A cocoon is a temporary dwelling that provides an environment where God miraculously transforms a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. The City Center transitional living community offers a similar abode for people whose lives are in need of a metamorphosis. Within the walls of this temporary housing ministry, God is at work. Ventura Missionary has partnered with The City Center since its inception. Our Rooted Discipleship groups participate in serve experiences there, we sponsor one of the rooms, and some of our attenders serve in various roles such as mentoring the residents.
At a Grand Opening for eight "graduate" rooms on July 13, one such mentor, Jo Anna Mendoza, presented a car she was donating to her mentee, Brandi Martinez (pictured above). Jo Anna says, "If anyone asked me why I became involved in the mentor program, I would first explain that Jesus Christ transformed my heart - I really did become a new creature - and my priorities changed! I truly desired to serve God and serve others now that my heart was transformed. I have noticed that this is the evidence or 'proof' that changes everything."
Jo Anna continues, "Transformation also seems to be the theme throughout the history of The City Center. It was a hotel that was transformed into transitional housing for the homeless and now beautiful new rooms have been added for the graduates of the program (next step before being totally on their own). It is a great idea! Nex,t Pastor Jim Duran, the director, has plans to add more rooms and a Learning Center for the children. All of this is done through donations from churches, businesses and individuals. The City Center does not accept government funding but offers the residents a 'hand up' not a hand out.
One of the key components of the program is each resident is assigned a mentor. Being a mentor has strengthened my faith in many ways. I have been blessed to see God transform and restore broken lives! The women and men who persevere in the program are transformed from feeling hopeless and desperate for a safe place to live to having hope and joy in their future. It reminds me of Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'
I have had my Hyundai Elantra for 16 years and I decided that it was time for a new car. I had just been assigned a new mentee, Brandi, who has a 15 month-old son named Logan. The moment I met them I knew that I wanted to give her my car. She is motivated to get herself and her son on the right path with God's help, and she is grateful for the many services provided by The City Center. She had just received her license after not having one for seven years, but she could not afford a car. Instead she had to walk or take the bus. Her son's babysitter lived half an hour away which meant Brandi walked a total of two hours everyday just to pick up her son! She works at the Vagabond motel almost daily and on the days she doesn't work, she must take classes in Oxnard. This means 3 or 4 buses to and from Oxnard - she rarely had any time to spend with her son!
God has blessed me with so much! I have always had a car or could rent one if needed. By the grace of God, I knew I was able to buy a new car to replace the old one. I learned from this experience that I take something like a car for granted. I can't imagine walking everywhere in sometimes dangerous areas of town. I was humbled listening to all that Brandi must accomplish to regain her life, and yet she remains positive, faithful and grateful for all that she has at The City Center.
I would encourage anyone looking for an opportunity to serve, donate or pray, to consider The City Center. I always say that I have been blessed and transformed as a mentor for The City Center far more than the young ladies I have had the honor to know. I thank God for this opportunity!"
For more information about The City Center, visit their website. To help in Ventura Missionary's effort to support this ministry, note "Missions & Outreach" on your check, bill pay and or online gift.