By Cynthia Mendoza
From church parking lots to busy street corners, church members in the Southeastern California Conference are making a tangible difference in their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted lives worldwide.
As the virus began to spread in the U.S. and local governments began instituting social restrictions to slow its increase, toilet paper appeared to be the first basic commodity that began to run out in stores. Soon, it became very difficult to find any at all.
Jonny Blue, a member of the Escondido church, decided to do something to help. He took to the streets of Encinitas, Calif., to collect and share rolls of toilet paper, while carrying a sign that read, “Share your toilet paper.”
“I saw that people were looking out for themselves but weren’t being very considerate of others,” Blue said of his observation that many were obtaining excessive amounts of toilet paper, which left nothing for other people. “I wanted to encourage others to be good neighbors and do something for their community.”
Blue eventually set up a table on the street corner where others could drop off basic commodities like toilet paper and food. He set up a sign behind the table that read, “We are here to help.” People who needed food or any of the items on the table were free to take what they needed, and people who had enough to share were encouraged to do so by leaving it at the table.
The outreach, which happened only a few times before stay-at-home orders were put in place, made a difference for those who had a real need.
“The benefit of this experience was that it encouraged people to think of others,” Blue said. “We shouldn’t be judgmental of people acting out of fear. We’re all doing the best we can.”
Blue’s story was featured in The San Diego Union-Tribune, Huffington Post, and Washington Examiner.
In Anaheim, the Emmanuel Spanish church was also busy with their own ministry of providing foods such as dry beans and rice, eggs, and other basic needs, including toilet paper, for the community in a drive-through ministry in their parking lot.
“We had been doing a food bank before the crisis, so we had to adapt to new ways of providing,” said Carlos Acosta, pastor of the church.
From initially serving about 40 cars early in the crisis, they were soon serving close to 100 cars a week by the end of March. Church volunteers wore masks and gloves to protect themselves and others from possible contagion as they quickly handed out the bags of goods from a safe distance. They also prayed with many of the community members who drove through.
“Along with the physical needs, we see a real spiritual need here as well,” said Acosta.
A photo of the Emmanuel Spanish church drive-through ministry was published in a March article by Christianity Today about what churches are doing to help their communities during the crisis.