For the last 10 years, a beloved tradition based on free burgers and Jesus has developed in the midst of the Friday night madness of Del Playa Drive in Isla Vista.
Every Friday night starting at 10 p.m., members of the I.V. Church (IVC) gather at “Jesus House” on the 6600 block of Del Playa to grill and serve up to 200 free burgers to college students partying and roaming the streets. Lead pastor Jason Lomelino and members of the IVC congregation have gathered their personal experiences with Jesus Burgers into a book with a collection of 25 testimonies about Jesus.
“We just love Jesus, and we just want to make him known. This has been something we really believe God began years ago to bless the city of Isla Vista. We really want to give people a way to love the city they live in; I.V. is pretty much always associated with a bad reputation, and we want those living outside I.V. to see that good things are happening here,” explained Lomelino.
When Jesus Burgers first began in Anisq’Oyo’ Park, the reaction was mostly positive due to the large numbers of homeless people that it served. However, when the operation moved to its current location, it was poorly received by the revelers on Del Playa.
“When we first moved to D.P., people weren’t sure what we were trying to do. They would get angry and asked if the burgers were poisoned. They were convinced we were using the burgers to convert them,” Lomelino said, adding that some of it had to do with the fact that I.V. felt more unsafe at the time.
In recent years, however, many students and community members, including the Isla Vista Foot Patrol, have expressed appreciation for the presence of Jesus Burgers on Del Playa.
“We let people use our bathrooms, get them water, and will drive people home if they can’t get there for whatever reason. Jesus House and Jesus Burgers have become a safe place; we’ve had people run into the property who were being chased,” Lomelino said. “We would love to see more Jesus Houses in the future, more believers coming together to live and provide food. We really want it to be just another party in I.V., except it would be the best party.”
Due to the relatively small congregation size of IVC, Lomelino said he is able to have a relationship with nearly everyone. “Because I have the opportunity to be involved in peoples’ lives since the congregation is pretty small, when the time came to write the book, I already sort of knew most peoples’ stories. I prayed and felt that these people were the right ones to feature in the book.”
The IVC is currently working on a second book, titled The Family of God: True Stories of a Church Growing into a Family, which will be available in February 2013.
Jesus Burgers: True Stories of Love, Redemption & Miracles in a College Town is available through Lomelino’s blog at Lomelinosiniv.com, and will be available through Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble beginning October 1. Donations to support Jesus Burgers can be made at JesuslovesIV.com.