Frank Sontag is the host of “The Frank Sontag Show,” the largest Christian talk program in the U.S. The program airs 4:00pm-6:00pm, Sunday-Friday, on KKLA radio. Rev. Andy Bales is a frequent guest on “The Frank Sontag Show.” KKLA is also home to Union Rescue Mission’s “Amazing Stories from Skid Row.”
As a talk-show radio host for more than 25 years, Frank Sontag has interviewed countless numbers of individuals in all walks of life — many of them are celebrities and those who are rich, powerful, successful or influential. But his heart beats for Jesus and the “invisible,” precious people on Skid Row.
“I visited Andy Bales at Union Rescue Mission yesterday,” Sontag says. “When I left and walked back to my car, I looked at the hundreds of people living on these streets and I felt the very powerful presence of Jesus. I see Jesus on these streets. There is so much potential to serve the people here and to love them in the name of Jesus Christ.” As a child, Sontag says he was “raised in a difficult area of Cleveland. So I know . . . poverty and violence.” Maybe that’s why he’s always had a heart for those who are underprivileged, struggling, and experiencing homelessness.
Sontag has frequently volunteered to serve people experiencing homelessness on Skid Row for more than 20 years. But it wasn’t until he visited Andy Bales and Union Rescue in 2013 that he realized it was time to get more involved.
“I did a live broadcast right in front of the Mission,” he recalls. “Andy gave me a tour of the building. We prayed together. Now the first word that comes to mind when I think of Union Rescue Mission is ‘hope.’ URM is a bright light — Christ’s light — in this very dark place. They offer people more than meals and shelter, they give people dignity and help them get their lives back together. I know the Lord is calling me to help Union Rescue Mission personally and professionally in every way possible.”
Andy Bales says one of the keys to ending homelessness is for the people of Los Angeles to stop making excuses and get involved helping those who are experiencing homelessness. That message resonates with Sontag.
“Most of us live busy, fast-paced lives, and we’re just too distracted, overwhelmed, and self-absorbed to get involved,” he says. “But Jesus was clear. We’re supposed to deny ourselves and serve others. A big part of my radio program asks the question, ‘What are you going to do today, right now, to serve God and glorify Him?’ I can’t think of a better place to do that than here on Skid Row with Union Rescue Mission.”
I was angry my whole life. My father was an unstable alcoholic and our family struggled financially. I was also one of 12 kids and I never really received the love or attention I needed. So I raged at a world I felt let me down and tried to mask the pain I felt at never feeling loved.
As a teenager, I ran an international drug operation, and earned all the power, respect, sex, and girlfriends I wanted. But I still had that pain in my heart — until 1991, when my girlfriend gave birth to my daughter Melissa.
Melissa swept me off my feet. She was a daddy’s girl who brought love into my life when there wasn’t any. I raised her for 10 years and she meant everything to me. But then her mother took her from me and I never saw her again. All my pain flooded back and I fell deeper and deeper into my addictions.
Loneliness consumed me every day, until God led me to Union Rescue Mission in September 2012. I had spent years lost and in darkness and hell. But when I came here, it’s like God said, “Let there be light.” My chaplain, my therapist, mentors, and even volunteers helped heal the pain I felt.
The people who volunteer here are like guardian angels to me. I don’t know why anyone would choose to love those of us here on Skid Row. But they do. They could just send money to URM, but they want to do more. They want to be here. And their love has made me feel human again. Their love has healed my heart.
Last summer, I searched for my daughter Melissa again. She was 22. But before I could find her, I learned someone murdered my precious girl. I didn’t think I could live through that. But thanks to God and all the people who’d become so important to me in this place, I’ve been able to endure it. I’m by no means completely healed yet, but now I have faith that God will fill my heart with joy again.
Notes From Andy
Act Today — and Make a Difference
Back in December 2009, we created a 10-point plan we called You Are The Mission to end homelessness in Los Angeles. One of our 10 points included the need for people all over our city to stop making excuses and get involved with solving the tragic problem of homelessness in our City of Angels.
Today, almost five years later, I’m encouraged. Every day we see more people setting aside their excuses and getting involved. We see groups coming to Skid Row to connect hurting men and women with available resources. Another group wants to set up a feeding program in our parking lot. There’s the woman who wants to give shoes to folks in our dining hall. There’s a church in San Clemente that wants to mentor men in our life- transformation program. And there’s our friend Frank Sontag, who loves the people here and who’s eager to jump in and help.
If we’re ever going to end homelessness, it will take all of us. I invite you to come to Union Rescue Mission, see what’s going on here, share your talents and love — and make a real difference in someone’s life. Don’t be afraid. Don’t make excuses. Just come. I promise the experience will change you forever.