LIVE with Pastor David Trujillo—PART 1
Compiled by Sherri Spencer
Pastor David Trujillo is the pastor of Calvary Chapel South Los Angeles (SOLA), CA. He and his wife, Sonia, have three children, ages 17, 21, and 27. Calvary Chapel Magazine Editor and interviewer Tom Price had ministered with David at the urban ministry conference hosted by Buddy Osborn at the ROCK Kensington, in the inner city of Philadelphia, PA. Part 2 of the interview will follow tomorrow.
Can you explain what the area is like where Calvary Chapel South Los Angeles (SOLA) is located?
When I went to Philadelphia, there were drugs, people shooting up in front of everybody. In the morning you wake up, you look outside and you can see the waste of all the drugs they are using on the sidewalk, and people literally on the ground. So, in that sense it was pretty crazy. When I came back and I was sharing that with some of the people here, they were telling me that I need to go spend some time in downtown L.A., because it’s almost the same thing, with all the homelessness right now.
Here in L.A., homelessness has skyrocketed. A lot of these people are there by choice, because they want to live in that life of drinking, smoking, and so forth. Gang violence goes up and down, depending on someone’s actions. For, instance, if someone shoots somebody [with a gun] and if it’s a different race, [violence] goes up again, and it lasts for a while. By the grace of God, I have people that come to this church that work in what is called “gang intervention”, so they always keep us posted and tell me what’s going on. For instance, there is a brother, Cecil Hernandez, that will tell us, for example, if things are getting heated up between an African American and Hispanic, to give us a heads up. So, we’re constantly getting informed and we can minister accordingly.
Is the Calvary Chapel Ark Montebello similar or different to where you are located?
We’re actually more west of where Ark Montebello is located. Our area is more of a community; Ark Montebello is more industrial. So, we’re actually in the community, we’re surrounded by houses and there’s some fighting for parking.
So being in this community, people are aware of where we’re at and we’re able to build relationships with the people around us. Our goal is to reach this community, and the best way for us to do it is to do what we’re doing right now as we are speaking. We have people in the parking lot giving out food and praying for people. So, the dynamics are a little different, but the people are still the same for Christ.
Pastor Jose Hernandez of Hope Central Watts Calvary Chapel, Watts, CA, shared that only 10% of the young men in their youth group actually have a father figure to look up to. Is that the same in your area?
I would say Yes, but what is interesting is that he is about two miles away from me, maybe a little less, and we’re ministering to two different cultures. We want to minister to whoever comes, but due to the demographics, he ministers more to African Americans; but here where I’m at in Los Angeles we mostly minister to Hispanics. And you know, Hispanics have that family bond, so now we do have families that come here, and we minister to them. Of course, there are always a few that don’t have a father figure in the home, and we try to point them to God and allow God to be their father.
How do you minister to the youth in your area and intervene so they see you as that father figure they can relate to rather than getting involved in a gang?
As I mentioned earlier, Cecil Hernandez works together with the police department. They try to intervene in a child’s life by doing things with them, like taking them to ball games. Unfortunately, right now, because of the quarantine, that is impossible.
Cecil is our connection to the kids. Through him, we were able to enter into some high schools. I was really shocked to see the response of the kids, how they would come out to the Bible study. We’re [seeing] about 20 to sometimes, 30, 40 kids in a classroom, and we bring pizza and soda. I try to bring guys that can teach the Word of God but have a little bit of character in them and are in tune, and so forth. So [Cecil] has been our connection regarding gang life. Also, some of the parents have children who are in gangs. We try to minister to the parents, and we encourage them to bring their kids.
Because I’m an ex-gangbanger, when they come, I always try to remember how I felt when Christians would come down to my neighborhood and try to minister to us. I try to do the opposite rather than condemning them: love them more, but be more relatable, more patient, and not be so pharisaical. And talk to someone even if they said a bad word. We try to be down-to-earth without compromising our testimony or character, so we can relate and communicate [with] them. The reality is, the Bible teaches that love never fails, and it’s the greatest gift of all gifts. So, if we move in love, I believe that God will use that tremendously to reach a gangbanger.
When you go back into the high schools and see the kids, do you see yourself and remember acting and thinking the same way?
To be honest, I never went to high school. I went to school when I was in jail when I was younger, but I do look into those kids’ lives and I do remember a lot. I remember how they hung around, they joke around; so watching that, I do reminisce and I thank God that He opened my eyes and pulled me out of the gang life.
You mentioned that at this time you’re having a food distribution in front of your church. How important is this food distribution to the people in your area, and how have they been impacted by the pandemic?
There is a great need all the time. It’s a little bit more now because a lot of the people around this community have lost their jobs. We’re in a city where it’s very populated, and we have a lot of illegal immigrants that lose their jobs too. So, we try to minister to the community, doing our best to feed them as much as we can.
I do see the need is rising as they keep closing the city down and so forth, but the Lord has been faithful out of nowhere. We started going to one place, grabbing a few boxes. Now we’re getting pallets and pallets of food. For a time there, we couldn’t get frozen foods like meat, cheese, and dairy, but the Lord opened up a door. We went to a place here down the street and talked to the owner or the manager. He’s actually a believer and goes to Calvary Chapel Anaheim, CA. He said we can store our food there, whatever we want. “What?” I asked him how much, and he said, ”Free.”
[God’s] just blessing us. So, I tell the ladies and the guys here, “Let’s take advantage of this, let’s go all in, let’s go all out, let’s be a blessing, let’s be a light to the community.” The reality is, we know the food is not what saves [people], but through the food, it opens up the opportunity to open the door to the heart.
You can see God’s fingerprints all over and it’s a blessing. It’s very encouraging, because it allows you to keep pressing in, bringing Him glory and honor.
How did the pandemic emotionally affect the people in your area?
I have seen a lot of people’s marriages failing. I’ve seen a lot of people getting depressed. I’ve talked to a couple that have tampered with suicidal thoughts. Some people question God, especially when it starts getting heavy. In fact, my wife and I have done more in-person ministry than ever before.
Right now, we’ve been meeting with certain couples at our home, inviting them over for dinner, just to hang out and to let them talk, and we minister and pray for them. I’ve noticed we’re doing things more like we used to back in the old days. When we first started, we had just that face-to-face hanging out [time]. I do see some people questioning God, but not all. In fact, the opposite is true in the sense that I’ve seen more people coming to church. They are starting to come back, and we are trying our best to follow the guidelines the best that we can.
Actually, this Wednesday we had a good turnout. Also, people are sticking to the Lord—there are people realizing that with everything that is going on, Christ is around the corner. So, for us, I try to get them excited, to get them pumped up. I tell them to look at the world; everything that the Bible talks about is happening. It’s about a minute before it strikes midnight. Look up, get active, you want to be caught by our Lord serving Him.
Pastor José Hernandez works with the Los Angeles Police Department and shared that they work together and have programs for the kids, like the Father/Daughter Dance. How is the relationship with your church and the police in your area?
We’ve actually participated in some of those events, so it was a blessing. It was tear-jerking. Unfortunately, I think they stopped because of the quarantine. Those are things that we’re trying to do to engage the community here in South Los Angeles. We’re actually under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. So, it’s a whole different dynamic. I just became a chaplain for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. They want to work with me and start programs here at the church, but for right now they’re waiting for me to get my feet wet. I went on some ride-alongs, and I’ve had the pleasure of ministering to them and sharing with them a little bit about my testimony to gain their trust.
I was at the Sheriff’s Department recently and was able to talk to a few of [the officers] to start a real relationship. With me, it’s a little bit different, because I’m more focused on the [officers]. You have some chaplains that are for the people, but I’m more focused on ministering to the [officers]. They want to make sure that we keep it like that, because if they see that we’re ministering to the people, then the officers will not open up. They need to get ministered to because of everything they go through.
In fact, I was talking to someone from the Sheriff’s Department and they were telling me about a protest in Compton [where] rocks, water bottles, and other things being thrown. So, I was listening to him, hearing him vent, and he asked me what I thought about it. It’s sad where we’re at right now. So, I was able to share with him [how] he can find hope in the Lord Jesus Christ and to comfort him.
If you remember me, please pray that God would open up doors with the Sheriff’s Department, so that we could not only minister to the community with them backing us up, but also minister to them. So, that’s where we’re at right now with the Sheriff’s Department.
How did the George Floyd murder impact your community?
In the area I’m at, a lot of people have bad encounters with police. I was a victim of police brutality when I was younger. I got picked up and dropped off at the wrong neighborhood and had to run for my life. At the age of 16, I was caught in an alley by cops, [who] beat me up with their batons and fractured my ribs. My brother was handcuffed, and charges were thrown at him. So, we know police brutality. Not all of them are like that. There were some bad apples, but there were some police [who], when they pulled us over, would ask what we were doing. They would talk to us to try to get us away from the gangs and give us a vision of what we could be if we would just focus on doing better for ourselves. So, there are some bad apples, but there are many more good police, and I’m thankful for that.
In this area, there were mixed feelings and understandably so, because when you see what transpired with George Floyd, it’s sad. When I was watching it, I was upset; I was thinking Get off of him. I also understood that not every cop is like that and [Officer Derek Chauvin] deserves justice, rightly so, but at the same time, we’re not to allow our anger to dictate our faithfulness to the Lord. What I mean by that is: Pray for him, because he needs Christ just like everyone else does.
So, what the Scripture has taught us, is to pray. Pray for those in authority, pray for those in leadership, and so forth. There were mixed feelings here, but [we’re] sharing with [people] from the Word of God, speaking truth to them, and getting them to understand that [officers aren’t] all bad. In fact, I had to talk to some [people] and say, “I’m a chaplain, I’m hanging around with [officers], and they are regular people. They are just like you—they have their fears and they also make mistakes just like us.”
So we just stick to the Word of God, be honest with the people, and allow them to vent because they have to get it out, then with love and patience and with the Word of God, explain it to them. We point them to Scripture and then allow God and the Holy Spirit to do what He needs to do in that person’s way of thinking and heart.
How are the riots impacting your congregation as they are seeing the police getting things thrown at them and hurt?
What’s sad is that it’s not only the cops that are getting the bad end of the stick—even innocent protesters are getting hurt if they make a stand. They’re getting beat up, shot, and killed. Of course, as a pastor, my responsibility is to at least try to help the body to keep their eyes on Christ; [when] these conversations come up, we talk about it. But we always try to balance it out with Scripture because we’re always ministering, we’re always building up, we’re always trying to get them to focus on the Lord. Because if you take your eyes off the Lord, it can easily get you.
Many times, when I’m watching the news and I see an innocent person downtown getting beat up, I want to go down there and back him or her up, and I think, No, just calm down, David. We do have to get involved. Don’t just stay quiet about the matter. Talk about it, and again direct every conversation back to the Word of God. We encourage them to listen [when we say], “OK, I hear you, but this is what the Word of God says.” Matthew chapter 5 talks about when [people] say all kinds of evil against you and you’re persecuted. [Jesus] says, pray for them and bless them. So, you have to go back to the Word of God, because if not, we can end up doing something that we are going to regret.
I like what my wife says, I find so much truth to it: “You say you can choose a sin, but not the consequences.” It’s true, we can act out in sin and then later the consequences come and get us.
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version.
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