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Mission, S.O.S. Volunteer Finds What He Was ‘Missing’ In Life
It was about two years ago when Ken started to feel like he was missing something. He had a successful career, working at an aerospace company in Chatsworth, and enjoyed kayaking, hiking or motorcycle riding during his downtime. He loves spending time with his niece and nephew, and adores his two Australian Shepherds.
“Like most people, I reached a point in my life where I was searching for meaning and purpose,” said Ken, now 52. “Despite my accomplishments and material acquisitions, I still felt something was missing. There was an emptiness. And without a family of my own, I wanted that connection.”
Ken had been reading about the life and work of Mother Teresa and was inspired. “She advised us not to come to India but to stay at home to discover our own vulnerable neighbors experiencing suffering and neglect,” he said. “She said to serve them until it hurts and show the same love that God shows for us.”
Ken learned about the Mission, and immediately signed up to volunteer. He prepares and serves meals at the shelter weekly, sometimes more, and cleans up after. “In tough times, a deliciously prepared meal served with a smile goes a long way for our guests, especially the children,” he said. “It’s such a joy to interact with the children, especially when they seem sad. I tell one or two corny jokes or make a big funny face and they return a big smile.
“It’s like time stands still when I’m there. You have the mindset that you’re serving God, but it’s not a sacrifice. It’s extreme joy. It’s like spending time with a best friend. You forget about your other worries and it puts things in perspective.”
Ken also helps with the shower program on Saturday mornings, a transformative experience for him. Ken said he’s learned how wrong so many of the stereotypes assigned to the homeless population truly are. “I’ve learned so much from our guests from listening to their stories and struggles,” he said. “They often have enormous faith and their experiences are unique. It’s given me great humility and has broken many preconditioned ideas I’ve had about this plight and the people who experience it.
“Many are so sad. When you actually talk to them, you find out that many had very successful lives. And the something happened, a trigger, something that’s not their fault, like the onset of mental illness. It’s not an overnight thing. It snowballs, and before they know it, they are on the streets, with no resources, no ID, no phone.”
Ken also gives the shower trailer a good scrubbing twice each month, and brings home the towels to wash them for the next week. He enjoys being a part of special celebrations, and often will pick up a cake for birthday parties at the shelter. Ken has even got his employer involved. Dytran Instruments donates each year during the Christmas season and provides toys for the gift distribution event. Ken is proud to be part of the Mission’s work.
“Here, they operate under the mission of ‘Changing Lives for Good,’” he said. “They do it and it works, because I’ve seen it happen many times. … The program is not for everyone, but neither is recovery. It is hard. I don’t remember reading any quotes of Jesus telling his friends that following him will be a cake walk, but the rewards are great. This Mission’s aftercare is incredible. They do a good job of ending the cycle. They not only offer fish, but teach the guests to learn to fish.”
Ken said he often recounts when his pastor told his congregation not to go around just preaching, but to be an example. “He said, ‘Make them question your behavior.’ Go out into your neighborhood or in your family, and show kindness.
“When I started getting interested in Mother Theresa, I couldn’t understand why this little old lady would go to a place so far away and bring them to where they could die with love. It’s because in those suffering people, she saw the suffering face of Jesus on the cross.”
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