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What a Difference a Day Makes… What a Difference Teamwork Makes (Disaster Response)

Amazing things are happening with our local outreach to asylum seekers and immigrants from many parts of the world – but only through an extraordinary commitment from many volunteers.

After suffering a catastrophic plumbing backup in one of the dorm buildings being used as an immigration welcome center on the Claremont School of Theology (CST) campus while we were at the California-Pacific annual conference, the following week was spent cleaning, mopping, cutting walls, and installing new pipe cleanouts. Linda Hall, who has been spending six days a week working on the project along with Doug and Judy Lewis, who lived there as house parents, faithfully hung in there with the new issues until the Global Missioners Gordon and Candy Richter arrived Wednesday, June 15, 2022. We had 31 guests, but fortunately, we could have 21 of them return to San Diego Christ Ministry Center while we worked on the problem. Unfortunately, we had trouble communicating that they should not flush the toilets as the backup just worsened and the floors flooded. Our Missioners offered them rooms in another dorm, but four refused to relocate. After three flooding incidents, however, they finally started using the plumbing facilities in another building.

Don and Nancy Howald came out on Tuesday. Don is one of the premier Disaster Response volunteers and is always innovative and comforting in helping find solutions. We paid two separate professional plumbers, but they were unable to solve the problems. On Friday, Miles Harlan solved an electrical problem in one unit on the phone with Dorman Jung. They spent the rest of the day and, with the help of the old schematics from 1957 unearthed by Ken Ellis, figured out which pipes they needed cut and install cleanouts. He taught Doug so that we were down to just two of 10 unusable tubs by Saturday night. All 15 toilets are working again, and with the help of the Missioners, everything is scrubbed out and ready for guests.

On Saturday, the Monterey Park team – Dorman and Gilman Jung, Ryan Chow, and Mark Ludwig of Shepherd of the Hills UMC of Monterey Park – helped with the plumbing, fixed the gate to the playground, installed some additional fire alarms in rooms we had not occupied yet, put up a door concealing a water heater, which Don had started. The team also fixed some cabinet doors that had been removed when we re-plumbed kitchen sinks, put up a connecting door, and got hot water access to the scrub tub in the laundry room. This work whittled Judy’s “to do” list down to some cleaning, vertical installation, painting and patching cut walls, getting some pieces for the last two tubs, and painting the fence around the children’s playground!

So, we can still use some teams! We want to flatten out some of the mulch the Wrightwood Camp team provided to make an area for the older kids to kick around a soccer ball.

We have a basketball court that doubles as a tricycle area. Thanks to Monterey Park for the tricycles! We are using a portable kiddie pool so the little ones can have some water play on our hot summer days. While the adults and school-age children take the ESL (English as a Second Language) classes, we take the little ones into our playroom. There we also work on learning some English words and American customs. Three ladies from Ontario First UMC – Becky Ewing, Kathy Kinley, and Catherine Hill – signed up as assistants. Still, they are all so good that they are helping as teachers. Ontario First UMC also has a weekly volunteer to keep up the children’s clothing room (and diaper disbursal) and one to work in the pantry. We share ESL with the Newcomers Access folks who are also on the campus so that we might have Ukrainians, Afghanis, and Syrians as well as our predominant Haitians. We also are housing a guest from Columbia and one from China in our center.

It’s an ever-changing population. Some guests stay three days, and one doesn’t have his hearing until April 2023! So, we have to be very flexible. Some come, then go down to San Diego for hearings and may be back later. Lots of sheet washing!

We look forward to more volunteers coming. We’ve had well over 100 committed workers and teams—especially a huge shoutout to Desert Southwest Annual Conference, which sent us teams for almost a whole month. While most of our volunteers come for a day at a time, they often come back on several different days.

Please contact Judy Lewis (909.731.8248) if you and your friends would like to spend some time with us on the beautiful CST campus with our most delightful guests or if you can provide transportation for medical or other appointments. Also, if you have Safe Sanctuary (or similar) and a background check, we would welcome you into the children’s areas. It is wonderful for them to have so many caring adults. Children’s Disaster Services has provided a team for 2 hours weekly. Those teachers are all trained for trauma in addition to shelter work.

The Cal-Pac Disaster Response Task Force is so grateful for the positive response to the asylum seekers who have faced a humanitarian disaster necessitating them to leave their homes. And a shoutout to Global Missions, who provided us with our Missioner volunteers. Good job!

To learn more about the Task Force, visit