Monday, September 17, 2012

Miss you Bill!

I met Bill a couple of years ago. I normally pick up day old bread from the bakery nearby twice a week and I felt God “nudge” me to stop by and talk to Bill. My response was no, I am in a hurry, and I would have to go out of my way to park my truck so I could walk over and talk to him. Finally I gave in and carried a couple of loaves of bread over to him and started a conversation with Bill. It was a start of a very interesting but worthwhile adventure of getting to know Bill. I would normally stop by twice a week as I picked up bread. I had no agenda but to be in the moment and see where Bill was or what his needs were. Sometimes it was just listening, sometimes it was challenging his thoughts, sometimes it was buying him socks, boots, rain gear, etc. (By the way, I did not have any success at challenging his thoughts!)
I always wondered why I was stopping by.  Was it for him? Was it for me? I never really knew and I probably won’t ever know.  I now believe that all of our relationships, our chance meetings with people, and our encounters no matter how small, have significant value. Meeting Bill challenged me to think differently about the homeless and the less fortunate. I now volunteer weekly at a homeless church that feeds people both spiritually and physically. The pastor’s goal is to show all people that God loves them.
Bill and I had many spiritual discussions. Some of were right on. Some were a little different. But one thing for certain was that Bill was as passionate about Jesus and letting everyone know that.  I was disappointed when I found out he had a restraining order from standing on his corner!  How silly that was. That is when things changed for Bill. He no longer has his “place”.  It was harder for me to locate where he was. One day I found him down the street from the corner and as I was talking to him, the police showed up. I guess he had just gotten into an argument with a guy who said he pushed him. Bill was getting upset and I tried to get him to calm down and go with the police. He did. I hope that I had some impact on him that day.
I had not seen Bill for a long time when I finally saw him a week before he passed away. It was a quick encounter but he said that the Lord was challenging him to show Mercy.  Almost in tears he said it was very hard for him to do that. I told him to keep listening to Him and keep trying!  I now know that the Lord is showing Mercy and Grace on Bill.
The owner of the Bakery is a good friend of mine and he called to tell me the news of Bill’s passing. All of his employees were very sad when they heard of this. Bill had a big impact on all of them.  He was always stopping by over the years for bread and for cardboard to make his signs. He made lots of friends there.
You always wonder if people like Bill had many friends. Going by the makeshift memorial on his “corner” initially stunned me with the outpouring of thoughts and love.  But I guess I should not have been surprised.  Bill has touched so many people over the years.  It kind of gives you hope for mankind!
I miss Bill. I miss his smile. I miss his kind words. I miss his signs of hope. I know many that pass by his memorial will miss him also.  But I know for sure he is in a much better place than he ever was here on Earth!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Directors Update July 2012

Hey Everyone:

I just wanted to give you a glimpse into what has been happening at Farm Drive at Farm Drive lately. There are so many good things that it is hard to know where to start.

v Igelsia Libre started a Parents Discovery Group a little over a month ago. They have a core group of about 6-8 parents from the neighborhood who are committed to coming and sharing with others in a small group setting. There have been some great discussions coming out of the group. Very cool..…

v Earlier this week, we showed The Sandlot on the back driveway area. We had at least 60 kids here. They ranged in age from Preschool to high school. A fun night!!

v On Monday, Diana and Megan Fairchild started a “Creative Writing” class for the kids. We had 12 kids sign up, and it is neat to see how their writing is changing after only a few one classes. Take a look at the picture below.

v We have about 50 kids who attend Bible Club on a regular basis. They are hearing the Word of God taught each week, and it is cool to see the younger kids faithful in memorizing Bible verses!!!

v We continue to see God working in the ministry here. Javier Navarro, Jose Ortiz and Robert Aguilera were invited to a sports camp put on by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at UCLA. It is billed as a sports camp, but they have worship services and other Bible study activities. The main speaker was some “old guy” named Tom. They said he was probably in his 50’s. They won’t be going back next year if FCA fills their young, impressionable minds with this kind of thing!!! It is cool to hear them come back singing praise songs!! Even though they are teenagers, I guess they do listen…..

v Right now, we have three high schoolers signed up to go to Hume Lake with the Hillside Youth Group. It is awesome to see them want to participate, and they would not be able to do it without your support. Pray for them----that God will make himself known to them, and that they may find a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and that they come back with a new-found joy in Christ.

v Our kids enjoyed VBS this year. We had 15 young ones attending and 8 older kids serving as leaders. Sweet!!! Oh, one of the neighborhood moms came and led a group. She has already volunteered for next year!!!

v We had eight students in our CRAM program make grades. They are required to maintain a 2.0 GPA, do community service and attend school on a regular basis. As time goes along, we are finding that the kids are more committed to keeping their grades up. Anahi Valadez graduated from Pioneer, and we were able to award a laptop to her as our THIRD high school graduate!!!

v One of our “fringe kids”, Omar Verduzco was the recipient of a $1000 Turn-Around Scholarship from the Kiwanis Club of West Metro San Jose. This scholarship program is for kids who have a rough start in high school and finish by bringing up their grades and graduating!!! Omar was a participant in our Homework Club and our Sailing Program about several years ago. How time flies!!

v We had 15 kids get awards for perfect attendance at Homework Club. They were treated to an “outstanding” meal at Hometown Buffet. Those kids can eat!!! We had seven kids in Homework Club get all A’s, B’s and C’s------and two of our girls, Anasuzy Lopez and Ivon Aguilera got STRAIGHT A’s. Not bad!!! All kids with A’s, B’s and C’s were treated to a special meal at the Spaghetti Factory.

v Ruben Torres is home from the Grizzly Academy. We are working with him to explore the next steps in his life. You may see him around Hillside some mornings. He is volunteering, helping Matt Olson retrofit the ballasts in our fluorescent lights to make them more energy-efficient. Rumor is that he is becoming quite adept at it. Pray for him as he attempts to make life adjustments upon his return.

v We had an AWESOME Open House for our 20th Anniversary celebration. We are guessing that we had about 200-300 supporters through here that afternoon. Thank you for sharing in the celebration with us.

v If you have been to one of the recent weddings or the Choir Dinner, you may have seen our kids all decked out and serving with our resident caterer, Ruben Escobedo. Ruben hires the kids and trains them to be professional servers. If you have an event coming up and you need some kids to look nice and serve the crowd, I know many kids who would love to help you out!!!

v Some of our Farm Drive leaders have invited our older boys to go to Family Camp in July. This is not a Farm Drive activity per se (I couldn’t do a week of camping!!), but is Hillside people spending time with the Farm Drive kids, building relationships and showing them how to have a good time in a family setting.

v National Night Out is scheduled for Tuesday, August 7th. This is a nationwide crime prevention program, where the emphasis is on getting neighbors out of their homes and interacting with each other. We often have uniformed police officers stop by and two years ago, the Police Chief and City Manager showed up!!! If you aren’t doing anything on August 7th, between 5:30-9:00 PM, stop by and say hello to our neighbors.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support for the Farm Drive ministry and for Pete, Patty and me, as well as all of our volunteer leaders here. God is truly making a difference in the lives of the kids and their families with your support and prayers. God Bless!!!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lives Changed

This blog is from one of the people from Hillside Church who did a project for school about Farm Drive. Here is his explanation of the project plus a link to his blog.

The project was part of a practical communication course for my Masters
in Communication at Gonzaga University. The assignment was to perform a
community profile where we highlighted something in our local community
that brought people together, enhanced the feeling of community etc... I
choose the Farm Drive Neighborhood Center because it was close to my
heart. I knew it was a great outreach and Melissa has supported it by
volunteering. I discovered that it has much more impact than I realized
when I was able to visit Ruben and see for myself that Farm Drive not
only enhances community, it changes lives.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Some Great News

A cool update from Gary. This is why we live where we live:

Hey Everyone:

I would like to thank each of you who have been encouraging Cadet Ruben Torres, our Farm Drive kid who is attending the Grizzly Academy. He is really doing great. He was home on a home pass and got to talk to a lot of you over the weekend. He told me about the encouragement he received from many people at The Scramble on Saturday. Pastor Joe, he was especially appreciative of your comments to him. On Sunday, many people approached him and greeted him, hugged him and told him how proud they were of him. What a smile that kid has. Thanks, Hillside family!!!

We have had a lot of time to talk and two things Ruben is working on are anger issues and holding grudges. He said that he isn’t really angry with anyone but himself, and he is having a hard time getting over that. I talked to him about letting go, and letting God work on him. Sunday’s sermon on God’s love really hit home with him. He knows that God loves him and wants the best for him, but he still feels that he has messed up so badly. We talked about how God can work on even the messiest of problems----that’s His specialty. I told him that I remember a song that Ray Boltz sang that talks about David, and says something like “when others see a shepherd boy, God may see a king.” God already sees the potential in Ruben’s life.

Today, going back to the Academy, we continued our talk. I told him that there are several facts----that God loves him, that God sent His Son to die for him, that nothing he does can be too big for God to work on, and Jesus wants to be his best friend. He said that, in his heart, he knows all that, but that his mind tells him that he’s not worth it. I encouraged him that when he’s ready, to go with the way he feels in his heart. We stopped for pizza before I dropped him off at the Academy, and his little brother asked if he could pray for the food. Not only did he pray for the food, but he prayed for Ruben and his remaining time at the Academy.

When the pizza came, Ruben asked if he could pray, too. Of course!! And right there in the pizza place, Ruben acknowledged his life as a sinner, confessed his sins to God, and asked Christ to come into his life and guide him from now on!!! Wow…………. A short time later, I asked Ruben who his best friend is, and he replied, “Jesus!” I asked, “100%????” And he said, “Yes, 100%!!!” I was on such a high coming home that I don’t think my tires touched the ground!!

Ruben is a Farm Drive “kid” who has had a lot of Hillside influence in his life over the years. From Bible Club to Homework Club to CRAM to various activities, many of us have seen him and worked with him and worried about him. Each of you has had a part in Ruben’s life. Thanks for not giving up on him. Is our Farm Drive ministry worth it? You bet it is!!!

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!!!! And may God truly bless you like you have blessed kids like Ruben.


Monday, March 26, 2012


This is an excellent video from Union Rescue Mission that serves Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles.

Update On Reuben Torres

From Gary the Director of Farm Drive writing about one of the kids that has been involved at Farm Drive off and on over the last few years. Here he is pinning Art his mentor:

And here Reuben is getting to enjoy some sweets at a local restaurant.

Hey Everyone:

I hope that this finds you all well. God is soooo good. This past weekend, Art Hori and I went down to the Grizzly Academy in San Luis Obispo. Art is the mentor for Ruben Torres. Ruben is in his eighth week at the Academy. Can you believe that??? Art is required to go to training, and he asked me to go with him. What a treat!!! At the end of the training, we were allowed not only to see Ruben, but to take him off base for a few hours!!! I just wanted to give you an update and let you know what we saw.

We were in a classroom with no low windows, and as the cadets approached the building, we could hear them----not a lot of noise and yelling, but a TEAM of recruits, obviously marching and calling cadence as the approached. That was the FIRST time I almost lost it. Ruben? Our Ruben? Marching and calling cadence as a member of a team??? Wow……..what a change!!! When they released us, we didn’t even get outside and Ruben approached us, sporting the biggest smile that I have ever seen. He hugged us, and genuinely thanked us for coming. Art and I both noticed right away that we were talking with a young MAN, not the little punk kid that Ruben could often be. Ruben has changed!!!

The leaders asked us to go outside for a ceremony. The mentors stood in a line across from the line of cadets (their line was straighter than our line!) and each cadet had to “pin” their mentor. As Ruben pinned us, he thanked us for being there for him----and he meant it. This was the SECOND time I almost lost it!! As we were walking off the base, I asked Ruben if he had learned to do “to the rear—MARCH”, which is a march step where the entire platoon makes a 180 degree turn at once and continues marching in the opposite direction. He said, “Oh yeah” and as we were walking, he executed a perfect “to the rear---MARCH” step. Even I was impressed!!

We took Ruben down the road to the Madonna Inn for lunch, as it was on the list of places that they recommended. Neither Ruben nor Art had been there before, so we had to visit the restrooms (two men’s and two women’s) before we ate. Still quite impressive after all these years!!! We talked a lot over lunch and got some insights into Grizzly Academy life. They have a Cadet Code: “I will not lie, cheat or steal, nor tolerate those who do.” We asked him how he felt about that and he said, “We have to live by that, since we are a team. If someone in the team messes up, everyone messes up.” (Ruben??? Is that really you??? He has changed!!!). As we sat there, he said, “I want to tell you guys. I really love you. Thank you for being there for me. I see now that you guys live what you believe.” He also told us that he is figuring out that he has missed out on a lot of things by not doing the things he should have been doing. Wow!!!

Part of the Grizzly Academy is school. This is one area where Ruben never excelled---by choice, I might add. He never really saw a need to participate, so he didn’t. The last GPA of his that I saw was a 0.5---that’s a high F (haha). Ruben now has a 3.8 GPA, and his goal is to finish the Academy with at least a 3.5 GPA. (Ruben??? Is that really you??? He has changed!!). Another activity that he has to do is map out goals for himself. These are SMART goals (Specific, Measurable Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) and he knows what that means!!! I am so glad that he has had the opportunity to be part of the Grizzly Academy.

Ruben did say that he has “down days” because he misses his family and friends (“Can you say ‘Hi’ to everyone for me??” So……………”Hello, from Ruben!!”). We asked him what he did when he got to feeling down and he said, “I get out the cards and letters that people have written me and I read them over and over.” Thank you for writing to him. He has gotten letters and notes of encouragement from people he has never met!! And that means a lot to him. I mean-----we took a kid out of the hood and sent him 180 miles away by himself for almost six months. Wow!!!

Many of you have asked what you can send him. The answer is, basically, nothing. When he has visitors, he can have snacks or special drinks (vitamin water, in his case), but it has to be consumed before he gets back. When we checked him back in, Sergeant Castillo asked him, “Torres. Do you have anything on you??” “No sir, Sergeant.” (Ruben??? Is that really you???) He does get what he needs from them. There are things along the way that he will need----pictures, field trips, yearbook, stamps, etc. If you want to contribute toward those things, or hygiene items he needs, you can give a few bucks. Just get it to me, and we will start an envelope. He cannot have any money until after Family Day, which is next Saturday, March 10th. If you are interested in that, please let me know.

As far as Graduation is concerned, we did get the information, but it is not really good news. Graduation will be on Friday, June 15th, at 10:00 AM. His family can attend, his mentors will get a ticket, and everything else is up in the air. If you choose to attend, you will probably not be able to get inside to watch the graduation due to space considerations. Some of us have talked about a Graduation Celebration when he gets back. This is probably a better option.

Thank you all for your support for Ruben. I know that you will be impressed when you see him. He does have a home pass coming up in early April, and I’m sure that he will be around. If you want to write to him, here is his address again:

Cadet Ruben Torres, Platoon 2

Grizzly Youth Academy

PO Box 3209

San Luis Obispo, CA 93403-3209

God Bless you all for caring……….not only for Ruben, but all of our kids at Farm Drive.


Friday, February 10, 2012

20 Years!

Farm Drive Neighborhood Center will be celebrating 20 years of serving our community this summer.

Save the date of June 3rd. We will be having an open house to celebrate what God has been doing in this neighborhood for the past 20 years!