The Los Angeles Times writes that in Isla Vista, an area near the University of Santa Barbara known for the cavorting and hard partying of college students, the non-denominational Isla Vista Church runs what is popularly known as the Jesus Burgers house.
Here free burgers are handed out to encourage people to learn more about the Christian faith. The building was leased in 2002, and members of the church live there, along with senior pastor Jason Lomelino, who took the job in 2007.
The local community has known its share of tragedy; Eliot Rodger killed six people and himself in May. In 2001, David Attias, a student at UCSB, rammed his car into a crowd, killing four and severely injuring another, and last winter, two women claimed they had been gang-raped.
Isla Vista’s population is a tiny part of the county’s at only 7%, but the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said almost 25% of serious and violent crime in the county happens in Isla Vista. Lomelino, 34, said:
People are hurting, and what we see is a manifestation of that in excessive partying, drugs, and sex. Sometimes it can escalate into things of this nature. There’s a darkness to this place. It has its trials, and there is this sense that the city is going in one direction and we’re going in a different direction. But we have a ton of hope; we’re seeing things get better and improving every year.
Lomelino started his ministerial work with a monthly worship night at a park, giving out free burgers, walking on Del Playa Drive on Friday nights to preach the Gospel.
But he added, “There’s a reason why this church is in this city. The light shines brightest in the darkest of places… God is taking this city through something, this church through something.”