Saving Philadelphia’s Mean Streets
David and Shirrie Dominguez minister on the overlooked mean streets of Philadelphia, where dirty heroin needles carpet empty lots and prostitutes openly sell their services.
“I felt called by God to go into an urban area that needs an unconventional ministry more than the traditional church,” says PDCC Pastor David Dominguez, a U.S. missionary associate with Missionary Church Planters & Developers.
Dominguez lived in Philadelphia for three years before fleeing to Miami at age 6 because two thugs attempted to kill his immigrant father. As a troubled teenager, he spent much time in juvenile detention centers before transitioning to the county jail. He faced a lengthy prison sentence in his mid-20s and promised God, “If you get me out of this, I will serve you the rest of my life.”
Ranked the poorest among the top 10 U.S. cities, well over 40 percent of Philadelphia residents live in deep poverty. About 1,200 people died of drug overdoses in 2017.
David and Shirrie Dominguez moved to the city with their four children in 2016. After exploring needy neighborhoods, they began weekly outreaches with a small team of Christians. They minister in McPherson Square Park, notorious for open drug dealing, and Fotteral Square, across from a low-income apartment project. Between 30 to 50 youngsters, ages 6 to 16, show up at each location for Bible lessons, games, snacks, and mentoring.
Mary Concepcion’s three granddaughters attend the McPherson Park outreach.
“The Dream Center people show the real love of God and I trust them,” Concepcion says. “They have helped us with school supplies and even with Thanksgiving dinner last year.”
The team also feeds about 100 homeless street people weekly and distributes canned goods to families. Once a month, team members share the gospel with students at Temple University.
While the couple currently runs PDCC from their home, they are searching for a permanent rental facility. The ministry operates within the Dream Center Network, which includes 68 centers in 27 states and nine countries. PDCC will have a soft launch in June, followed by the official public opening this fall.
Shirrie Dominguez leads a team of women called “the Midnight Angels” who minister to prostitutes and those caught in human trafficking. Building relationships and offering prayer, they visit strip clubs and provide gift baskets containing cosmetics, CDs, Bibles, gift cards, and social service resource information. Women have left the club lifestyle and have been baptized.
“The ministry saved my life and pulled me out of the depths of hell,” says Jessica, a former strip club dancer. “I don’t know where I would be or how my life would be if these women didn’t come and save me and show me how much Jesus loves me.”
Although the team works crime-laden streets where pimps recognize them, no one has harmed them.
“God gives perfect peace,” Shirrie Dominguez says. “It’s the Holy Spirit out there that makes us feel secure.”
Outreaches will blanket the city this year. They will be staffed by new interns, missionary associates, students from the School of Urban Missions Bible College, and youth groups from AG churches. PDCC is planning to host a minimum of 50 teams in 2019.