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Change Maker

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.

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.

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.

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)

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.

Cindy's Story

Cindy's Story

Cindy’s Story

“It’s the shirts with turtlenecks, ya know, the ones that wrap around your neck? It’s those I still can’t wear.”

Even though it’s been 14 years since leaving her abusive ex-husband, for Cindy there are particular prompts that even now give rise to recollections of terror during the years living under his control.

Cindy had grown up in a household that hadn’t spoken a lick of self worth into her young mind, her mother being the pioneer of abusive comments that would continue to reign in her head for years to come. One such phrase, “I wish you’d never been born”, creating a foundation of falsities that she would go on to deem as truth.

To this day Cindy can recall seeing her ex as a great guy in the early stages of their relationship, a label that began to fade as the need for control became more evident, insisting that she prioritize feeding him as a grown man rather than her infant son. It wasn’t until the age of 21, after the birth of her third child, that the beatings and verbal abuse began to take center stage. He began to develop his favorite forms of treatment, choking Cindy being among his choice selection of conduct.

“What could she do?”, was the thought that dominated her mind. Not allowed to hold a job, no phone, strict time restraints for completing errands--everything had a limit, a constraint, and she was trapped. With minimal job experience and being forced to live within the tight restrictions her husband enforced, she was stuck.

One evening, with her feet dangling inches above the ground from the hold around her neck pinning her against the wall, a friend of her abuser unexpectedly came through the door. This was the first of many friends and relatives that would learn of the torture occurring within their household, but unfortunately, it would be awhile until any had the heroic-sized courage to stand up to the tyrant controlling it all.

A heroine came indeed, in the form of Cindy’s sister in law. A fearless woman who Cindy recalls as being the only person able to help her in this state of defenselessness, the one person whom this abuser wouldn’t dare cross. One evening with him at work and the kids at grandma’s, she was free. Cindy left that night, taking her kids to live with family for awhile before she learned about His House, a shelter that fit her situation as being open to men, women and families alike; she and her kids moved in promptly.

Unaware of their whereabouts, her ex was no longer affecting her life and the lives of her kids and Cindy worked hard for seven months within this transitional housing, leading to finding her footing. She began to rebuild her life from the ground up, relying on friends from the past that assisted with her job search, as well as new friends that helped with providing rides and support.

With a consistent income established and her fear beginning to subside, Cindy moved her family to an apartment with a roommate she had met at the shelter. This apartment would serve to be just a phase in her journey, but was paramount in establishing her independence.

She soon moved her family from that home to begin a life with the man that would become her new husband, a man that had served as a close friend during some of her hardest times. He showed her a love she had not yet known up until this point in her life, seeing her at her truest form and loving her teen children as if they were his own.

They married in 2011 but soon after began to face struggles and feel financial stresses that affected their relationship. Although Cindy had spent time in church as a youth, she didn’t see that as resolving her current troubles; that is, until her thoughts went to that of her sister--a woman that despite her own trials never complained. Cindy compared her life to that of her sibling’s and knew she was missing something crucial.

After numerous invitations from neighbors to attend church, Cindy woke up one morning with a change of heart. Her husband accompanied her last minute to a service that would go on to shape a deep connection within the community at Eastside Christian Church.

A change of perspective was taking hold of both her and her husband as they felt the desire to get more involved. At an interest meeting for volunteers at Eastside, they were given a plethora of areas to step into, but as soon as Cindy learned of The Sheepfold--a shelter for abused and homeless women and their children--she knew exactly where God had lead her to be.

This strong and joyful survivor of domestic abuse now serves as a liaison between Eastside and The Sheepfold’s Volunteer Director, serving meals to the residents there and offering to speak to the women if and when they need a confidante to relate to.

Life is quite the journey as Cindy mentioned, God seems to lay out a number of stepping stones that may induce pain or heartache or threaten our self-worth, but in taking a glance back at the stones trailing behind, one’s true purpose and calling can be clearly seen.

Compassion

Compassion

What is it that breaks your heart?

Is it kids struggling to get the education they need to succeed in life?  Is it teen moms who are scared about what the future holds?  Perhaps it's the young men and women forced to sell their bodies for the profit of another or the elderly shut-ins whose families are no longer around?

What breaks your heart?

John Hasler's heart was broken by the men and women who slept outside or in temporary shelters because they had no place to call home.  And so John started leading a group called The Living Room.  The Living Room met on Wednesdays at 6 PM for dinner and a Bible study.

But this wasn't a once-a-week soup kitchen.  This was a place where those who had no home could come and find rest and respite and friendship.

And it wasn't limited to those who were homeless.  John sought to bring together those who had no home with those who did.  It was a place to foster relationships and understanding.

It was a place that brought people together to live out the Biblical principle that in Christ, race and gender and social status and economics are all secondary, that we are all one in Christ.

It was a place where people could learn to love those who were different than they themselves.

It was a place of hope and healing.

You can be like John.  You can bring together a group of like-minded people who want to make a difference in the lives of those who are hurting.  You don't have to be a pastor, a social worker, or a miracle worker.  All you need is compassion and a willingness to act.

Want to learn more?  Email Erica Sperrazzo at esperrazzo@eastside.com.

Leadership

Leadership

What do you think about when you hear that word?  CEOs?  Generals?  Politicians?

One definition of leadership is simply influence.  To lead others is to influence them in a particular direction.

And given that definition, we are all leaders.  We all influence others.

We lead our coworkers when we spread rumors or refuse to gossip.  We lead our kids when we react out of anger or respond with love.  We lead our friends when we order one too many or choose to drink responsibly.

Paul, the guy who started many of the first churches, told others to follow him as he followed Jesus.  In other words, he said to them, "Hey, I'm a follower of this guy named Jesus.  I don't do everything perfectly all of the time, but take a look at the things I do get right and follow my example."

Paul was obeying Jesus' command to make disciples.  And disciple is just a fancy term for someone who follows Jesus, someone who says, "I want to follow Jesus' example of how to live as a person who has peace in every situation, puts others first, and has integrity."

“Go into all the world and make disciples,” was Jesus' last command before he left earth, and it's something we're all called to, whether we've been following Jesus for fifteen minutes or fifteen years.

One good way to do this is to gather a few folks and say, "Let's pursue Jesus together." At Eastside, we call that a small group, and we would encourage you to consider leading one. You can visit eastside.com/lead to learn more.

 

A Place to Call Home

A Place to Call Home

Storyteller: Arty VanGeloof

Most likely you have never met or heard of Pancho, Griselda and their two young children, Angel and Michelle. Yet, they know you. They know that you are generous, loving and compassionate. They have prayed for you for many years. This is their story…


Pancho and Griselda live in Mexico. Pancho works as a gas station attendant and Griselda, his wife, works at a nearby medical facility as a housekeeper. They lived in a run-down, 60 year old trailer that had no running water, bathroom, kitchen, or working front door, however, they still felt blessed to have a roof over their heads.  


Pancho and Griselda went to work each day with humble smiles while their children studied hard in school in pursuit of attending a University. They prayed that God would continue to bless their family and to one day, own a home. For the past 10 years, they prayed this. They knew God would answer their prayers, but they did not know how or when. This is where you came in.


2016 was the year that Eastside focused their Beyond Border Compassion efforts on Mexico. Arty VanGeloof, Jeff Swaney and the Compassion team felt compelled to reach out farther into the community of Rosarito. The plan was laid out to arrange compassion trips and build 3 homes to be given to families in need. Pancho and Griselda’s prayers were answered when they were told that their family was chosen to receive one of these homes. Both parents giggled uncontrollably with excitement and gratitude upon receiving the good news. With the help of Eastsiders, the walls were constructed in Anaheim and then transported to Rosarito to finalize assembly equipped with a kitchen, bathroom and divided rooms.


One quiet evening in Rosarito, Arty sat outside of his RV on top of a hill. The quiet was interrupted by music coming from a truck that was transporting water to local homes. The truck had stopped at the bottom of the hill at the new home of Pancho and Griselda. Arty heard a familiar giggle and he knew Pancho and Griselda were there greeting the delivery man. Arty could only imagine what they were talking about and he let out a chuckle himself. When the water container of their home was filled, the delivery man drove away and it was quiet once again. As Pancho walked on his door steps, he paused at the threshold, humbly smiled and thanked God for using His people to answer prayers and, with joyful tears, Pancho closed and locked the door behind him.


It was through you that God answered the prayers of Pancho and his family. As it is said in Hebrews 6:10


“…He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.”


We must continue to help. How can you help answer the unanswered prayers of others?

Giving from the Most Natural Place

Giving from the Most Natural Place

Have you ever had the desire to plug your passions into helping the community that surrounds you, yet remained unsure on how to go about it? Read on to hear how one woman made a world of difference by simply realizing her natural capacity for connecting those in need with those in a position to fill those needs. 

A Heart For Service

A Heart For Service

Savannah is continually inspired to serve through seeing the impact serving has made in her own life and in the lives of others. “When you see people’s faces light up, when you see people receive your services, it’s just a reminder that God has done so much more than that, and God does that every single day..."

A Recipe for Faith

A Recipe for Faith

He has found that serving and getting involved in local compassion efforts at Eastside have helped turn a big church into a small church. Because of the community he’s built through serving, it’s rare for him to walk down a hallway without knowing someone.

Did you know that Eastside has a Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing Ministry?

Did you know that Eastside has a Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing Ministry?

In the nearly three decades she’s worked with the deaf, both at church and as a professional interpreter in the school system, Nancy has gained deep insight. “The biggest struggle for the deaf is the lack of socialization with the hearing community. Isolation results when there is lack of communication with those who don’t know your language no matter what the language.”

Passage to Kenya

Passage to Kenya

“I’ll pray about it for next year.” Famous last words. Last year quickly became this year and Paige Haddick was caught completely off-guard by a friend and leader of the College ministry in the hallway at Eastside.