Christ Lutheran Church has been transformed by our relationship with our local homeless siblings. We see Jesus in the faces of those who live outside and we have been humbled by hearing their stories.

We are currently in partnership with United To End Homelessness through Orange County United Way.  Click here for an informative brochure on Orange County homelessness. Pastor Brenda is a proud member of their faith council and a co-signer of a recent op-ed in the Orange County Register.

Christ Lutheran supports San Clemente’s efforts to find compassionate responses to homelessness. Click here for Pastor Brenda’s recent letter to the editor of the San Clemente Times.

Some local homeless worship with us on Sunday mornings and participate in our monthly beach bonfires. Their faith is inspiring.

Here are some of their stories:

MISTY

Church members and some of the guys from the beach were gathering around our fire, sharing food we had brought. One guy had made soup from donated groceries. Others started cutting meat roasted at home.

An ancient woman walked up, head bowed, hat pulled over her eyes. I thought it was South Shore Shelley, someone we see a lot.

“Shelley!” I said, “Come get something to eat.”

The woman didn’t respond, but as we moved toward the food table I realized it was not Shelley. I wasn’t sure if she hadn’t heard me call her by the wrong name, or just didn’t correct me. Why bother?

She sat next to me at the fire, and fairly quickly started telling me about ongoing court appearances she has, how she had been held for days and days in an interrogation room. She was suing the county. She has a lot of lawyers helping her.

“Wow, that sounds terrible,” I said. I’m never sure where the truth lay in these stories. It is likely she has been arrested. It is also likely she was not treated well. It may have felt like she was held for days against her will. Maybe she was. It’s very likely she was not sure what was happening to her and sadly, just as likely no one was provided to help her.

Now she told me her name was Misty. She looked like she was in her late seventies, but who knows? Life on the streets would make a fifty-year-old look like they were ninety.

We started singing hymns around the fire and Misty could always fill in the words I could not remember, the second and third verse of popular songs. Her voice was thin, reedy, heartbreakingly sweet. Her pitch was poor, but her memory was remarkable.

And then she said she had a poem to recite, would I like to hear it?

Of course.

Gently, tenderly, in a high-pitched voice she recited, word-for-word, with no hesitation:

If we knew each other better,
we would praise where now we blame,
We would know each bears his burden
Wears some hidden cross of shame
We would feel the heartaches bitter
They so long ago have borne
If we knew each other better,
We would praise instead of scorn

If we knew each other better,
You and I and all the rest,
Seeing down beneath the surface
To the sorrows all unguessed
We would quit our cold complaining
And a hand of trust extend:
If we knew each other better,
We would count each one a friend

We can know each other better
If we take the time to try,
Little deeds of loving kindness
Make a better by and by
Just a look of understanding
Brings a touch with all mankind;
We can know each other better;
Yes, seeking we shall find.

We sang a few more songs and then she wandered off, into the night, long before everyone else left. Maybe we will meet again, maybe we will not.

PHIL AND THOR – by Cheri Hopper

I had just arrived at the location where iHope was holding their mobile shower service and found myself wondering what I had let my friend Susan talk me into. It was early on a Saturday, cold out and there were quite a few homeless individuals waiting their turn to take a shower.  I had been around people who were homeless before but this was a different crowd than I was use to since many of the people that were there slept tucked in the bushes most nights. They weren’t couch surfing or staying with family and this was their one opportunity per week to take a hot shower, get a cup of coffee & get some case management if they wanted it.

Anyway I looked around to see if I could tuck myself in a corner until I got a bit more comfortable and there he was. Curled up on the man’s coat so the chill of the asphalt wouldn’t bother him was a very large brindle pit bull. Not knowing the dog I stayed back some but within 5 minutes a man emerged from the shower and the dog began to stir. I went over and introduced myself to the man and asked if his dog was friendly. Not only was this great beast of a dog friendly but he got up and came over to greet me. His name was Thor, his owner was Phil and I was hooked.

Although my friend had talked me into volunteering it was Phil & Thor who in the beginning kept me coming back. They lived on the streets which they had for a number of years and were quite well known. Ask most anyone in that area & they knew Phil & Thor quite well. Thor never went hungry, always had a mat or something warm to sleep on and Phil’s favorite story was the day Thor was born and how he claimed him then.  Those two were family and the bond was powerful.

But life on the street is hard and no matter how hard he tried Phil just couldn’t stay away from alcohol and I watched him struggle. He wasn’t lazy or weak Phil was just broken and one day he fell and hit his head. That week before this happened was the last time I saw him, the last time he called me Lady and held my hand in his as he thanked me for caring. The fall had done too much damage & after a couple of weeks I found out Phil had passed away. That was 5 years ago and as I write this I am crying because I miss him. He was my friend and he mattered to me, he was important and a part of him will always live in my heart. We all matter!

Thor’s story had a happily ever after though and he was adopted by a family and lived the rest of his life with love.

Cheri Hopper is a member of Christ Lutheran Church. She worked five years at the Dayle McIntosh Ctr. as an independent living coordinator, peer support mentor &  advocate working with person’s with disabilities. She was a benefits coordinator & advocate for individuals who were homeless with a mental health diagnosis at Friendship Shelter in Dana Point. She has served as as volunteer for iHope and FAM, and served on committees to address the mental & physical needs of our counties most vulnerable. Most of all Cheri identifies as a broken individual who believes fully that we are all worthy of love, deserve shelter from the storms and indeed are all God’s children who he dearly loves. She found Christ Lutheran Church when a homeless teen told her about our Easter services.