Interviews with Beth Blocker and Maria Burke by Amie Quigley
On behalf of Urban Mission, we are so grateful to our FPCH church family for spending time at the Refuge shelter fostering friendships and sharing the love of Christ with our guests! We were especially blessed this season with an amazing staff of servant leaders. As always, they followed Christ faithfully, making the Refuge a nurturing, peaceful space to rest in God’s goodness. Special thanks to Brandon Malone FPCH Deacon, Doug McAdoo FPCH Deacon, Jason Brown of Ecclesia Church of Hollywood, John Pinker of Hollywood Church of Christ, and several others from local City and County organizations, as well as FPCH’s own Maria Burke and Beth Blocker who joined the staff this year for the first time. Please read their beautiful reflections below.
Amie: What was your journey to joining the staff at the Refuge shelter?
Maria: Working at the Refuge was actually a natural fit for me. God had aligned circumstances so I was available to work at the shelter during a leave of absence that I was taking from my primary job with the City of Los Angeles. I had worked security for several years at the Lord’s Lighthouse and I had also managed a temporary Covid-19 shelter for the Mayor’s office at the height of the pandemic. I believe that God was preparing my heart all along for this particular experience.
Beth: I started going to Hollywood Presbyterian in 1996. A year later, my husband Keith and son Hayden started volunteering at the Lord’s Lighthouse. Then, I decided to join too. I took a break from volunteering for a while. During covid, my beloved husband passed away. After that, I decided to get back to serving at the Lord’s Lighthouse again. Amie, you asked me to consider joining the Refuge staff as the cook and it was a natural progression.
Amie: What surprised you?
Maria: I was surprised at how our friends at the shelter can still laugh and hold on to hope despite extremely difficult life circumstances. I was also surprised at their hidden talents such as playing piano, art, and even comedy! As time progressed and I got to know our friends better, they were very open about their situation and their daily struggles.
Beth: The most surprising thing to me was how sad I was to see the guests leave. We become like a family here. Once they leave, you realize you might never see them again. I bonded closely with one guest, an elderly, vibrant and dynamic woman named Emma. Emma eventually got housed at a nursing facility. I knew this was the best thing for her, but I missed Emma’s bright spirit and think of her often. Even though our time was brief together, she made a significant impact on my life.
Amie: How do you see God at work?
Maria: I was able to see God and his relentless pursuit of His children – to help, heal, and lead them back to wholeness. Throughout my experience at the Refuge, I witnessed God gently guiding our friends through His Word, prayer, relationships with loving staff, and showing Himself to be faithful in all things. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve God and His kingdom in this way and to have this unique experience to witness the unconditional love of Jesus.
Beth: I see God at work constantly at The Refuge. I believe God placed us on this corner for a reason because we can have an impact on the people around us. We pray with them. This is a blessing in their lives as not many other facilities can do this. To witness people who were once resistant to prayer, and then start to want to prayer has been a constant reminder to me that God is at work here. Serving at the Refuge also feels like stepping into the Bible. These are the people that Jesus spent time with. Spending time in prayer and caring for them is what I believe we as Christians are called to do.
Amie: So much thanks to you both Maria and Beth. Your abundant love in Christ allowed twenty-five plus precious guests struggling with grave disabilities, physical, mental and spiritual challenges to rest in God’s house for a season. We’re so delighted that many of them were placed with housing and health service providers and moved into other housing options after the Refuge. What a joy to witness our guests flourish in their walk with Christ and with tangible resources for wellness. Endless praise to our Lord for these blessings and deepest thanks to our congregation and surrounding churches for their love and support!