As was reported by the Los Angeles Times, a way that a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Blythe, California (part of the Southeastern California Conference), has addressed community needs is by setting up a shelter at their church. The church, which starting helping the homeless in 2018, has been doing this for several months, and local Adventist Community Services Disaster Response (ACS DR) leaders have requested assistance.
“The city of Blythe has been taking in refugees during the last three months,” reported W. Derrick Lea, ACS DR director. “Intricately involved in this activity has been the Blythe Central Seventh-day Adventist Church. First, the local church was assisting Riverside County with temporary housing for families that were being housed in California after crossing into the U.S. The county asked if organizations would provide lodging while it was determined where the people would be sent on a more permanent basis. The Blythe church volunteered to be one such place of refuge.”
The church reported that at the height of this arrangement, they were inundated with upwards of a couple hundred people at any given time. This brought challenges to the church, which was not equipped to adequately handle crowds of this capacity. “The church tried to meet the needs with local church resources,” said Lea.
After the church’s work was publicized, the conference learned of the congregation’s role. The Southeastern California Conference ACS became aware of some of these needs and reached out to the NAD. “Since that contact, we have offered support and communicated with them about what assistance we might give,” Lea added.
In a discussion with Lea and ACS DR personnel, the county liason revealed that the flow of refugees had been stopped as the federal government placed a hold on people coming from the shelters and was now holding them in Mexico. “As of July 7, no one knows for certain what will happen after the hold is lifted, but the expectation is that the flow will soon once again take place.” The county is hoping the Blythe church will continue to help.
The situation in Blythe is fluid. Lea shared that ACS DR will meet this week with the conference to determine next steps. “Additionally, the church group has requested we meet with them to ascertain how they can better meet the needs of the community,” he said. “The state liaison asked to be involved in the conversation to better ensure things are in place to provide consistent, effective support. The state has even offered some funding should we be able to provide a usable facility.”
Texas is another location where local church members and ACS personnel have been making a difference. ACS DR union directors have reported that ACS already has made two trips down to McArthur, delivering needed items such as clothing and comfort kits to those in need. Since these deliveries, the state VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters) has asked if ACS could deliver additional goods to this area.
“The Southwestern Union reached out to the NAD, as their resources were exhausted. Within the week we were able to approve some financial support for the union, and items were ordered for another delivery to the border,” said Lea. “In addition to this support, we sent out a request for certain needed items throughout the division. Because many conferences have inquired as to how they could be of support, this has created a readymade opportunity for them to be involved in the work in the weeks ahead.”
“The NAD will continue to look for how we might support these efforts,” he added.
Visit www.communityservices.org to learn more about Adventist Community Services.