Archive for the ‘Homeless’ Category

Gospel According to Skid Row: Benefit Concert

Chen Fong Auditorium, Fourth Floor, Centennial Complex, Loma Linda University

April 16, 2011  from 3:00 – 5:00 pm


This benefit concert will be performed by members of Skid Row, Los Angeles. We invite you to come and be a witness to lives touched by the gospel and expressed through gospel music. Enjoy narrations of existential struggles, of hope in the midst of lost and grace at the center of life’s predicament. The funds raised during this concert will be used to support the ministry of LA Central City Community Church in providing care and services to the homeless residing in Skid Row.

Some Facts

“According to this recent study, the number of homeless on any given night in Los Angeles County has reached 90,000, up 8.4 percent from 83,000 in 2003. Ito noted that “the County of Los Angeles is now the homeless capital of the United States,” surpassing by far New York City’s 40,000, Chicago’s 9,600 and San Francisco’s 9,600 homeless populations. “To put it in perspective,” noted Ito, “the homeless population of Los Angeles County is larger than the entire population of the city of Santa Monica [a beach community that abuts Los Angeles]. It is truly an appalling situation.”

The bulk of the LA county homeless—82,291 out of the 90,000—are found in the City of Los Angeles—South Central (which includes Watts, Downtown, Pico Union, Boyle Heights, Hollywood—and in the City of Compton and in some of the smaller cities within the county. The industrial city of Long Beach, to the south (California’s sixth largest), Pasadena and Glendale to the north conduct their own count and provide their own services. They have 6,000, 1,200, and 400 homeless, respectively.

Out of the city’s 82,291 homeless, 34,518 (42 percent) are considered chronically homeless; that is, they have been “on the streets for more a year or more, or have had four episodes of homelessness in the last three years” and “have one or more disabilities, including mental illness, substance abuse and health conditions.” Approximately 55 percent of this population suffers from three or more disabilities.

–Ramón Valle, 17 October 2005, wsws.org

According to official U.S. government statistics issued in November of 2007, more than 1 in 10 people in the United States go hungry. More than 35 million people went hungry in 2006 according to the same report; almost 13 million of them were children and many of the rest were impoverished senior citizens.


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So a friend told me about making physical transition from one location to another.  And in the midst of this transition the place called home is temporary suspended.  I asked what temporal homelessness feels like? And the response was some what unusual, “free.”  This makes me ponder what I’ve often discussed with my students in class about simplicity.  How free we are in a sense is all connected to how able we are at simplicity.  I suppose simplicity is not only judged at the material level.  Simplicity seems to also suggest a way of life, of being.  To be simple in what we expect of life, to be simple in what we expect of others, to be simple in where we expect ourselves to be.  Simplicity increases our threshold level, increases our immunity toward the unexpected, the random events in life.  Our ability to live with less makes us less vulnerable.  Our ability to adapt to the contour of life regardless of the ups and the downs provides stability.  When we can live with the highs (which isn’t too hard) and when we can live with the lows, we can sustain ourselves.  We can appreciate success and we can accommodate failures.  Simplicity as a state of being offers a sustenance to remain in the presence.  The problem is the practice of simplicity is not as simple as we think it is.


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A number of years ago I went with my colleagues (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) to a small remote Hmong village in Tak Province to build toilets and provide medial care for the villagers.  Before we returned a villager brought his 6 year old son and asked if we could take him to Wat Sa Keow in Ang Thong, central Thailand.  I did not know anything about Wat Sa Keow at the time.  A couple of Hmong kids jumped into the back of the pickup truck.  The little boy was all by himself.  I noticed how sad it was for him to leave his family.  His parent informed me that this was his only chance for education.  If he were to stay back, it would be much harder for him to obtain his education.  We left the village and about 6 hours later we arrived at Wat Sa Keow.  I got down from the car.  A few Hmong kids that came with us ran to meet their friends since there were here before.  This little boy did not know any one.  He was all alone by himself in this orphanage with thousands of kids.  I watched him walked by himself with a few tear drops in his eyes toward the main building with a little bag in his hand.  It was hard to explain the emotion, but I was deeply moved with grief for this little boy.  I just came across a reference to Wat Sa Keow again not too long ago and thought, it will be nice to visit and do some volunteer work at this place during my next visit to Thailand.

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News from ADRA International

Camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) near the town of Goma continue to hold thousands of people fleeing the ongoing violence in war torn eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Meanwhile, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is responding, distributing emergency supplies and assisting more than 6,000 people who remain displaced from their homes. This assistance is helping 3,578 families in the affected North Kivu Province. The distribution of non-food items includes 2,800 wool blankets, 850 school kits, and 4,000 multi-purpose fabrics that can be worn by women to protect them from the cold or to carry their babies. The school kits, which include book bags, notebooks, pens and pencils, are being given to elementary and secondary school-age students. The $64,000 project is implemented with funding from ADRA Norway, ADRA Canada, ADRA International, ADRA Sweden, the ADRA Africa Regional office in Kenya, ADRA Australia, ADRA United Kingdom, and ADRA France. The situation in the region remains tense following weeks of violence. Fighting between the Congolese army and the rebel group National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) surged in late October 2008 forcing more than 250,000 people into makeshift camps. Nearly one million are presently displaced in eastern Congo, or 20 per cent of the population of the entire North Kivu Province, according to the United Nations. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) in DRC has reported that IDPs have become the target of serious human rights violations from all sides of the conflict, including abuses by civilians. In a separate conflict in DRC’s northeastern Oriental Province, the Uganda-based Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group has recently killed some 534 people and kidnapped more than 400 others in ongoing raids, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported. On December 14, Congolese, Ugandan, and Sudanese forces launched a joint military operation to repel the LRA. “We remain extremely concerned about the fate of residents who are now increasingly caught in a conflict zone near the borders of the DRC, the Central African Republic and Sudan,” said UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond in statement issued on January 13. Since 1996, more than 4 million people are believed to have died in the Congolese conflict, according to UN estimates, mostly due to preventable diseases and starvation. To assist ADRA’s emergency response to the growing humanitarian crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, contributions can be donated to ADRA’s Refugee and Displaced Persons Fund, by phone at 1.800.424.ADRA (2372) or online at http://www.adra.org. ADRA is a non-governmental organization present in 125 countries providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race, or ethnicity. Additional information about ADRA can be found at http://www.adra.org. Author: Nadia McGill

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A military official in the delta township of Labutta estimated 80,000 dead there alone, and many families there told an AFP reporter most of their relatives had been killed. “Houses collapsed, buildings collapsed, and people were swept away,” one man said. “I only survived by hanging on to a big tree.”

Around 5,000 square kilometres (1,930 square miles) remain underwater, and more than a million homeless need emergency relief, a UN spokesman said.

Shari Villarosa, US charge d’affaires in Myanmar’s main city Yangon, said there could be more than 100,000 dead in the Irrawaddy delta, where 95 percent of buildings were reported to have disappeared. Food prices in Myanmar, already one of the world’s most impoverished nations, have soared. A bag of rice now costs 40,000 kyats (35 dollars) in the commercial hub Yangon, up from 25,000 last week.http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hab-iTARKHbjNiLxhHLBSaK9dOLg



Dear God, please help me find the words that my heart would like to express.

Receive the souls of those who have passed on.  

Help these people who have lost their homes from storms. 

Guide the survivors with your light to a better day.

Give them patience and hope to endure the lonely and difficult times.  

May peace become yours soon after this terrible disaster.  

Help us to trust that you provide.  Amen.




For those who wish to help, please go to www.adra.org

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I have been reflecting on the issue of human trafficking, particularly the stories of children involved in the sex industry in Thailand, for more than a decade.  When I hear their stories, I feel that pain.  The more I explore this issue the more I come to realize that while we need all the policies and projects and funding to really help these young women, there is an area we often over look.  We often fight poverty by looking at monetary increment which is very important and explore job opportunities.  Sometime we fail to realize that poverty is also a concept, an idea, a very powerful idea carefully constructed for the purpose of control and profits.  While I certainly hope that we can plan more programs, provide more funds, write better policies to help ease the pain I certainly hope that we will also address the core value that fuels the ideas behind prosperity and poverty.  I hope that at some level we can also realize that importance of simplicity as key to reframing how we understand the meaning of being poor.  In some way we need to disengage ourselves from paternalistic masculinity that defines  success through capitalistic economy.

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Last Saturday after my Sabbath School class I thought to myself that I should try to go to Cross Walk Church a couple of blocks away. While driving toward the church I felt the compulsion to go to the park and meditate instead. And so I thought I should swing by In-N-Out for a burger and fries…good for meditation. I did even though the line was long. As I was heading toward the park I thought of how my wife and I used to help street kids in Thailand. One thought led to the other. I was wondering what would it be like to get a chance to help a homeless person on Sabbath. And as I was thinking there he was, a very old man pushing an old bicycle. I thought to myself, but not today God. I waited too long at In-N-Out. Next time. I drove pass. And God spoke to me. I turned my car around, pulled in front of the old man and passed him my set lunch. His hand was shaking, his face wrinkled, his clothes unwashed. He could hardly say a word when I gave him the burger. But in his eyes I knew he was very thankful. As I drove away, I felt that to be a very special God moment for me. To be overwhelmed with the feeling of being in the presence of something Sacred was worth everything.

Every month I received a small amount of money for my supervision work. I used this money sometime to entertain myself…buying small electronic toys etc. and at other time I use it for charity. One of my students has been struggling financially trying to support his family but he never complained, never asked always presenting a very positive attitude. I thought Christmas must be hard for him. And so I slipped some money in an envelop and told the secretary to call but never to reveal my name. He came to the office wanted to know from whom but the secretary refused to tell. He left the office. Opened the envelop and came back to the office with tears in his eyes. He had a couple of dollars left in his saving and told his children that this Christmas was going to be difficult. When I heard this story, the first thought was that God do really knows us and what we are going through. God knows. This is such a soulful moment for me. I met God twice in a week and I could not have asked for more.

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Just want to give a short report of my recent visits to various places in northern Thailand.  My first stop was at Bo Thong Elementary School located approximately 20 kilometers north of Chiang Rai city.  My wife and I and a couple of friends have been supporting about 30 children from this school.  This time I met with four children from kindergarten to grade one.  They are all HIV positive.  I just want to share what I gathered regarding the an Aka girl (Aka is one of the tribes in northern Thailand, migrated mostly from Burma) who is HIV positive.  She is in grade 4 and could not speak Thai very well.  The family moved from other location to this little Aka village located behind the elementary school (about 40 families in all) about 2 decades ago.  Right now she lives with her great grand mother.  She has no money to spend.  Her great grand mother does not work (she is approximately 75) and not in good health.  Her great grand mother receives financial help occasionally from her relative living in Taiwan.

This little girl’s grand mother passed away because of AIDS 7 years ago.  Her mother went to Chiang Mai city to work.  While working in Chiang Mai she married a Thai men who left her when she was pregnant.  She died of AIDS 5 years ago.  This little girl has no relatives left except for her great grand mother who is pretty old and in ill health.  Her future is unknown.

I also had the opportunity to visit homes of three of the at-risk girls in the project that we sponsored (we currently are sponsoring 8 students).   Two of the girls are from Aka tribe. The other girl is a local Thai girl from a small village near Chiang Rai.  I will continue to report on these three visits the next time I have the opportunity.

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I have the privilege of knowing Rev. Jeffrey Thomas through my supervisory work at Claremont School of Theology.  Rev. Jeffrey Thomas is currently a doctoral students in Practical Theology at Claremont School of Theology who is very passionate about ministering to the homeless.  His theological training focuses on the sociological dimension of practical theology and the place of intervention.  On a number of occasions I invited him to speak to medical students at Loma Linda University and students were most inspired by his stories, his theology, and his commitment.  The one very  important message I learned from Rev. Jeffrey Thomas is the need to share in solidarity.  The best help may be just our ability and willingness to be there and to listen and to understand.

The American Bible Society has a short clip on his work and you can check this out by going to:

http://www.abspresents.com and click episode # 35.  His ministry is covered in the last section of the episode.  Enjoy.


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