What would make a man pack up his wife and seven children and move from a safe Arizona suburb to one of the deadliest neighborhoods in Los Angeles County? For Pastor Todd Grant, 49, it was a strong sense of calling.
Today, seven years later, Powerhouse Church in Watts is bringing healing to a hurting community through numerous free programs including a dental clinic, mobile crisis pregnancy unit, job placement, counseling, tutoring, and an onsite medical clinic, which opened up the same week in 2007 that the nearby Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital closed its doors.
Going back to the deadly 1965 riots, the neighborhood has long been troubled by drugs, prostitution, homelessness, and homicides.
It is enough to make any resident uneasy, but for Todd it was the unease created by his previously all-too-comfortable life that led him to the inner city. “We were in a placwherewe could buy a brand new home,” he says. “The neighborhood had new schools, and it was a fairly homogenous community—mostly white, upper-middle-class. But I didn’t feel like I was where I was supposed to be.”
Watts is densely populated, with 41,000 residents inhabiting little more than two square miles. Most live in former government housing projects, the names of which also delineate rival gang territories. The Grape Street Crips claim the Jordan Downs project, while Imperial Courts is home to the P Jay Crips—that territory also lies adjacent to the World Impact building used by Powerhouse Church. And less than a mile from Powerhouse is Nickerson Gardens, territory of the Bounty Hunter Bloods, and the location of a second church set up with the aim of bringing the rivals together one Sunday each month.
He and his wife Jennifer have no regrets about moving to Watts, where they live with their children in a home near Imperial Courts. “This is where I believe God wants us to be. There’s a great sense of peace about it. I go to pastors’ conferences but I don’t envy or look over my shoulder at any other ministry thinking I’d rather be there. We love the people here. I’ve seen a lot of lives get changed.”
He tells of a mother finding strength to forgive the man who shot her two sons on the same day, killing one. Other members are able to give up drugs and become healthier in body and spirit. Another church member’s tragic past includes having to give up 10 of her children to social services. “Now, she is a different person,” he says. “She’s been allowed to keep her last child.”
The church was set up through the Christian & Missionary Alliance, in partnership with World Impact Incorporated, both Christian mission organizations. Leaders have emerged from within the local church community, and now help to manage many of the various programs to address needs from transitional housing to mentoring.
“We laugh because our church has only about six parking spots, but the sanctuary is full every Sunday.”
(READ MORE at TruthAtlas.com – reprinted with permission)