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Rock Church Brings Help and Hope to San Diego
By Shawn Maree McCowan - April 2, 2013

Having help is great. Having help and hope is even better.

Over 500 Rock Church volunteers gathered on Good Friday, March 29 at Petco Park to bring both – help and hope – to the downtown community. The church partnered with several ministries to benefit the San Diego Food Bank, God’s Extended Hand, Monarch Schools and Kaiser Bloodmobile, as well as residents of the downtown area.

“Easter is a time of hope and for every way people can be lost, we want to find a way they can be found, in the very place they have ended up,” said Miles McPherson, Pastor of Rock Church.

Hope came in the form haircuts and packages, toiletries and blankets for the homeless.

Hope came in the form of the Makeover Ministry, which gave free haircuts and manicures to clients in need. Hope came in the form of care packages, toiletries and blankets for the homeless. It came in the form of the Feed a Family program, where families in need could apply for meals. Hope also came in the form of the many ministries designed to provide practical support in the areas of cancer, sexual abuse recovery, suicide loss, human trafficking and, well, just plain encouragement in trying times.

“It’s Christmas!” exclaimed one homeless man as he sat at a bus shelter with his suitcases after receiving a care package and a new blanket. His friends laughed with him in agreement.

“The best part about this is that we have brought the help and services to the people where they are, to their environment,” said Tamela Reed, who heads the Rock Cancer Care Ministry. “If we set out on the outskirts of San Diego, how are they going to get to us? That’s just another barrier, so I think that today we’ve broken down a tremendous barrier by just being here and we’ve come to them.”

As they stood waiting for the gates to open, Don Cohee, 54 and his fiancé Hilary, 23, said they heard about the event by word of mouth and were hoping to get not only food, but also blankets.

“We heard about the food and we wanted to come here because we’re homeless and needed some stuff we can use,” said Cohee. “If we can’t use it we can give it to someone who can. It’s a blessing to us because it comes from God from you all because he’s using you all to give to us.”

Sandra Smith, 35, waited in line with her husband Enrique Salas, 35, and 4-year-old daughter, Ricki, with a red pushcart containing their belongings beside them. For the past month, she has been looking for work as a legal assistant and her husband is looking for work in the restaurant industry. They are currently staying at God’s Extended Hand and were excited to hear about the Good Friday event.

“We don’t have housing, we’re currently unemployed,” said Smith. “We wanted to bring our daughter so she can have some fun and spend the day and hear the word of God.”

One of the most visited booths was the Makeover Ministry. One homeless veteran grinned as he viewed his haircut in a mirror. “I hadn’t let my hair get that long in a long time,” he said. Other children enjoyed styles of braids and twists with colorful rubber bands.

“We want to communicate our love,” said Candice Buckett, one of the ministry leaders. “It’s not all about the outer appearance but when we feel good on the outside it helps on the inside. There’s so much hurt in the world and we want to share the love and beauty with other people, whether it’s during a manicure or haircut or just praying with them.”

At the south end of the parking lot, children attended a Children’s zone with activities such as chalk art, balloons, bubbles, face painting, skateboard demonstrations and video game trucks. Several boards were raffled as prizes.

In addition to these free services, Rock Church encouraged its members to invite people to attend a noon service at Petco’s Park in the Park. Members were encouraged to give blood at the Kaiser bloodmobile, donate clothing for the less fortunate, contribute non-perishable items for the San Diego Food Bank and give an offering that would be presented to God’s Extended Hand mission and the Monarch School.

“The Monarch School is the only school of its kind in the United States. It serves students who have been impacted by homelessness,” said Andrew Schlegal, Director of Programs and Partnerships at the school. “The Rock generously provided 100 lunches for our students on Friday, March 29. Funds raised will provide Monarch School with physical education equipment and supplies.”

In all, 4,000 pounds of food were collected, 67 pints of blood were donated, 1,500 care packages were distributed and over 1,000 free lunches were given out to the homeless and people in need.

In all, 4,000 pounds of food were collected, 67 pints of blood were donated, 1,500 care packages were distributed and over 1,000 free lunches were given out to the homeless and people in need.

Lillian Gonzalez from the Kaiser Permanente Blood Donor Center said the blood drive will help trauma and cancer patients who urgently need blood in emergency situations. “It means so much to us,” said Gonzalez. “Every day we’re trying to do blood drives to help our hospital patients.”

Curtis Bernstein is pastor and president of God’s Extended Hand, founded in 1924. The mission’s aim is to show the homeless population of San Diego the love of God by providing meals in a Christ-focused environment.

“We’re excited to have the Rock here as one of the nation’s largest churches. We’re just a venue for the greater church community to come down and serve in unison,” Bernstein said.

During the noon service, people leaned from balconies and gazed from windows that surrounded the park as high as 12 and 13 stories, enjoying the rousing worship music. Following the band, McPherson delivered a message of hope, and 110 people went forward to respond to the message of salvation.

“I was so blessed to see people with needs get their needs met,” McPherson told the crowd of over 4,300 attendees. “You got food, you got haircuts, now you got new life.”