Hundreds of people fill the streets. Some are laughing, others are talking. Bikes and scooters whizz past, dodging oncoming Lyft drivers and students. Yet amongst the chaos sits a little house on Del Playa Drive, a house dubbed “The Jesus Burgers House.” Every Friday night, Christians engage with the residents of Isla Vista, telling them a straightforward message.
This message? Simply, the love of Christ. Jason Lomelino, the founder of Jesus Burgers, explains, “Our whole ministry revolves around loving on people, and listening to them.” Lomelino built his ministry this way because of his own encounter with Christ at 21 years old, when he was brought to Jesus by being shown God’s love. In turn, he wanted to do the same for others.
“It started with a city-wide barbeque in 2001. Six months later, we got the Jesus Burgers house in Isla Vista,” Lomelino states, his voice full of passion. “We started as the ‘Jesus people cooking Jesus burgers.’ In fact, we didn’t even coin the name ‘Jesus Burgers’ ourselves; the people of Isla Vista gave it to us.”
Isla Vista is home to many parties of UCSB students, which Lomelino claims were more chaotic back in 2001, with couches set aflame like pyres and fights constantly breaking out. Now, though, things have changed drastically, with a lot more peace surrounding Del Playa Drive: “The city has never been more open to Jesus.”
Experiencing the chaos of Del Playa Drive firsthand is something that Kenna Brase, a second-year Westmont student who volunteers with Jesus Burgers, can attest to. “I didn’t love it at first; it was very overwhelming. After going there a couple of times, though, I started to understand their mission, and let go of my own personal expectations. That’s when I started to love it.”
Friday nights at the Jesus Burgers house typically start with an upbeat worship service, occasionally followed by a short sermon. After that, around 10 p.m., burgers begin cooking and so does the excitement. Volunteers flood the streets, offering to pray for people and listen to their stories.
In some cases, the simple message of “God loves you” has the power to save lives. Lomelino has many stories of this happening: “Once a guy immediately broke down crying and hugged me. He said that he was planning to take his life that night, because he didn’t believe that he was loved. Our message of love and simply listening to him really impacted the course of his life.”
Lomelino invites Westmont students to join Jesus Burgers on Friday nights and provides transportation with shuttles leaving from the KSC parking lot at 7:30. Brase leaves new attendees of Jesus Burgers with a word of wisdom: “Be comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable.”