By Jose Ivan Cazares
The Disciples on the Move are a common sight on Skid Row, playing music, preaching and passing out food and clothes.
The organization spreads its message internationally by taking on ministry missions in countries like Kenya and Uganda where it is partnered with local pastors, other community leaders and activists.
Joan Doughtry, a missionary evangelist, leads Disciples on The Move from a small prayer center in South Los Angeles on a mission to help the homeless and spread the Christian gospel. The ministry is comprised of men and women from various churches who have come together to support each other and uplift the most vulnerable members of society, Doughtry said.
“We go to the worst of the worst areas bringing food, clothes, lots of love and Jesus,” Doughtry said. “We’re able to get a lot of people off the streets and some of them join our churches. Some might want that life style, but that’s not the majority of them.”
Doughtry sees helping the homeless as her obligation as a Christian and said turning your back on the poor goes against Christian teachings. She sees herself as a soldier on a crusade that is made apparent by her passionate speeches and the military camouflage garments she often wears.
In addition to helping the homeless through direct interactions, the ministry advocates on the homeless’ behalf, demanding bus services and facilities that cater to their needs.
“I know we’re having an impact,” Doughtry said. “I could be in the airport and someone will come up to me and say, ‘You might not know me, but you saved me.’ I have no doubt we’re making a difference.”
She also said many of those who they successfully help overcome homelessness or some sort of addiction join their movement and help others overcome the same obstacles through faith.
She said the greatest challenges the nonprofit faces are funding its mission and recruitment. Doughtry said she is always working to get more churches involved and doesn’t understand how some churches can turn the homeless away.
She conceded that there are challenges when working with the homelessness and stood by her belief that its un-Christian to turn a blind eye to those in need.
“We always need funding, but we also need bodies,” she added. “Its hard to find people who are committed and serious about helping; and willing to get in the trenches.”
The Disciples on the Move have their 21st annual Venice Beach Gospel Crusade Rally coming up Aug. 11. It is a culmination of their work.
They will take over the Venice boardwalk with bands, artists, local choirs and food. The disciples will also be performing baptisms at the beach. A graffiti pit near the beach served as the venue for the nonprofit’s first event and now hosts its annual celebration of the work its members do throughout the year.
“We’ll have ministers bring their entire congregations because they know Disciples on the Move are baptizing,” Doughtry said. “We even give them baptism certificates so they can remember that moment in their life.”
More information on how to donate to Disciples on the Move or volunteer can be found on disciplesonthemove.com. The annual rally is held near the beach where Pacific and Windward avenues intersect.
Director: Joan Doughtry
Years in operation: 21 years
Number of employees: N/A
Annual budget: $35,000
Location: 4228 S. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles, 90037