Three weeks before he was set to leave home to play college baseball in Southern California, Zachary Olsen told his parents he would not be going to college.
Olsen, a 2012 Pitman High graduate, had a full scholarship to attend and play baseball at Master’s College, but decided instead to be an intern for San Francisco City Impact, a gospel mission in the city's poorest district, the Tenderloin.
“I wasn’t at peace with my decision to play baseball at Master’s,” Olsen said.
Olsen first discovered City Impact after meeting the pastor, Clint Ladine, in a basketball league. Olsen would not be starting college until January 2013, so he visited City Impact twice over the fall of 2012, even preaching at a service. After his second visit, and corresponding with Ladine, Olsen knew his mission in life was taking a new direction.
Olsen said it was difficult, but he called his coach at Master’s and told him he would not be playing baseball. The coach, also a Christian, understood Olsen’s decision.
In February Olsen left for San Francisco as an intern at City Impact. San Francisco City Impact is a non-denominational ministry geared towards reaching the needs of the inner-city. The organization provides relief with the goal of breaking the cycles of addiction and dependency in the Tenderloin. A few of City Impact’s operations include a school, food bank, and thrift store for residents in the area.
While it hasn't been an easy transition from suburban Turlock to the inner-city, Olsen feels he is on the right path. A month ago, he was promoted to staff member as a Missions Team Assistant and Leader of the Adopt a Building program.
The Adopt a Building program highlights City Impact’s belief that the health of the community is determined by what happens behind closed doors. Tenderloin residents typically live isolated lives in single room apartments, often in fear of what lies right outside their door.
Olsen goes door to door offering prayer and services to residents, as well as following up with people who have attended their services.
“Right now, I’m planting seeds,” Olsen said, encouraged when he sees City Impact’s mission positively influencing the residents’ lives.
Olsen said he gets to know the residents and often looks forward to checking up on familiar faces.
As for the future, Olsen says he plans to remain with City Impact until August 2014, and will pray for guidance from there.
Those interested in SF City Impact’s mission and projects can learn more at sfcityimpact.com.