WOW Jam wows 8,000 people in Long Beach last weekend

Staff Writer

“Imagine standing in the most needy areas of our city, surrounded by desperate, hopeless people and seeing it transformed into a place of peace and joy, filled with people of hope and destiny…The strategy is simple. Mobilize local volunteers, churches, businesses and organizations to help throw a party complete with a free barbecue, music, drama, games and prizes. Love people in practical ways like giving away groceries, providing (free) haircuts and bicycle repairs, taking family photographs and rocking a baby to sleep. Then share with those people that God loves them personally and has a distinct purpose for their life.”
Those words are part of the official statement of a Pasadena-based nonprofit group known as Winning Our World International (WOW) that coordinates and conducts “WOW Jams” in various cities in the United States.
Last weekend, two WOW Jams were held in Long Beach. The first one was at Houghton Park on Friday and the second took place in the Poly High School Athletic Field on Saturday. About 3,000 people came to Houghton Park and roughly 5,000 came to Poly High. The two events included live music, a bounce house for small children, and a singing contest with a $100 first prize.
“Wow Jam is about reaching our community, to be able to touch it in a positive way,” said Bonnie Thiemens, who co-pastors Lighthouse Church in East Long Beach with her husband Paul.
Lighthouse church took a lead role in coordinating the two local events.
Thiemens explained that everything offered during a WOW Jam is free of charge. “We do face painting, nails, makeovers and we are giving away many different items including bicycles, iPods, television sets, radios, shoes, CD players, dishes, potted plants and lots of other things,” she said. “We’re even taking family photographs, which we deliver to the families’ homes later on.”
Organizers of the event also conduct a “Kids Corner” where children are encouraged to pursue careers that will bring them success in life.
“They always are told so many negative things,” Thiemens said. “We want to put positive things into them.”
Bonnie’s husband Paul added that bringing together a variety of community organizations, nonprofit groups, businesses and churches also has a positive impact on the city because it encourages people to work together to solve problems. “If one part of our community hurts, all of us hurt,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what part of the city we are at, we want to all come together and do this.” He noted that about 60 different Long Beach-based organizations participated in the two WOW Jams.
Paul also stated that tens of thousands of dollars were spent on the events.
“The first thing that we’ve done is to love and care for people in a tangible way,” he said. “It’s one thing to talk about loving people, but you have to show it in tangible ways. You have to make your service real.”
Paul noted that organizers are hoping to have more WOW Jams in the Long Beach area next year-reaching into other parts of the city and possibly including Hawaiian Gardens and Compton. “We need to bring more organizations together to accomplish that,’ he said. “We are working with the City of Long Beach and the schools to develop relationships so that we can expand this.”
Peter Felsch, WOW executive director said, “It went really well. The overriding purpose of WOW Jam is to tell people about Jesus and that He loves them and has a plan for their life,” he said. “We put this event on to demonstrate His love to people and to give them a chance to come to Him.”
Dr. Lydia Hollie, J.D., MAEd, chair of the Long Beach Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Task Force and member of the Weed and Seed Committee was also there.
“The Weed and Seed Steering Committee enthusiastically endorsed this event as a way of meeting our objectives of community restoration,” she said. “We look forward to having a WOW Jam in Central Long Beach every year.” (Weed and Seed is a federally funded program that participates in local projects that are aimed at reducing crime and bringing positive changes to communities.)
Hollie noted that the fact that 5,000 residents attended the Poly High event shows that the people of that area are ready for a change in their lives.
“I believe that Central Long Beach will become the crown jewel of this city someday,” she said. “It will be a model community and I am delighted to be part of an event that really helps personify that vision.”
Hollie noted that she conducted an informal survey of people who attended the Poly High WOW Jam. “Most of them were young people and they all said they loved it and hope that it comes back next year,” she said. “When teenagers say they want it to come back, that’s a good barometer that shows this event was successful.”
Other WOW Jams are scheduled for the Los Angeles area in the next few weeks. WOW Jams are also conducted in New York and some of the Southern states, and organizers hope to expand to many more states as time progresses.
WOW was founded in 1991 by Stephen Tavani. He and his wife Linda sing and give personal testimonies during each WOW Jam. Linda was the “Peaches” of the Peaches and Herb band that had recorded the hit song “Reunited” several years ago.
For more information about WOW, phone (626) 296-8800 or (562) 421-3452 or visit

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