On Saturday, January 19, nearly 40 Saddleback members traveled to the city of Compton to participate in a Saddleback Church Good Neighbor program project. They arrived with paint brushes, ladders and yard tools, ready to work and eager to show God’s love in a tangible way.
Saddleback volunteers worked alongside Compton residents - both adults and children - trimming trees and painting an elderly woman’s house. By the end of the day, the volunteers had filled up two large dumpsters. The woman and her children were thrilled and expressed their excitement about being able to barbecue in their backyard again.
Van White, a Saddleback volunteer and resident of Mission Viejo, grew up in the Compton area. Since getting involved with Good Neighbor Compton, he’s had the opportunity to paint the high school he attended. He said it was especially meaningful to return to his hometown and see the positive changes that have occurred over the years. He also added that the Good Neighbor initiative has brought about a genuine sense of unity between the community’s churches, schools and members.
Saddleback Church started the Good Neighbor program after learning about the Compton Initiative begun by Emmanuel Church in Paramount. Pastor Ken Korver of Emmanuel, along with his congregation, made a 40-year commitment to restore the city of Compton. In the past few years, they have seen huge improvements in the area. Crime rates have plummeted, run-down school buildings have been renovated, dilapidated houses have been beautified and a crack house has been turned into a church facility! But most importantly, the community has experienced God’s love.
Steve Bresler of Saddleback Church shared how the church began involvement with the Compton Initiative five years ago. “We started participating in the Compton cleanup and wondered what that would look like in our own neighborhoods … not just doing good things but working in a way that the neighborhood is completely restored with the gospel,” he said. During Christmas time in 2011, Pastor Rick Warren encouraged church members to go out and do something for a neighbor rather than attend services. The Good Neighbor program was thus formed and members now focus on smaller low-income neighborhoods in south Orange County. Since 2011, hundreds of volunteers have stepped up to make a helpful impact on the lives of their under-resourced neighbors .
The Good Neighbor program now encompasses seven different locations, including Compton, San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente, Laguna Hills, Lake Forest, Huntington Beach, and a senior complex in Lake Forest. Community cleanups, pancake breakfasts, Christmas parties and even Bible studies are impacting the residents of these neighborhoods. Good Neighbor volunteers partner with the District Attorney and police department to make all of these events safe, productive, and fun.
The Good Neighbor program plans to expand to Irvine, Corona, and Anaheim this spring, and by summer, they hope to add two additional locations. The program always encourages volunteers of all ages. Those wishing to learn more or participate can visit the website for information at www.saddleback.com/goodneighbor.