Salvation Army shelter guest receives full scholarship to Biola University

Salvation Army shelter guest receives full scholarship to Biola University

High school senior Ruben Calleros and his mother lost their rental home of seven years when the owner stopped paying the mortgage.

Eighteen-year-old Ruben Calleros will testify that God does work in mysterious ways.

Calleros, a senior at Savanna High School in Anaheim, California, maintains a 4.0 GPA, plays on the varsity tennis team and is president of two clubs: Rebels for Christ and the Hispanic Society. He also holds a part-time job at Taco Bell. In the fall of 2023, one of his dreams came true when he received news of his acceptance to nearby Biola University with a full scholarship.

Meanwhile, Calleros, his mother Maria Calleros and their dog Ruby have been guests at The Salvation Army Anaheim Emergency Shelter since May 2023, after they became situationally homeless.

Calleros and his mother had lived in the same duplex in Anaheim for seven years. They had the back unit, while the owner lived in the front unit.

“My whole upbringing was there,” Calleros said, explaining that the owner fell into a downward spiral after the death of his mother and eventually stopped paying the mortgage. When the bank seized the property, the Calleros family had to leave.

They had no place to go. They needed help.

“There’s no manual on how to survive homelessness,” Calleros said. “There’s no two-minute prayer that automatically you’ll get a report from the Lord. Ultimately, you have to walk by faith.”

And that is what Calleros and his mother have done. Three years earlier, he said they dedicated their lives to Christ and subsequently went through a maturing period in their faith, which recent circumstances put to the test.

“When anything happens in life that hurts you or breaks you, ultimately you go home, sleep it off and continue your life,” Calleros said. “But when this happens, where do you go? If the spot where you grew up—where you laughed and cried—is not there, it throws you into this state of limbo; you’re just floating.”

And for a few weeks, the Calleros family was in fact floating—couch hopping with friends.

Calleros had reached out to his school advisors and asked the Rebels for Christ club members for prayer. Soon The Salvation Army OC 614 homeless outreach got involved and found a spot for them at the Anaheim Emergency Shelter. When Calleros turned 18 in May, he and his mom and their dog entered the shelter, where they were placed together as a family.

“The Lord led us to a nearby shelter—not only a nearby shelter, but one where the Lord was,” he said. “Even though many see a homeless shelter as a desert, like a valley of dry bones, the Lord’s presence in that place is like an oasis of living water, a fountain in the middle of a desert. This has really allowed us to put our faith and what we had learned into practice.”

“There’s no manual on how to survive homelessness. There’s no two-minute prayer that automatically you’ll get a report from the Lord. Ultimately, you have to walk by faith.”—Ruben Calleros

Harvey Marquez, Pastoral Care Lead for the Tustin Ranch Corps, works with The Salvation Army’s homeless outreach in Orange County and ministers at the Anaheim Emergency Shelter. He’s gotten to know Calleros well.

“Ruben, being a strong young man of faith, is an avid follower of Jesus,” he said. “While at the shelter, he has been active in our church, regularly attending our weekly spiritual care meetings.”

Calleros said since Anaheim Emergency Shelter is a low barrier facility, the guests there are dealing with a variety of situations. He commended the shelter for its resources, which include AA meetings and emotional support groups, plus prayer meetings and Bible studies. He and his mother have been involved not only with the Christian ministry there, but also with the recovery meetings, even though they aren’t facing those challenges.

“We go more than anything as human beings and as Christians going through a time of tribulation…it’s those little groups you hold close to,” he said. “They’re really great moments for me, especially as an 18-year-old, a younger person on site, it’s been a season not only of difficulty, but also of a lot of learning.”

His goal is to give back.

“I want to go beyond just being a participant of the resources, but being able to give back, to serve and help with the music and the ministry,” he said. He’s been able to preach at the shelter, and he’s given his testimony at The Salvation Army Tustin Ranch Corps. Inspired by his mother’s spiritual maturity, he realizes the two of them are equipped with tools they’ve used at the shelter, “to lay hands, to pray, to give encouragement.”

“There’s even been times when with new residents, they sometimes confuse us for staff members,” Calleros said.

Marquez said Calleros has co-led a worship service at the shelter, spoken at a Men’s Ministry breakfast, led prayer at a Prayer, Praise and Prophecy meeting and participated in the Advent candlelight ceremony at the Tustin Ranch Corps.

Calleros has a somewhat surprising role model: Reverend Billy Graham. Calleros, whose native language is Spanish, said when he started studying the Bible in English, he went to YouTube looking for inspiration. That’s where he discovered Graham.

“He was around long ago but when he would preach, it was with this authority and it was just so relatable,” he said. “And he was preaching at the Anaheim Stadium in 1986.”

Calleros envisions himself someday preaching to large groups of people, inspiring them to follow Jesus. First, though, he’s headed to Biola, where he plans to major in Spanish and minor in theology.

“In five years, I hope the Lord will lead me so that I will be able to be a light within my generation for the Lord,” he said. He recognizes that at school and at the shelter he’s developed his leadership skills and public speaking abilities. He referred to Luke 4:18-21, saying in his heart he wants more than anything to lead people to the Lord.

Right now, Calleros and his mother continue to witness for God at the Anaheim Emergency Shelter. They’re following up on two promising housing leads. The Anaheim Housing Authority is working with them and the Mayor of Anaheim has advocated for them.

“I guess you could say that the Lord had prepared us sufficiently in faith to go through this,” Calleros said. “The Lord ultimately had an overarching greater plan for us…This season of my life has been a catapult into discovering who I am in the Lord and as a Christian. I know the Lord has molded myself and my mother to become who he wants us to be…and if the Lord did it to me, he can do it to anyone. There is salvation, there is a hope, there is a future in the Lord.”

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