Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Ephesus church community service team, led by Diva Jones-Moses, strategically planned for November 28, 2020, to be a day when the church and the community would dine together — "outside the walls of the church" — in the church parking lot. However, the COVID-19 virus and its restrictions forced the team to make changes to their original plans.
The effort brought together an ethnically diverse group of predominantly women to serve the community in a different way. The team prepared and packaged 200 to-go containers of hot food (consisting of turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, string beans, rolls, macaroni and cheese, dressing and water) and prepared 150 tote bags (containing a note pad and pencil, two pairs of socks, a bottle of sanitizer, bars of soap, deodorant, wash clothes, cookies, crackers, a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, a mask, water, candy, Cup of Soup, pull-top tuna, Vienna sausage, lotions, chips, a comb, disposable gloves, Adventist literature, razors and sanitary napkins) which they delivered to encampments in Service Planning Area 6 in Los Angeles.
By God's providence, this effort surpassed the original goal of taking God's message of love “outside the walls of the church” into the church parking lot by “taking it to the streets" into encampments where people without homes are living.
On April 22, 2021, the team again to headed to the homeless encampments in South Los Angeles. This time led by Sandy Sasso. Sandy is very grateful to be part of this team. This work is very therapeutic. It allows us to take the focus off ourselves and focus instead on others. To God be the glory!
Following are some of the team members' profiles and comments
about their experience of volunteering.
Sandy says that she came to volunteer for this effort through her friendship with Karen Grey, with whom she has worked for 32 years at LAC-USC. Furthermore, Sandy says, "Karen also brought my husband back to faith. He was baptized during a revival at her church, Philadelphian church."
"I have been volunteering with Ephesus SDA Community Service for two years. This work has enriched my life. Following retirement, it gives me a purpose to get up in the morning. I know that my family and friends have more than enough to eat. It was a pleasure to know that more than 200 strangers also had enough to eat for a day."
"Volunteering to feed the homeless is truly an eye-opening experience. One day, my mom and I decided we had to take action after witnessing so many homeless people on the streets, which breaks my heart. I knew that I needed to help out some way. The experience of volunteering to feed people who are experiencing homelessness was life-changing. It made me realize how grateful I am for my life, how important it is to help those in great need, and to never take a meal or a roof over my head for granted. This event has changed me as a person by encouraging me to become more involved in helping out more in my community, learning to never take anything for granted, and not assuming that all homeless people are bad people. Thank you, Mrs. Diva, for the opportunity to have this experience."
"In the presence of God, we ventured into the field and encountered a dangerous situation. Embers from a fire on the freeway burst into flames in the homeless campground beneath the freeway. Realizing the threat, we immediately searched the tent to get the people to safety while simultaneously trying to get the firemen to extinguish the fire. Despite the challenges, we persisted in making requests for help. After much prayer, the heart of God prevailed, and the firemen helped put the fire out. Through it all, we didn't get discouraged. We kept on moving and serving as God led us, as believers that His will would be done, here on earth as it is in heaven. To God, be the glory! The mission is complete, and we have finished work that God gave us to do for that day! Amen! Jesus is our witness! Thank you, Lord! Hallelujah!"
Tiffany Turner and her six-year-old daughter, August
"My Aunt (Karen Grey) invited me and my six-year-old daughter, August, to volunteer in this effort to place hot meals into to-go containers, to prepare bags of essentials, and to deliver them to people who are experiencing homelessness. It was wonderful to see familiar faces while working together alongside church family and others to accomplish this goal. Under the direction of Diva J. Moses, Ephesus Community Service Department executed a beautiful ministry effort. From efforts such as this one, I want my daughter to experience what ministry requires while teaching her to lend a helping hand to others. She enjoyed the experience and found it to be meaningful! Following this effort, she also accompanied Aunt Karen to prepare meals for the Ephesus Showers of Hope Program. Again she enjoys herself and understands the meaning of what she is doing. I pray that the lesson of being a servant to God and to man, which she recites as part of the Adventurer's pledge, stays with her and that she keeps putting it into action."
Denise was invited to volunteer by her friend Beautina “Tina” Robinson. She served on the advance team preparing the tote bags along with Tina and Sandy and packaged the hot meals also.
"It was a pleasure for me to have been with others in my church family and community to prepare and serve the people experiencing homelessness. Unlike our usual preparation and serving, I had the opportunity to visit many of these families where they live daily. Seeing the community where they live and take care of each other was breathtaking. This opportunity was an eye-opener. They were all so grateful, and many said, "May God bless you." In my mind, I thought God had blessed me with this opportunity to serve them. We were able to let them know that God loves them regardless of their circumstances and that we love them, too. We promised to come back to share with them. To God be the glory for the things He has done. Will you accept the challenge in this time of COVID-19 to help somebody?"
"My first impression of visiting the homeless encampment was that the people that we had come to minister to were pleasant and happy to receive us. This experience reminded me that people who are experiencing homelessness are still a part of our families and that they're asking that we not forget them. As a result of this experience, I have returned more humbled, feeling that more needs to be done!"