Today, the former CEO of Union Rescue Mission, Reverend Andy Bales, received the tenth annual Charles W. Colson Award for Conviction and Courage. Bales’ profound impact on Skid Row in Los Angeles and his compassion for those experiencing homelessness made him a clear choice as the recipient of the 2024 award. 

Image shows Andy Bales on stage
Andy Bales accepting the Colson Award

“With this award we seek to highlight individuals who demonstrate commitment to the unshakable truths of a biblical worldview, and who embody biblical convictions, even in the face of risks or challenges,” Biola President Barry H. Corey said at the award ceremony. “Andy is an apt example of this type of courageous conviction, whose compassion for people in dire straits, including those with incarcerated family members, strongly resonates with Chuck Colson’s visionary work through Prison Fellowship. A proud Biola alumnus, he has spent much of his adult life serving those experiencing homelessness, including 19 years as the President and CEO of Union Rescue Mission, an institution in the heart of downtown LA.”

The ceremony was held during Biola’s 94th annual Missions Conference, which has sought to educate, equip and inspire students to embrace their role in the completion of the Great Commission since its foundation. The setting was fitting to honor Bales’ tireless ministerial work with the homeless community of Los Angeles.

The award, named to honor the legacy of the Christian leader Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship and the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, is given to recipients who embody both conviction — a demonstrated commitment to the unshakable truths of Scripture and its application in all areas of life — and courage — a willingness to act on biblical convictions in a bold and yet compassionate manner, however challenging or unfashionable it may be today.

“I got awarded today for doing what I cannot not do,” said Bales. “I’m driven to serve people who are struggling, I’m driven to speak up for injustice and love those who are unloved sometimes by the world.”

Bales served as the CEO of Union Rescue Mission (URM), which is the largest homeless shelter in the United States, for nearly 20 years before stepping down from his position in late 2023. URM was founded by Lyman Stewart, one of Biola’s founders. During his time at URM, Bales contributed to the organization's development of new facilities for women, children and families that are experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. Bales has become one of the most influential leaders in the issues of homelessness and is recognized locally and nationally for his compassion and conviction toward serving those in vulnerable situations.

“Andy Bales has given himself to his work, loving people as Jesus did by being present among them, holding their hands, praying over them, having conversations, feeding and housing and offering hope in Jesus’ name, affirming their intrinsic dignity and offering them clear-eyed gospel truth,” said Corey. “Andy has placed his personal safety aside throughout his career for the sake of his ministry, ultimately leading to the amputation of both of his legs for health issues contracted in the grit of his daily work.”

A luncheon was hosted in his honor following the ceremony. Biola was glad to welcome Bales back to Los Angeles, where he faithfully served for so many years. Watch the award ceremony on Biola’s YouTube channel.

Written by Sarah Dougher, media relations specialist. For more information, email