The small church next to the park in Costa Mesa is filled with an aging population. When the pastor passed away, they looked at the possibilities available to them. Only one man interviewed for the job and wasn’t deterred by the small salary. An unmarried man who lived austerely would be the only kind of pastor they could afford. In Camellia, we see Marshall’s church and ministry in action.
During college, Marshall was exposed to the plight of homeless in Southern California. He volunteered at a church function and spent several hours getting to know families during the event. The afternoon changed the course of his life. He organized fundraisers and used his own money to supplement the food he gathered for the homeless near him. He began walking in the evenings looking for places where the homeless population gathered. And he changed his major to include social service related courses and studied how to navigate government resources.
How do Marshall’s church and ministry work together?
This is how Marshall found the church. He found himself in the park next to the church several evenings a week. When the city laws became less favorable to homeless, he began checking into the church for permission to use their parking lot. While his major had never been focused on being a pastor, his heart for people was immediately recognized by the church people charged with finding a pastor. In his discussions with them, they laid out his church responsibilities which would leave him time to continue with his studies and his homeless ministry. The church’s offer of a small monthly budget for food for the homeless made Marshall feel as though he had found a church home.
In the years that followed, Marshall gained the trust of the homeless people and found a friend, Bob, who helped him set up the tables. By the time Marshall met Camellia, his established routine after graduating college garnered local attention. With more time for fundraisers and the smart shopping tips gleaned from his congregation, Marshall learned to spread his thin resources even further.
As homeless people began attending services, the people showed their true colors by welcoming them. They began weekly potluck dinners after Sunday services, a practice that provided much-needed fellowship and friendships among the lonely senior members.
Marshall’s church adopted his ministry as their own. Slowly, they reached out to their friends and neighbors, inviting them to services and potlucks. And the church began to grow for the first time in nearly twenty years.
Intentionally seeing homeless people as individuals
More college-aged people attended services and volunteered. Women came because of Marshall’s single status but they stayed for the people and the ministry. Young men came because of the young women and some stayed. But only a few had time for Marshall’s regular lunch in the parking lot. Bob became the regular who stayed to help.
The most frustrating aspect of Marshall’s ministry became navigating social services. Too many homeless people were disqualified for help because of some interaction with the police, tightening of laws, or mental health issues. While meeting immediate needs, Marshall needs some way to provide more help for his homeless flock.
A local article on Marshall’s church and ministry catches the eye of a photographer. He decides to scout out the park for a new line of scrunchy clothing photo shoot.
Marshall’s church and ministry are fictional and part of the Planted Flowers Christian suspense series. Each book centers around a different woman, a unique aspect of growing closer to God, and issues Christian women face. Camellia focuses on the growing homeless population in one of the richest counties in our nation. Seeing them as individuals with unique gifts, talents, and needs doesn’t happen without intentionality.
My own experience with homeless ministries came from volunteering at my church. I became familiar with Orange County Rescue Mission, Build Futures, and the powerful influence of a large church. People can make a difference in many different ways by donating to resource centers, tutoring in afterschool programs, or providing a meal or a birthday party once a month. Contact your local church to find how you can get involved in helping homeless people change their lives.