Tomas curled up under a tree in Patriots Park, a regional recreational hub where drought has carved out dusty patches in its green carpet. Dust is a way of life in Bakersfield, a central valley where, on average, there are 272 sunny days annually — two and a half months more than the national average. What they don't lack in sunshine, they do in rain, receiving a measly 7 inches each year — in a normal year. But rainfall has been anything but normal, with the two previous seasons faring even worse, recording just 5.41 inches in the year that just ended and a miserly 3.77 the year prior.
In one of the nation's largest agricultural belts, rain is not only celebrated, but it is also an answer to the consistent prayers of most of the community's 718,000 residents — not so much for the 1,600 residents who are unsheltered! — many dependent on Bakersfield's farming industry for survival." Although there is a high demand for day laborers, wages are low.
In June, the local ABC affiliate reported a 13% decline in workers' median wages from 1979 to 2019 in Kern County, where Bakersfield is located, leaving 48% of Southeast Bakersfield struggling below a living wage. In its article, 23ABC noted another community survey, which found just "three in 10 workers in Kern County have a ‘good or promising job,'" meaning the job is permanent, pays a middle-class wage and offers healthcare benefits.
Such factors are often indicators of food insecurity and homelessness.
Tomas cared little about the drought or the rain or even the economic stats. All he wanted was a place to get some sleep, which is what he was doing when Elias and Beverly spotted him. Not deterred by the soggy weather, the couple had driven to the park to walk their dog. It's one thing to welcome the rain during a casual walk, it's another to sleep under a blanket soaked in it.
|“If you are who you are (God), and I know you are, show me some stepping stones in how to get out of this addiction.”||As members of the outreach team at Apostolic Assembly Church, Elias and Beverly were prepared for more than just the weather. The couple routinely works with the unhoused and keeps Homeless Care Kits — containing a warm blanket, socks, a scarf, hat, and other toiletries — in their car. The kits also include warmth for the soul: gospel literature designed to bring salvation to the lost. The kits are a ministry resource provided by Cru® Inner City to its church partners. Those partners, already working in some of the poorest neighborhoods in America, have a pulse on who needs help and is most receptive to receiving it.|
The kit was one of 325 distributed a year ago to 20 Bakersfield churches by Inner City staff.
When Elias and Beverly saw Tomas under the tree, they engaged him in conversation. They learned how addiction led to his situation, prompting him to admit he did not "know which way to turn." Elias assured Tomas that Jesus loved him and could turn his life around, just like Jesus had done during his own struggle with meth and homelessness.
Elias shared how he called out to God in the middle of getting high.
"If you are who you are (God), and I know you are, show me some stepping stones in how to get out of this addiction."
God started revealing a path to a new way of living to Elias.
Tomas stood up, brushed off the damp leaves and dirt from his clothes, and asked Jesus into his heart. He gratefully received Jesus as his personal Savior, vowing to get plugged into a church.
Elias is grateful for the opportunity to share the gospel, saying he often leans on Hebrews 11:8.
|“The Spirit puts souls in our paths so we can share the gospel. Go where the Lord leads.”||By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going (New International Version).|
"The Spirit puts souls in our paths so we can share the gospel," Elias said. "Go where the Lord leads."
Especially on a rainy day in the low desert.
Photo of homeless man by M-ART Production/Pexels.
Lori Arnold serves as senior writer for Cru's inner-city ministry.
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