Helping Struggling Families Become the Hero

01/17/2018 .
Saddleback Church

Through Daring Faith, our Saddleback family has been working toward assisting people in need through–the “A” goal of our five FAITH goals. That’s why Local PEACE and the PEACE Community Resource Center at our Irvine South campus recently provided refreshments, crafts, fellowship, entertainment, and most of all, a bridge of love to connect struggling families to Jesus Christ and to our church.

Held on December 15 at Irvine South’s PEACE Center, the open-house style holiday event was hosted in partnership with Olive Crest’s Kinship Support Services—a nonprofit that helps struggling families who have accepted the call to raise children of friends or family members.

Organized by Vanessa Burdick, Campus PEACE Center and Local PEACE Manager at Saddleback Irvine South, the idea to partner with Olive Crest’s program came about from Saddleback’s Orphan Care Ministry and Vanessa’s 21 years working as a teacher in the impoverished Garden Grove area.

“Many of my former students were members of families very much like the ones that we served from Olive Crest,” she recalls. “They were being raised by caregivers who were not their parents. Seeing how difficult it was for these families had quite an impact on me. The caregivers were good people who wanted to provide for the children in the best way possible, but often lacked the resources to do so. This inner turmoil in me eventually caused me to reach out to my small group to begin a series of giving opportunities to families in need at my school.”

With the birth of that vision came provision of food and gifts to 20 families whom they served. It also led to a partnership with community liaisons at the school. Vanessa believes this was God’s way of preparing her heart for her role at Saddleback. 

 

Undoubtedly, this inaugural partnership between Olive Crest and Saddleback Irvine South will be the first of many outreach events to come. Over 100 volunteers dedicated 342 volunteer hours to serve 220 people and 83 families.

From 1:00 PM to 6:00 PM, volunteers worked in shifts to celebrate Jesus’s birthday with the kids by decorating cookies, hula dancing with Saddleback’s hula ministry, creating crafts, eating goodies and offering hope in Christ. While the kids were celebrating, the caregivers were able to visit the “secret shopping room” where they could choose gifts from hundreds of donated toys, games, and crafts for the children for whom they cared.

After choosing their gifts, caregivers were escorted to the “wrapping room” where specially trained volunteers shared the Gospel, showed love, and connected families to other Saddleback Church and PEACE Center ministries (like SK, SSM, the food pantry, ESL, small groups, etc.). After wrapping gifts, each caregiver was walked out to their car where a volunteer connected with them and led them in prayer.

 While many caregivers intended to drop by and simply pick up gifts, they ended up staying for hours because they were having so much fun!

 

The lasting impact has resulted in several families returning to the Food Pantry and seeking a deeper connection with God. As Vanessa explains, “We had several Olive Crest families come to the Food Pantry after the event,” she says. “One of the women that came again on Tuesday accepted Christ. We also had six of the caregivers recommit their lives to Jesus on the day of the event!”

Not only have the lives of caregivers been blessed, but also the 100 volunteers who showed love have benefited through a full servants’ heart. From picking up toys and tables in the early morning, to setting up rooms and wrapping gifts, each life was used to bless the families with love and appreciation.

“We also wanted to help create a lasting memory that the family could hold onto and look back on in the years to come,” adds Vanessa. “Without this event, many of these caregivers would not be able to provide Christmas gifts for the kids. This event gave the caregiver the opportunity to choose a gift and be the hero.”

 

This outreach is just one of many events offered through Irvine South’s PEACE Community Resource Center. It also serves families in need by offering the Food Pantry, ESL classes, and resource coaching. Next month, they will launch three more ministries: career coaching, computer skills workshop, and citizenship class.

Come and be a part of what God is doing at the PEACE Community Resource Center at Irvine South. They always need volunteers in all areas to continue to meet the various needs of the community. To be part of this powerful outreach, email peacecenterIS@saddleback.com.