As another busy year comes to a close, I want to share with you a story of redemption that came out of our Open Arms ministry this year:
I first met Natalia (not her real name) at the Tuesday night homeless dinner last spring. She and her husband were young, healthy, and optimistic, despite tough times since coming to California from Kentucky. We chatted over dinner. They dreamed of seeing the world. They hung around the church for several weeks, but at some point, I stopped seeing them.
The next time I saw Natalia was an early morning, late-summer, on the church porch. She was sickly pale, too thin, and had clearly been beaten. Brian, our staff Sexton, who came to know the couple better than I, told me her husband was to blame. Natalia confirmed it. She said her husband was using meth and had become paranoid and violent.
We discussed her options: calling the police (she was afraid of them); getting her into a shelter or rehab (very long waiting lists); or going back home to Kentucky, where her mother was taking care of Natalia’s young daughter.
After a prayerful discussion (and more than a few tears), Natalia expressed a longing to return home.
She cried as she made that decision. Despite his abuse, she still loved her husband. She felt she was betraying him. But she also missed her daughter, and she seemed ready to return to her family.
Natalia called her mother, who said, “come home.” We took church funds and bought her a bus ticket to Kentucky and gave her a little cash for food. We took her to the bus station in downtown San Diego, said our goodbyes, and she left with nothing but the clothes on her back.
Then yesterday, three months later, Natalia sent me this message on Facebook:
“Hi! things are going really good for me, I started working last week and still staying with my mom so I can save enough to get me and my daughter an apartment. [my husband] came back [to Kentucky] and stayed off drugs but then slipped and I had no choice but to let him go. I want to thank you again because if it wasn’t for you or the church I’m not sure what would have happened to me in Oceanside. I would really like to pay you back for my ticket. I always thank god for you, Brian and the church, you guys saved my life. God is great! Oh and me and Becky started going back to our church here, we had been attending north point here in Springfield for 5 years and I was a member til I moved to Oceanside so me and my daughter are happy to be going again together. Thank you again Jason!!”
Serving people in dire circumstances can be tough. Sometimes people can be rude, ungrateful, or even threatening – even when you’re trying to help. But when you get a message like this, you remember that everyone needs grace, and we are here to offer it freely to those who receive it the least.
We can’t do that without your help.
FCC is not just a church, it’s a charity. That means we need volunteers and donations to keep going. Frankly, so far this year, we’re struggling for both. So today, I’m asking for your help in two ways:
- If you can give during this end-of-year season, please do. We need to raise
$15,000(UPDATE: we’re down to needing just $9,000) by the end of December to catch up to our budget.
- If you can volunteer in one of our ministries, please do. Click here to contact us. There is a place for everyone to give a little time. You won’t be sorry you did.
Lastly, I want to offer a sincere thank you. You are helping to make this church into something special – a place where all are truly welcome and where the grace of Christ brings wholeness to the broken in our community.
P.S. If you want to make a year-end gift so we can continue to serve our community and help people like Natalia, you can do it safely and securely online at www.fccoceanside.org/give, or you can send a check to our PO Box below.