The first time Estreanda Fulford handed a plate of food to a homeless person, she flashed to a childhood memory. She and her grandmother had taken a meal to two addicts they knew on Skid Row: Estreandas mother and father.
Given her life experience, Estreanda, leader of the Rock Churchs outreach to the homeless community, has a unique perspective. I dont see a homeless person. I see a person with potential. Its the story of my mother and my father.
It might have been Estreandas story too. Born a crack baby in New Orleans, she was taken in at age three by her grandmother and aunt in the San Fernando Valley. Her half brother, 10 years older and her main protector, came a few years after.
Her grandmother was a fervent Jehovahs Witness, and the household was strict. When Estreanda was seven or eight, her brother left. She felt abandoned, and she stopped speaking for a while. By sixth grade, Estreanda decided she would live with her mother, who was now off the streets. The petite middle schooler took care of herself, going to bed by 10 PM and getting up at 6 PM; cooking and cleaning; raising money by babysitting and braiding hair.
Then in high school Estreanda discovered track and field. This could be my ticket out of the ghetto, she thought. It was. She received a scholarship to San Diego State University as a sprinter.
One day her roommate, who had never before attended church or mentioned God, told Estreanda about a church that met on campus and had cool music. They began to attend, on and off, while also partying hard and often.
Estreanda said she had believed in God, but it wasnt personal. Until one day on her patio.
I found Jesus in a weird way, she laughs. I went to light up a joint and I heard a voice. It said, 'Be still and know that I am God'.
The message struck her so significant that Estreanda ran inside and wrote it down on a lime green message pad. A friend saw it and said, I love that scripture! Estreanda was blown away. I had no idea it was scripture. Now I knew God was speaking to me.
She stopped smoking weed and drinking in one day. She began to attend the Rock consistently. She prayed and fasted for guidance on what to do with her life. Another message came that surprised her: Ministry.
I said to myself, ministry? Do You know who Youre talking to? she recalls, laughing.
Little did she know that by 2007 she would indeed be involved in a Rock ministry; by 2008, she would be leading it; and by 2010 she would be enrolled in Impact 195.
From that first day when Estreanda fed the homelessor neighbors, the ministrys term for themshe was hooked.
Recruited into leadership by the late Marleea Gerfen, Estreanda began to develop a vision for the ministry, known as the Church Without Walls. Its all about knowing who you are in Christ, and giving back, she says. She says the teaching model applies to all levels of the ministry: the leadership; volunteers; neighbors; and community.
"Our message is, know what God wants you to do, and go where God wants you to go -- using the gifts he has given you." - Estreanda
Our message is, know what God wants you to do, and go where God wants you to go -- using the gifts he has given you. That includes all our neighbors. Many of them know the Word of God. Im convinced they have so much to give to us.
Estreanda, who earns her living as a social worker, can turn to her own family as illustration of how to view those who live on the street.
Her brother is married with three kids and is on the threshold of opening a drug rehabilitation clinic in the San Fernando Valley. Her mother, 16 years now sober, helps addicts and shares her testimony to hundreds all over the state. Her father, three years straight, hasnt yet made a public commitment to God, but has begun to read the Bible.
This Easter, Estreandas mother and father came to San Diego for the holiday, and helped her serve food to her neighbors, the homeless. That precious full-circle moment is Estreandas confirmation shes doing what God has called her to do.
For more information on the Rock Church's homeless ministry, please visit www.sdrock.com/ministries/homeless/.