by Greg Rumsey
Rafael (not his real name), a middle-aged man with a history of psychiatric problems, was in despair over conflicts with his son, in whose home he had been living. He was taken by ambulance to a homeless shelter for men. While eating dinner at the shelter, he met Kelsy Escalante from Fusion San Bernardino ministries, which is comprised of young people from churches in the Loma Linda area who volunteer on Thursday evenings.
“I just want to die,” he told Escalante. Three weeks later, after many conversations, hugs, and prayers, he was a totally different man, she said.
Rafael is one of about 50 men at the shelter who are served every Thursday and then invited to Friday vespers at San Bernardino Community church. The ministry is an outgrowth of a young adult group called Praxis, which began at Loma Linda University church early in 2018. About 25 volunteers from surrounding Adventist churches also come to serve.
“Every Thursday night is beautiful,” said Bo Kim, the ministry’s primary leader. “We have dinner with the men, talk with them, finish with a prayer circle, and then tell them where we go to church.”
In August, the team, which includes university students, started a special vespers program for the homeless men. A church van or bus picks them up and brings them to the church. Attendance by volunteers and men from the shelter approaches 100 some Friday evenings.
“There are little veins of love going to their hearts,” said Escalante of the homeless men. “But some of them have never experienced it. They ask us if we are doing this for a class or volunteer hours, and we say no.”
Kim said the ministry has seen a surge of interest in volunteering in recent months, with psychologists, dentists, physicians, and other professionals offering their time and financial support.
By 2021, the group hopes to build “a mini Drayson Center in the ghetto,” said Jerrold Thompson, pastor of San Bernardino Community church, referring to Loma Linda University’s wellness center.
Upcoming events include the “King’s Table” meal, with a hired chef and black-tie attire. A new program called Fusion is set to begin in January, with plans to offer the homeless men cooking classes, physical and occupational therapy, laundry help, haircuts, showers, clothing, music activities, and eventually an English class.
For more photos and information about the ministry, visit their Facebook page: Fusion San Bernardino ministries.