Blessings In Disguise: Finding community in the midst of crisis

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With COVID-19 upending the livelihoods of millions of working people in America, it’s hard to imagine how those who are experiencing homelessness are dealing with the pandemic.

Working with the city of Anaheim, The Salvation Army seeks to address both issues by giving the displaced a place to stay, recover and restore their lives.

But Pastor Jim Bogosian knows the only way to rebuild is through a community rooted in Jesus. So he made it his mission to address both the physical and spiritual needs of the shelter residents.

Below is a transcript of the video edited for readability.

Captain Nesan Kistan: When my wife and I arrived from Australia here in the U.S., in Orange County (California), three years ago, we quickly noted all of the shelters and the temporary structures. So, we gathered our key staff together and said, “We have a homeless crisis in Orange County. In fact, we have a homeless crisis across the United States.”

Julia: As I was out on the street, I got into drugs and the bad scene and stuff. When I got placed in the hospital, they kept me for two months, because at the time I was so sick that I was 104 pounds. But the doctor told me, “If you leave, you’re going to be gone in five days because you have an infection in your heart.” And I remember saying, “I don’t care.”

Alvin: If I got my paycheck, I’m going out with my friends, and I shared my two-week paycheck with them. Gambling addiction. I lost everything. I lost my wife, my car, everything.

Jim Bogosian: There’s certainly a diversity among the homeless. I’ve met some who had their own businesses, their own homes. Through a reversal of circumstances, lost everything. The question is, what do we do to advance people to become functioning citizens in the community?

Captain Nesan Kistan: We believe that we have a responsibility as The Salvation Army to the current challenge. In 79 days, we built a shelter for 224 people.

Jim Bogosian: The name of our shelter is the Anaheim Emergency Shelter. It’s a partnership for us to reach the homeless and the needy within the city of Anaheim.

Captain Nesan Kistan: We put food in people’s stomachs. We give them a warm bed. We give them an opportunity to get a shower. We give them the opportunity to clean and allow them to begin the process of achieving their God-given potential.

Jim Bogosian: I’m trying to be, with God’s grace, a pastor to the residents, as much as I possibly can. I’m available to meet with them one-on-one to listen, to share, to answer questions, to pray for, give some spiritual counsel.

Captain Nesan Kistan: You need to put food in their stomach, put clothes on their back, enable and allow them to actually hear the gospel in the right state of mind. It’s all about transforming lives.

Jim Bogosian: We want it to be a home, primarily for people within Anaheim, since we have partnered with the city of Anaheim to provide this place.

Julia: When I first came here, I remember laying in bed saying, “God, this is what it feels like to be home again.” I want to live a better life, a good life now.

Alvin: I am not doing drugs anymore and when I get better, time to change my life. So, I keep straight and I’m choosing the right path.

Captain Nesan Kistan: The Anaheim Emergency Shelter has been impacted by COVID-19 in many ways. It means that there is now one crisis coupled by another crisis. We have had to change guidelines. We have to have put together whole new plans of how to feed people in a safe and effective manner.

Jim Bogosian: We have our schedule of worship service. We have a worship service Sunday morning, Bible studies through the week, but how am I going to serve the people there when I can’t be there? With some help from other people, we began to rethink the way that we do ministry, and then we began to do some virtual meetings.

Captain Nesan Kistan: We have 30 people on a regular basis watching our live stream from the Tustin Ranch Salvation Army.

Jim Bogosian: “Welcome to all who are watching online and especially those at the shelter.” Cheers go up. There’s a real connection. I was teaching a Bible study. I thought, “Wait a minute, why can’t we include some of the people that I got to know here at the shelter?” So, our people at church got to know them. They got to know people in the church. And as I’m beginning to see a faith community forming here, I’m thinking, “This isn’t a whole lot different than what we did in our other churches.”

Alvin: I want to get closer and closer to Jesus Christ, so I’m willing to serve you again.

Jim Bogosian: And then Alvin began to tell me some of his story. And he’s been one of the key members of our new faith community for me. And he’s become a friend and a brother.

Alvin: Pastor James is a good pastor and a good influence because he wants to help me get better.

Julia: We could tell him we’re going through something, and he’ll get up right away and pray with you. He really made me feel good inside.

Jim Bogosian: Julia, her new and transformed life, is the ministry that we’ve been able to provide, and she’s passing on to others the love of Christ. It’s more than just providing a good and safe place for people to be. It’s introducing them to Jesus Christ. Our aim is that everyone who knows Christ will be a part of a church. Soon as COVID lifts, they’ll be able to physically be apart as well, in then loving, caring for, disciplining, mentoring. So we look forward to when COVID is over; I’m going to be taking busloads of people to our church. There is the power of Christ being able to free us from addictions to make us the new people that he wants us to be and enable us to serve him.

Captain Nesan Kistan: So bringing the spiritual and the physical response to people’s human suffering is vitally important for us.

Alvin: There’s a lot of activity over here in the shelter. We have AA meeting. That’s the employment group. She’s helping me to look for a job. I have an interview for my job. I will get the success.

Julia: I feel great. I really, really do. I’ve just got to believe and have hope.

Alvin: I feel good, better. This place is a good place for my recovery. God is great.

Julia: I’ve got all the tools now, but I’ve got to keep moving forward. I can’t go backwards no more. I want to be able to cook for myself, clean for myself, have a home, everything, a whole new life back.

Captain Nesan Kistan: When I walk through the Anaheim Emergency Shelter, I see a mom. I see a dad. I see a child that belongs to a family. God has still got a plan for every individual. This mission that we have is a vital one. We’re actually bringing Jesus into the very center of their transformational journey. Many of the people that are here are working with our housing navigators. So we don’t want people stuck in this continual cycle of poverty and homelessness. We want to give people an opportunity to move forward.

Jim Bogosian: The only way we’re going to be able to do that successfully is partnerships with our Salvation Army corps and with other churches. I think I would urge everyone to be involved in serving, caring for the marginalized. Talk with leaders about it, and we can even help your church get involved in serving. And I’m thankful, rejoicing, celebrating, humbled, honored. It’s very exciting.

On Dec. 26, 2020, Jim Bogosian was promoted to Glory after battling COVID-19. Pastor Jim put his life on the line to serve the most vulnerable in the midst of a global crisis. He will be remembered as a faithful soldier and servant.

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Comments 1

  1. I watched the video on the shelter at Anaheim. I would like to know how corps are helping the homeless in their community that have a meal program. The shelter in Anaheim is providing job skills, counseling, church programs. What can a small corps do to make a big impact in the lives of the homeless in their community?

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