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.” 

Holiday Season

Holiday Season

Making changes helped, but prayer is what got me through that dark period of my life.  I remember feeling at times I couldn’t survive the hurt.  I would get down on my knees and pray and cry out to God to get me through just one more day.  He did.

The Domino Affect of Love

The Domino Affect of Love

The result was overwhelming as the same people who surround her on a daily basis at work jumped at the opportunity to serve! They worked together to supply every request on the list so that someone else’s needs would be filled last Christmas.

Low Income Kids - Abraham's Story

Low Income Kids - Abraham's Story

 “Thank you for the pencils and paper and backpack. I really like the shirt too! I don’t like it when I don’t have my stuff for school, I feel so dumb. Your pack makes me feel better. Thank you!”

Homelessness - Brett's Story

Homelessness - Brett's Story

On the hunt for a shower each morning became a new part of that routine, hygiene kits given by Eastside helping when a source to get clean was nowhere to be found. 

A Love Like No Other

A Love Like No Other

With the love and prayers from her teammates, Morgan became well enough to help and participate at the orphanage. God showed her that life is best lived when it is with others and she left Thailand experiencing a love she will never forget.

Where There's A Will, There's A Way

Where There's A Will, There's A Way

Eastside stepped in and was able to fund the remaining weeks of the family’s stay while their paperwork process was completed--allowing a huge weight to be lifted off this single mom’s shoulders.

A Hike to Remember

A Hike to Remember

Story Teller: Abel Rodriguez

Abel Rodriguez felt compelled to be in a small group.

Abel had been attending Eastside for a few months at the invitation of his brother and sister-in-law.  He had initially resisted going to church but changed his mind when he realized that the choices he was making were taking him down the wrong path.

Abel decided to make Eastside his church home and attended a meeting to learn more about small groups, gatherings of people who meet weekly to make friends, follow Jesus, and make a difference.  Abel was chosen to lead a group, but the group members couldn’t make their schedules line up, so the group ended up folding.

Abel continued to attend church, but he still felt strongly about being in a small group.  He knew it would be easy to fly under the radar in a big church without ever developing the kind of friendships that truly impact our lives.

Abel learned that Eastside was going to start forming small groups based around people’s interests and passions.  Since he loves to hike, Abel decided to start a hiking group with Bernardo and Monica, the brother and sister-in-law who had invited him to Eastside.

Abel, Bernardo, and Monica now have 30 group members who meet on Saturday mornings at a local hiking trail.

One Saturday when they had just finished their hike and were having breakfast, Mark, a member of the group, saw a woman eating alone, so he struck up a conversation with her.  When the woman told Mark that she had been lonely, he invited her to join their group and to visit Eastside.  They prayed for her, and she went on her way.

The following week, the woman attended church.  She reached out to Abel, thanking him and his group for inviting her, telling them she could not wait to start hiking with her new-found friends.

If you’re interested in leading a little community of people who gather to make friends, follow Jesus, and make a difference, visit eastside.com/lead to learn more.  Not ready to lead a group just yet? We've got a group for you to join: eastside.com/groups

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

Home for Good

Home for Good

Dean Martin once sang a song with lyrics claiming he had his love to keep him warm, and it seems no truer words have been spoken for Virgil and Terry, an elderly couple that have lived in between motels and the actual streets of Orange County for more than 13 years.

They accepted the hospitable offer of First Southern Baptist Church to take up temporary residence, but as time progressed and no new opportunities arose, were asked to leave. They recently went back to the life they knew, resuming the circumstances they had previously known with little hope of any significant change--until now.

CityNet, a nonprofit based in Orange County that aims to work with others in the community to offer the homeless population with housing and wellness options, was made aware of this couple’s situation and immediately got to work to find a solution. Jennifer, collaborative case manager for the humanitarian organization got to know the couple closely and was able to identify their greatest needs and challenges to begin the search for a residence that would fit like a glove.

Eastside caught wind of CityNet’s efforts with this distressed pair and joined in with other faith communities to raise funds on their behalf. Not long after, Jennifer was able to locate a senior living complex in Riverside that suited Virgil and Terry’s needs implicitly as well as their desires; the nomadic couple would soon have a kind of shelter they’d never known was possible to attain.

In addition to discovering a perfect community to transition to, the finances raised between ECC and surrounding churches provided for the couple’s deposit--enabling them to move without concern or financial burden.

This destitute story was turned to one of hope and deliverance due to the true teamwork and collaboration of folks with hearts set on filling the needs of those in their communities! Thank you for your efforts in making a paramount difference in the lives of two people who might have never otherwise experienced being home for good.

Rainbows in Mexico

Rainbows in Mexico

Pam opened up a bible for the first time when she was 60 years old. Although she did not have a life-long relationship with Jesus, she was given an opportunity and found herself truly putting her trust in the Lord when she visited Temoaya, Mexico. This is her story: 

Pam noticed that her friend Sharon was radiating with joy, love and compassion after she had returned from a Beyond Borders Compassion trip with Eastside. After hearing Sharon’s experience, Pam became very excited and wanted to learn more about it. She decided to attend a meeting at Eastside that discussed a trip to Central Mexico. There she fell in love with the idea of spreading Jesus’ love by replanting a refurbished playground from San Diego, CA to Temoaya, Mexico.  As much as she wanted to participate in the trip, she was hesitant and fearful. At that time, her husband Steven recently had back surgery and would not be able to join. They had been married for over 45 years and this would be their first time being apart. Steven knew how important this trip was to his wife and reassured her that she would be able to make this journey without him. His support gave her the confidence to sign up. Soon, Pam dedicated her extra time in baking cookies and selling them to raise the funds for her trip. She also was leery of traveling abroad alone, yet after meeting and developing a bond with the Eastside team, she felt safe being amongst her new friends.

Pam was excited when the airplane finally landed in Mexico City. From there, she and the team took 14-passenger vans and traveled an hour and a half to the small town of Temoaya. They checked into their motel and visited the church. She was able to meet many of the local families and was greeted with utmost hospitality. The next few days were filled with fellowship and laughter. With the collaboration of the organization Kids Around the World, Pam and the Eastside team worked to install a playground…the first playground many of the kids living in Temoaya would ever see. After the playground was installed, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held and the children of the town excitedly ran onto the playground after the ribbon was cut. Pam felt so much love and happiness watching them. She prayed and thanked God for using her to spread His love. Shortly after, thunder clouds came rolling in and it began raining but did not last long. As the clouds began to dissipate, a brightly colored double-rainbow appeared over the new playground. Pam, the Eastside team, and the locals stood in amazement as they witnessed God expressing His joy. Since then, Pam has radiated with joy, love and compassion that still shines today.

In Celebration of Survivors

In Celebration of Survivors

Back in September, Friends Christian Church in Yorba Linda held a spectacular event in conjunction with the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force (OCHTTF) to honor survivors of Human Trafficking with a graduation ceremony. Many, if not the majority of these individuals had never experienced any sort of ceremony of this sort before, let alone one of this caliber and enthusiasm.

In order to pull off an event of this emotional weight and importance, both Erica Sperrazzo of Eastside Christian Church’s Local Compassion Department and Yves Masquefa of Yves’ Restaurant and Wine Bar in Anaheim came alongside the efforts of the leadership at Friends Church and the task force in organizing this special event for survivors once trafficked.

Erica and Yves, long time friends, individually caught wind of this monumental event and both offered to help out in specific ways that were huge additions in allowing the evening to run smoothly and be extremely intentional for each of the survivors.

Eastside rallied up volunteers to create gift baskets for each survivor, filled with goodies catered particularly to their individual preferences and needs, thanks to the advocates that supplied the necessary information. Meanwhile, Yves and his volunteer staff composed of culinary students from the surrounding communities created a multi-course meal that was to the nines in every regard.  Both of these efforts were paramount in communicating worth, value and celebration to these individuals who had been told up quite the opposite all their lives.

Efforts in collaboration with the OCHTTF are continuing and growing stronger--and each of us can play a role! Are you able to “adopt” a survivor this Christmas season and give them a reason to remember this precious season? Do you bake? Eastside is collecting both homemade and purchased baked goods to give to survivors for Thanksgiving in addition to their traditional meal.  Baked goods should be individually wrapped and dropped off to the ECC office by November 22.

Eastside is currently helping to plan a baby shower for one such survivor that finds herself facing an unplanned pregnancy.  In the face of her fears in walking this journey, these events serve in celebrating the new life being brought into the world in offering community and tangible resources for this new mother. 

Although we like to keep these events intimate out of respect for the survivors, you can still be a part! Do you have the means and desire to purchase a need for this new mom? Let us know! Are you able to make this Christmas one to remember for a particular survivor by fulfilling a wish list that provides for her particular needs? Would you enjoy being a part of the group of volunteers who sends flowers to the group homes of survivors every other week?

Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things, but all of us can do small things with great love.” These gifts speak such worth and love into the lives of these unique human beings. Your impact is one of deep significance.

With the plethora of challenges these survivors face while working towards rebuilding their lives and gaining healing, we can be the ones to fill their necessities and equip them for sustaining a life lived to the full.  Not every way of giving may look the same, but the meaning certainly remains constant.

Additional questions? Contact esperrazzo@eastside.com.