“We are standing on Holy Ground… and there are angels all around.”
When you hear the congregation at Victory Outreach Church of San Diego sing the popular church song, you know many of their lives have been “touched by God.”
God has rescued many of the church goers from a life of sin and Victory Outreach — known as “The House of Miracles” — has helped them get their lives in order.
“Victory Outreach is called to reach out to the hurting people of San Diego,” said Pastor Tony Guzman, who began the inner-city ministry 13 years ago by street preaching in Chicano Park. The church has moved several times, but it’s now situated in what the pastor says is the perfect location — “right in the middle of the worst areas of San Diego” at 4235 National Ave. in a three-story, 30,000 sq. ft. building.
A large portion of the 500-600 members arrive early on Sunday mornings to pray for the service and ministry of the church in Southeast San Diego.
They pray, many on their knees, because they know prayer works and God is alive. Most of the families in the church have at least one loved one in jail, on drugs, in a gang, on probation or in some kind of trouble. The people in Victory Outreach Church are survivors, conquering their sin through their faith in Jesus Christ — and many are now positive role models in the inner-city.
During a Sunday service in late July, special music was presented by a husband and his wife and their two daughters. Between songs, the husband asked the church to keep his family in prayer. “My son is in jail and my other daughter has ‘backsliden’ and has fallen away from Christ,” he said emotionally. “Please pray for them.”
The verses of other songs the church sang tell of the church’s priorities: “There is glory in the house of the Lord” and “Let Your anointing flow through us as we praise,” for example.
And in the church bulletin, there is a “Success Story” section:
“My husband and I met when I was 15 years old and in Juvenile Hall, and he was going to Youth Authority for two years. After his return we were living together and we both got into drugs heavily, Andy on heroin and myself on coke and speed. This of course tore our marriage apart.
“When things became worse, I turned to the Lord and He began to heal and restore my life. And I ‘thank God I did,’ because eight years later God fully restored my husband’s life.”
The couple, Andy and Tammy Baca, left San Diego to direct the women’s home in Brawley for two years, then the men’s home for nine months. They are currently back at Victory Outreach in San Diego, faithfully serving in the church with their two children.
“There are many stories like that, of God restoring relationships,” said Guzman.
“One misconception is that people think I’m director of a rehab center. That’s not the case. I’m a pastor, and the rehab center is one of the departments of the church,” Guzman said.
In Victory Outreach San Diego, about 70% of the church went through the rehab center. Guzman said that figure is higher than the Victory Outreach nationwide average of about 50%.
There is a full church schedule of church activities, with Sunday worship and children’s chapel at 10 a.m. There is also a Sunday evening service (6 p.m.), Bible study and Royal Rangers/Missionettes on Wednesday evenings at 7, and on Friday at 7 there is a regular service and youth program. There’s always something special happening at the church, especially for youth.
“The world’s always bidding for our kids and we have to keep their interest in things of God,” Guzman said.
12-step programs and vocational training aren’t part of Victory Outreach’s rehab plan. It’s a 1-step program — Christ. Guzman said the men and women in the rehab homes have a slogan: “Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the noontime, Jesus in the evening!”
“Another slogan is ‘Beans and rice and Jesus Christ,'” he said with a chuckle.
Victory Outreach also declines to get involved in prevention programs, the pastor said. It’s all treatment — usually 9 months to a year in the rehab homes.
“The goal is to get people straight, off welfare and to bring dignity to their lives,” he said. “Take drugs and you die. We challenge their growth and responsibility — and patience.”
And lives change. Thousands of ex-addicts now serving in Victory Outreach or other movements, Guzman said.
“We always do an altar call,” the pastor said. “We intend to preach the Word so that the gang member, prostitute or drug addict will be touched.
“Most people who visit here don’t take it serious, but if they will listen to the message and we can give them just a little hope — make them think just maybe they can change — then a hunger develops…
“I didn’t come to church serious. I thought all Christians were white, old ladies or squares, but I came to get people off my back. Then I was able to listen, taste and see that He is good.”
Now, more than 20 years later, Guzman is continuing to reach out to the hurting in San Diego.
“If we teach you right, we’ll teach you the word of God and to fall in love with Jesus,” the pastor said. “That’s all you need!”
“We’re able to change lives here, but we cheat — we let God do the transformation — if they will give their life to God. It’s really a joy to see hardened men and women become children of God.”