Let’s Talk About Poverty, Part II: Gaining Perspective

Let’s Talk About Poverty, Part II: Gaining Perspective

“We appreciate the clothing and we appreciate the food, but more than anything, we value your friendship,” said Larry, the first ‘friend without a home’ that Tyler and Hughie made years ago.  The non-profit organization Povertees was founded in 2007 when CEO, Tyler Patterson, began sewing pockets on shirts to sell to his fellow college students, his profits paid for food for the homeless men and women he would meet.

That simple, passionate act turned into what would become Tyler and Povertees President, Hughie Hughes’, infrastructure for creating an organization that made clothing in order to employ people transitioning out of homelessness. Although not all of us are going to start a non-profit company towards this mission, there are significant ways these two men have found in their journey that can expand the awareness to those of us who share a community with brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness.  

We sat down with Hughie to gain some perspective on what is most needed in the lives of those currently living on the streets, his answers begging us to view the humanity with which those without a home possess as our common ground between those of us who do.

The first time Hughie visited Skid Row in Downtown LA, home to a population anywhere between 17,000-23,000 people experiencing homelessness, he said that he wasn’t expecting to connect easily to the folks he was meeting.  “Quite literally after my first time to this area, I had a monumental realization: what I thought was funny, was funny to them too. We could make fun of and mess with each other like real friends.” 

The understanding that came after this initial sitting with people that had the reputation of being so different from the own lives we lead, was quickly proven to be so deeply false.  What was gained, was the insight that these humans living in exposed, rough conditions, were no different from the inside, out.  

The college-aged pals continued to bring food and commune with their friends and acquaintances of Skid Row and would do just that: commune.  “Every time we gave them food, we sat with them; it was real communion,” described Hughie, “we would offer a sandwich, and they would offer half of it right back to us to eat.”

Hughie and Tyler continued to make trips to DTLA up to five times a week, and as they did, they began to classify the people they spent time with as their friends who happened to not have a home.  It was this shift in perspective that ushered in an appreciation for their friends’ humanity, an appreciation that continued to grow as many of them narrated their stories to Hughie and Tyler.  This act of vulnerability forged bridges of relatability, and Hughie and Tyler’s new friends said that they were now being “seen as people,” an unfortunate rarity for the majority of them.

Through the many experiences Hughie had visiting his friends on Skid Row, he shared that “consistency is the key component, allowing trust to be built with each and every story we hear.”  This consistency, this availability, is what has made the difference in their new friends’ lives, and lucky for us, it’s those factors that we too can offer as individuals and a community.  

We may not house the same passions of these two men to start an organization that fights for the rights of the population living in poverty, but, we do have the eyes to see the need, and ears to hear the stories of the human beings living in the present time without homes. 

As Eastside continues to make efforts in our North Orange County community, will you join us? Join us in loving on the individuals and families living life on the streets as we choose to bend an ear and sit a minute, choose to recognize the same humanity that resides in each of us: the need for connection, the need to be heard and understood.  

Efforts such as these will begin to not only shift ourselves out of the possible patterns we’ve accrued over time, but by being available, we will send a message to our neighbors experiencing homelessness that they are so worth the effort to be known.  

For specific ways to get involved with Eastside as we seek to love on our neighbors experiencing homelessness, visit eastside.com/servelocally.  And may we each walk through the weeks to come with a new lense on poverty and those longing to overcome its grasp.

Let’s Talk About Poverty, Part I: Breaking Our Expectations

Let’s Talk About Poverty, Part I: Breaking Our Expectations

Poverty. Poor. Living under the Poverty Line.  These terms and phrases we hear on a daily basis to describe a person in need--but what do they necessitate exactly? Food? Shelter? Different clothing? Perhaps, but when we lean in to take a closer look we find that lacking physical objects is hardly the only reason why these folks would describe their lives as scarce.  

In the book Helping Without Hurting, Steve Corbett explains this concept further in saying that in “being materialistic people, many North Americans tend to think of the disease of poverty as being a lack of material things, such as money, food, clothing, and shelter.”  He explains that because this is our way of thinking, we believe as a culture that the way to relieve this epidemic is to give money or other material objects to our low-income neighbors.  However, as a society, we’re beginning to arrive at the understanding that there are numerous other non-material facets that can significantly help to redeem our neighbors’ poverty.  

The truth is that an individual can be experiencing poverty in ways that lie completely outside of the “material” spectrum.  This can be surprising for us as members of our communities that have sought to come alongside impoverished people with tangible offerings in our outstretched arms.  

Though the need for water and hygiene items are certainly necessary, there are more soul-quenching demands to be addressed. As we gain perspective on the circumstances these folks are facing, we begin to grasp that their needs go beyond that of what we see them lacking, into more abstract essentials such as gaining a positive mindset, life purpose and a supportive community.

Taking a look at these intangible life sources begs us as a society to ask the question: could there truly be a plethora of needs for this community of people that we simply haven’t been seeing? Needs that affect humans in a more profound and lasting way than filling their immediate need for gasoline or sustenance?  

If what Corbett has written about is true, we must begin to pivot our embedded reaction to fill the need we expect, and expand our horizons to view the person as a person with potential.  A person that perhaps has some insecurities or underdeveloped resources that simply require the chance to be tapped into, stewarded and supported.  

As we seek to gain understanding about the population of folks living defined by unfortunate circumstances, we realize we have the opportunity to view each individual as being clothed in significant possibility; possibility that can be fostered and given the chance to grow with human contact.  By engaging in conversation, learning their stories, sharing a meal, etc., the concepts of significance and humanity and equality will begin to reside within our neighbors and take shape as they are free to make steps towards regaining their identity outside of poverty. As Corbett explains, each individual living with poverty is still an image bearer of God, equipped with talents, skills and gifts that simply need the space and invitation to be recognized and nurtured.  

It is in appreciating this truth and flipping our perception of poverty on its head, that the layer of brokenness will be lifted, and the true identity of the person underneath will surely be revealed and allowed to grow.  And for the almost 400,000 people in Orange County living below the federal poverty line, it is paramount that this understanding be obtained in order for the lives being reflected in these statistics to be given hope again.

To learn more about partnering with Eastside as we seek to walk alongside those in our community facing poverty, visit eastside.com/servelocally. 

 

 

Changemaker: Mark Buttrey

Changemaker: Mark Buttrey

“I see souls and I love people, that’s all I do well,” claims Mark. This passionate Eastsider began serving in his home of Orange County upon returning from living abroad in Romania at age 24.

Bravely Forward: Shanelle’s Story

Bravely Forward: Shanelle’s Story

Eastside Christian Church’s Local Compassion team met with Anaheim native, Shanelle, to learn first-hand about her life; one that has been marked with different waves of obstacles and perseverance. 

Bravely Forward: Officer Jesse’s Story

Bravely Forward: Officer Jesse’s Story

Growing up, Jesse was taught by his parents to respect the local Police Officers they’d pass by on the street.  That respect grew to admiration as TV shows like SWAT and Adam 12 enhanced his perception of the officers protecting his city.  “That’s what I wanted,” Jesse explained, “and that’s what the majority of cops want as they enter the force: to do good, to be the heros we grew up thinking so highly of.”  

Hidden Joy

Hidden Joy

When Cindy and Danny came across Eastside for the first time, they were amazed at how friendly everyone was. The big smiles and the heartfelt greetings made a big church feel amazingly small in just the blink of an eye. They couldn’t believe the energy and passion that was all around.

Bravely Forward: Wesley's Story

Bravely Forward: Wesley's Story

“I got hit in the head on the job site, started having seizures and such.  That’s when I got put on medicine and no one wanted to take a chance on me.” Wesley is a 52 year old man who migrated from Louisiana to California in 2013 after receiving no help after a work injury.  When Eastside’s Local Compassion crew met with him at his newly acquired apartment, he began to unveil his story.

Being a Voice for a Child Without One: A look into Foster Care

Being a Voice for a Child Without One: A look into Foster Care

May is National Foster Care Month, a time set aside originally in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan to offer appreciation to foster parents.  Since being initiated, the National Foster Care Coalition has worked to expand the goals of this month to focus on awareness of the issues at hand and to encourage willing citizens to get involved with the foster system. 

Just Let Go

Just Let Go

My name is Sharon Jensen. I was about to lose the lease to the preschool I had been running for 28 years. It was the only source of income for my family as my husband was facing health complications that left him unable to work. On the verge of a nervous breakdown, I found myself at the end of my rope. That was when I remembered a postcard that had been sent to me in the mail about Eastside that I disregarded. I found myself needing help and discovered that Eastside was there to give that to me.

I nervously attended Eastside for the first time and was warmly greeted by the parking attendant who directed me to the entrance. At the door, a woman with a bright smile approached me and asked if I was Sharon. I was taken aback because I did not remember introducing myself to the parking attendant or to the woman. Her name was Jo and she welcomed me to Eastside and made me comfortable. At the end of church service, she waited for me at Guest Central and there, I shared my story to her. Talking to her gave me peace and her kindness comforted my spirit. We prayed over the loss of the lease on the preschool and for my husband’s health and placed it into Gods hands. The once uncontrollable circumstances I was facing started falling into the right place soon after.

With less than 2 months before we were forced to close the preschool, I was able to meet with the property developer of the building I was leasing and found out he also attended Eastside. He graciously and quickly found another property for me to move my preschool and made the transition smooth.

I continued to care for my husband who was facing complications from his knee replacement. After several surgeries, the doctors could not determine the root cause of the complications. After much prayer, I was able to get a hold of a specialist who was able to take my husband’s case. He discovered an infection and performed surgery and within 6 months, my husband was able to recover.

Having the preschool to run and my husband to care for, I had been putting aside my own health. One day, my co-worker noticed I was walking differently and insisted I went to the doctors who ran an MRI test on my back and neck, only to discover I had a ruptured disk pinching my nerve and four vertebrae that had cut through the sheath that protected my spinal cord. If untreated I could have became paralyzed. I had surgery immediately and fully recovered within 3 months of the medical procedure.  

God was using people around me to reveal Himself to me and answer my prayers. I have learned through these miracles that God is with me. And, whether He is by my side or carrying me, I will put my trust in Him.

Through faith, Sharon obeyed God’s words and found that He fulfilled His promises. She discovered that she could not face this situation alone and found support at Eastside.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4: 6-7    

Are you currently experiencing a difficult situation that you need to apply these words to? Here at Eastside Christian Church, we are happy to help, visit us during one of our services or fill out a prayer request form at https://www.eastside.com/prayer/#worship

Life Together

Life Together

By Devon Wayne

Our small group started with eight people who didn’t know each other, but over time our stories have woven together into a beautiful tapestry.

A job opportunity brought Julie to Southern California. She had been looking for a church but couldn’t find the right match, so she decided to join the one closest to her home. Google–that source of all knowledge–pointed her to Eastside. Since joining, Julie has volunteered to serve in Kidside, has travelled to Israel, and is preparing to go to on a mission trip to Thailand to serve people there.

Next is Bobby, known as Boy Bobby (as there was a girl Bobbie among our original eight as well). Boy Bobby has a huge heart and a gift of listening. He has taken on a leadership role in our group. He met Hannah, a beautiful, kindhearted woman who grounds him. Hannah has joined our group, and she and Bobby were married at the end of last year.

A few weeks after the group started, Bobby got sick enough that he needed to go to the hospital, and when he needed a ride home, he was bold enough to ask for help from a group of people he had only known for a few weeks. Brandi responded to his text and drove him home.

Brandi has a huge heart and sense of humor. She sees the Spirit within you and will be there to provide words of love and grace when you need them. Brandi leaned on the group as her mom, Nancy, battled with cancer. Before Nancy left us to join God in Heaven, a prayer of hers was answered. It all started at the end of summer 2015, when our group had a barbecue.

A former member of the group hosted the barbecue, and we invited her roommate, Aaron, to join us… and we wouldn’t take no for an answer. Aaron didn’t go to church or follow Jesus, but hey, barbecue is barbecue. We invited him to join us the following week when we started up our Bible study, and he came.

Brandi caught Aaron’s eye, so Aaron started attending church and asking questions about faith. We didn’t always have the answers, but we’d research them and come back the next week to talk more about his questions.

Last year, Aaron was baptized and proposed to Brandi. By then Nancy, Brandi’s mom, had gotten sicker, so a backyard wedding was planned weeks before the actual wedding. I had the privilege of doing Nancy’s hair and makeup for the backyard wedding, and Boy Bobby officiated the ceremony. Nancy went to Heaven a few days later, her prayer that her daughter would find a husband having been answered.

During this time Aaron’s mom, Michelle, started attending Eastside and was baptized a couple of months ago.

I guess that leaves me. I made the commitment to join Eastside in about 2014, and, after feeling lonely and lost in such an overwhelmingly large church, I decided to get plugged in. I joined a small group and began volunteering. The largeness of the church began to shrink, and it began to feel less lonely.

During the first couple of weeks of our small group, Brandi and I learned that we live a mere two-minute walking distance from each other. This proximity allowed us to do life together. She and her dog Clarence often stopped by for walks. When her mom’s condition worsened, I was able to provide dinners and next-day lunches for Brandi. These moments allowed our friendship to grow.

I was raised Lutheran and didn’t feel the need to be baptized again, but God’s whispering became more audible, and the Spirit swelled in my heart. In the beginning of 2015 I was baptized, and that summer I travelled to Kenya on my first mission trip. My heart for compassion causes has grown exponentially, and I am overjoyed as I prepare for my third mission trip. These compassion experiences make me feel more grounded and connected. My cousins left me a message online that resonates with me. They wrote, “Helping you turn the human race into the human family. God bless you.”

Turning the human race into the human family, I just love those words.

Our stories and lives have been interwoven through moments in time. We are now a group of twelve, and whether people have been with us for months or for years, their lives and stories are becoming a part of ours. Our group, like many others, shares life moments: baptisms, illnesses, deaths, mission trips, camping trips, potlucks, laughter, and tears, but most importantly we share God’s love as we seek to expand our knowledge of Him.

If you’d like to find a community of people to do life with, check out eastside.com/groups.

Bravely Forward: Sherry's Story

Bravely Forward: Sherry's Story

For some of us, only one medical emergency, or one pay cut, or one traffic citation separates us from experiencing homelessness.  Oftentimes as a society, we assume that the folks we see on on the streets of our neighborhoods have a story of how they got there that is far from relatable,  but nothing could be further from the truth.

There's an On-Call Team at Eastside

There's an On-Call Team at Eastside

Three times a week, one of Eastside’s community partners reaches out to our Local Compassion department with news of an individual or family’s pressing need.  Erica Sperrazzo, Director of Local Compassion at Eastside Christian Church, then gets to work, seeking out the ways and means necessary in order to assist the person(s) in dire straights.

An Embrace that Crossed Cultures: A Sponsorship Story

An Embrace that Crossed Cultures: A Sponsorship Story

We’re both named Sam, I guess that’s what initially drew me to her sweet face in the sea of Sponsorship Cards I was looking over.  I had had this small and steady feeling on my heart for awhile to step up and join the many compassionate Eastsiders in taking a sponsorship child under my financial and prayerful wing.

A Community in Support of Our Officers

A Community in Support of Our Officers

On a Tuesday morning this past February, two policemen responded to a typical traffic accident call in Whittier, California; but when they appeared on the scene they were faced with much more than that.  A man known to have gang affiliation had stolen the vehicle responsible for the crash that morning and opened fire on the officers as they approached him at the site of the collision.  What was supposed to be standard procedure, turned into a day filled with emotion as the gunman took the life of one of the officers and injured the other.

Moms in Need Receive Diapers, Indeed!

Moms in Need Receive Diapers, Indeed!

Over the past few weeks leading up to Eastside’s annual Serve Day, a drive for diapers and wipes has been commencing.  The recipients will be none other than moms in our community that are hard pressed in purchasing these everyday necessities to keep their little ones happy and comfortable.

Linking Arms with the Kids in Our Community

Linking Arms with the Kids in Our Community

“Our goal is for the kids to be kids, to provide a place where they can have fun and enable them to form real relationships with people in the community.”  Lofty goal?  Nellie Hernandez of Orange County’s Social Services department doesn’t think so. 

Unpacking the Suitcase

Unpacking the Suitcase

Mike explained that it was rare for addicts to be honest when in critical need, but honest they were as they spoke that day.  Leaving no stone unturned, they expounded on their situation, saying they were not married, not members of the church and currently on the verge of eviction from their motel. 

Celebrating a Year of Handwritten Love

Celebrating a Year of Handwritten Love

Jody Masquefa and her husband, Yves, own a restaurant in Anaheim that’s now daily serving up hope in the form of pasta to families in dire need of support.  February 2, 2017 marks a year of anonymous dinners being delivered to these families at CHOC hospital who are facing the devastation and hardship that illness has imposed on their children; this is the story of how they got here.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

January is the month devoted to creating awareness of the ever-present societal issue of Human Trafficking. US Homeland Security defines the term as a “modern-day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act.”