The Salvation Army brings spiritual care to those in Anaheim Emergency Shelter
Majors Nesan and Cheryl Kistan drove to Disneyland on their day off. As they exited the freeway and neared the entrance, they noticed a man begging for money across the street. Nesan Kistan leaned forward and squinted his eyes. He asked, “Cheryl, isn’t that Terry?!”
They knew the man—they had met him at the Anaheim (California) Emergency Shelter (AES), a low-barrier shelter The Salvation Army runs. The light changed and they kept driving, but the Holy Spirit stirred their hearts, Nesan Kistan said. They needed to go find Terry.
Terry later said he’d stood on the corner for hours, trying to beg for money. He only had a few dollars. “I messed up and had to leave the shelter for 90 days. I had no money. No food stamps. I cried out to God, ‘I can’t make it out here for 90 days,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Kistans drove the streets, looking for the man and found him pushing a shopping cart. They pulled over, called him to the car and loaded their trunk with his belongings. They headed back to the shelter.
Nesan Kistan helped Terry receive another chance—and Terry re-entered the shelter. “Right when I called out to God, Major Kistan showed up,” Terry said.
Today, Terry said he is in recovery and has committed his life to following Jesus. He currently serves as the resident worship leader on Sunday nights at the Anaheim Emergency Shelter and will soon have an apartment of his own.
“This is The Salvation Army at its best,” said Nesan Kistan. “The Salvation Army was born on the streets of East London, amid suffering and poverty. We are for the prisoner, the oppressed. We are the Church with sleeves rolled up.”
Indeed, the Anaheim Emergency Shelter is the “Church with sleeves rolled up.” In the past few years, God worked through the local leaders to integrate social services and spiritual care with much more intention. “That is how William Booth started The Salvation Army, and in Orange Country we are really trying to move toward more holistic ministry,” Nesan Kistan said.
A history of ministry to those experiencing homelessness in Orange County, California
When Jim Bogosian, the previous beloved social services ministry leader as AES, passed away due to COVID, his loss left a big hole in the heart of the people and the program. Bogosian’s legacy of connecting social services and spiritual wholeness continued with the leadership of Pastor Andre Abrantes.
Abrantes said his passion for fostering wholeness in all areas of residents’ lives led him to structuring the shelter programming around four core ideals: know God, find freedom, discover purpose and make a difference.
“Once we had a clearer focus of what we were going for, we were then able to help navigate people through the pipeline of wholeness,” Abrantes said.
Most recently, Pastor Harvey Marquez joined the team at AES as Lead Shepherd, and Abrantes moved into a ministry leadership role at The Salvation Army Tustin Ranch Corps.
Marquez said he desires residents to become all God created them to be.
“I’m passionate about residents finding their identity in Christ and to move in that full calling,” he said. He asks residents to lead worship, set-up and tear-down, and lead prayer or testimonies. “We’ve seen deliverance, families reunited, even someone making amends with a high school teacher they wronged. God is at work,” he said.
Partnerships with the Tustin Ranch Corps and other area churches help support the ministry outreach at AES. Local congregations regularly participate in residents’ lives by hosting birthday parties and prayer and worship nights, among other activities. Additionally, the Tustin Ranch Corps hosts a Christmas service and other events and shelter residents have the opportunity to attend church there on Sundays. Some residents even occasionally participate in leading worship at the church.
“Tustin Ranch is more like our brother church rather than just a church. They are a part of who we are,” said Marquez.
When Marquez began, residents preferred not to attend any spiritually focused meetings, but now the Sunday night service hosts about 50-60 men. “God is using Pastor Marquez to bring momentum,” Abrantes said.
The renewed spiritual and social services integration is exactly the vision the Kistans hope to continue to see flourish throughout Orange County. “The gospel has to be practical,” said Nesan Kistan. “You can’t preach the gospel until you feed the hungry soul, but you can’t feed the hungry and not care for their soul.”
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