assistance, such as food and clothing; furniture is also available.
Mobile Food Truck
“Going where they live with what they need is how we feed thousands of people every week. Tuesday through Saturday, at over 28 pre-selected sites, including elementary schools, we provide groceries to over 40,000 people every month. Single mothers, the disabled, the elderly, the unemployed and families living below the poverty line make up the vast majority of our recipients,” Barnett explains.
City Help Mobile Medical Clinic
City Help, an on-site collaborative agency, makes health care accessible and affordable by providing primary health care and prescriptions to those without insurance free of charge.
The mobile medical clinic goes out to neighborhoods in the surrounding communities, including Skid Row and various homeless shelters each week to provide free comprehensive primary medical care. The mobile clinic is equipped to provide diagnostic services, treatment, lab work and pharmacy services.
Free chiropractic care is also available in the Wellness Center, located on the first floor of the Dream Center.
Dream Center Discipleship
The Dream Center Discipleship program is a residential, one-year Christ-centered program that helps adults ages 18-59 with substance abuse, anger management and emotional struggles.
Connections is an intern program for the adult graduates of the Discipleship program. Through counseling, education and training, participants in this program are able to complete their GED, are taught basic life skills and also receive vocational training and career development assistance as they prepare to re-enter the community.
DC Academy is a private Christian school. The primary purpose of the school is to provide a structured and supervised environment for residents of the Dream Center Teen Discipleship (DCTD) program to continue their education. Recently, they opened the program to the community and now allow non-residents to attend.
It is the Dream Center’s belief that no child should be taken away from loving parents because of poverty. Their goal is to help these families make life-long changes and literally change the destiny of their children.
Hope for Homeless Youth
A one-year residential program for young adults, ages 18-24, this weekly outreach and at-risk youth program rescues runaways from the streets of Hollywood. The kids come for the lights and the glamour, but soon find themselves homeless and hooked into prostitution or drug dealing in order to survive. This program provides an escape from the streets and options to return to their families or preparation for life as contributing members of the community.
Under the Bridge
This daily outreach provides 4,800 meals a month to homeless persons living on the streets (literally under bridges and bypasses) and those that are living in motels or shelters.
Barnett explained that across America there were only 39 residential treatment rooms that provided some level of rehabilitation for the damaging affects caused by sex trafficking. His organization saw a huge need and just opened up a whole floor at the Dream Center that can house 60 women and girls who were sold into slavery and offers them a full service/ live-in treatment recovery program.
The Dream Center did not start out with all 273 outreaches and Barnett felt like he did not have what it took to accomplish what God is doing through his Life presently. Barnett said, “I did not think that what was in my hand was enough for God to do something great. I was looking for more, but finally realized that God gave me everything I needed and it had value. Hurting people will find me as I use what God gave me.” Because Pastor Matthew Barnett changed his focus from trying to build a church to building peoples lives, God built his life as an example for others to follow. Today, the Dream Center reaches tens of thousands in the Los Angeles area alone, has a staff of 75 to 100 people and 300 to 400 volunteers serve on a daily basis. Many youth groups, church groups and college ministries come from all over the country to do short term missions trips.
The Dream Center has spread across the globe too, with 150 Dream Center locations worldwide. Barnett became the senior pastor of Angelus Temple back in 2001 and his church continues to grow with a weekly attendance of over 6,000. Recently, Barnett wrote a book, The Cause Within You and it has now become a New York Times bestseller. One important truth Barnett said that he wanted his readers to grasp from the book was, “People do not have to spend their whole life searching for the will of God, but what is in a person’s hand is a starting point.” As Barnett stepped out and used what God put in his hand, amazing doors of Life opened for him.
It is amazing to see what God can do with a person who partners with His cause and lets go of his own limited ways of thinking. God did it for Barnett and He can do it for you too!