In Praise of Ventura County

What a wonderful place, Ventura county. A blessed place.
I’ve wandered all over this county, finding each little town more inspiring than the last.

I went to Ojai, where they disallow some streetlamps because they interfere with looking at the night sky. That’s worship in the form of an ordinance! At midnight, I looked to the heavens and marveled at more stars than I’d ever seen.

Ventura County is a place where the worship and appreciation for our world comes easily. The things we see every day make it a natural act, though we sometimes get distracted and forget to look. There are churches everywhere, and warm and dedicated volunteers donating their hours and their work, sacrificing their own personal quality time, working on behalf of the marginally housed.

I went to Santa Paula, where I was warmly welcomed and provided with resources by Kay and Maria and the rest of the angels over at the Spirit Of Santa Paula. Kay Wilson-Bolton has been fighting against homelessness for decades, and never stops working for change.

Ventura…I don’t know what I like better about San Buenaventura, the views or the people. Sometimes I’ll bring a guitar down by the ocean and marvel at our world, the balance and perfection, the mesmerizing beauty, the way that good and evil battle for our attention, the way we get to decide, each day, how we will live that day.

The Turning Point Foundation works around the county and around the clock to house those who are also suffering with mental illnesses. It’s a very difficult job they have, but Regina, Gail, Catherine, Ryan, the Joes, and the rest of the staff make it look easy.

I remember one recent day in Oxnard, seated outside at the Rescue Mission Thanksgiving Event, before enjoying a plate of food more beautiful than many 5-star restaurants could muster. We gave thanks together, and then a young child took the stage with her ukulele. When she sang, it seemed as if God Himself had joined us there to marvel at the gift He’d given her. Folks who were present knew they’d experienced something very special, and I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes.

Did you know there is a ‘Church In The Alley’? Every Sunday morning for over ten years, Pastors Norm and Kate have brought live music and The Word to the outdoor chapel at the Rescue Mission. Jose and his staff and volunteers serve hot food three times every day to those without kitchens, and they provide shelter, clothing, and warm blankets as well. This is a Mission on a mission.

And no mention of helping the homeless, anywhere, is complete without marveling at the work of Reverend Luther McCurtis at the Total Life Christian Center in Ventura. For more than fifty years, the Overseer, as he is known, has done all in his power to counter the trauma of homelessness with tangible resources and the loving, living Word. His son Michael has taken the baton and is guiding the church in the same divine direction, with the irreplaceable assistance of Pastors Tony, Liz, and Naomi.

I’m certainly neglecting to mention some other important and dedicated programs and initiatives, such as Catholic Charities in Ventura, and Ninna, Russell and the gang at Community Action in Oxnard, among others.

This much is clear: if you’re without a home, Ventura County has the compassion necessary to help you get back to work, back to living indoors, and back to being yourself.

Someone said to me the other day “Ventura doesn’t like the homeless”, implying that it was tougher here than other places for the shelter-challenged to get along.
I said that it seemed to me that Ventura County loves all their residents.

What he really meant, the way I heard it, was that the folks of Ventura County don’t want to see anyone forced to live outdoors in the USA in this day and age. It hurts their hearts to see it, as it should hurt all of us.
During this season of giving, please consider any of the above worthy alternatives to receive your generous and precious gift. Please don’t worry that you’re not giving enough, that’s just a trap to reduce the pleasure of the giving itself.

Know that you are doing your part, Ventura County is doing its part, and those who benefit from your generosity thank you and appreciate you.

God Bless Ventura County.