For Ross and Sandy Cooper, members of The River Christian Reformed Church in Redlands, Calif., caring for people who are homeless goes beyond providing a hot meal. From August 22-24, the Coopers and 21 individuals from low-income or homeless situations got away from it all at San Clemente Beach in California. “Half of the people had never seen the ocean, and more than half had never cooked a s’more [campfire treat]. These are new experiences,” said Ross Cooper.
The Coopers open their home every weekend as a place of hospitality to as many as 60 people experiencing homelessness or who are on a low income. Visitors take hot showers, eat a hot meal, participate in Sunday worship and Bible study, and pick up clothing donations. On camping excursions, something the Coopers do a few times a year, they say they enjoy taking the people they’ve met in their home to a picturesque setting away from their usual environment. “We get opportunities for more meaningful discussion and more spiritual experience. It takes us out of our normal routine. . . . People share in a way they don’t normally share in our church community,” said Ross.
The campers enjoyed creating their own “foil dinner” by choosing a variety of foods, wrapping it in foil, and placing it in the campfire to be cooked. Those who were homeless felt blessed by hot showers and the chance to have a legal campfire.
The group shared devotions together with each meal. “The highlight was hearing God answering prayer,” said Cooper. One participant had recently lost his twin brother, and the group talked about sharing God’s comfort in tough times. “I like connecting with other people on a much [more] personal and spiritual level,” said Ross. “This was an opportunity to speak the truth and share some good and painful memories.”
As part of their ministry with people who are homeless or who live on a low income, the Coopers take groups of approximately 30 people camping three to four times a year. The River Church supports their ministry in various ways, including a recent footwear drive to collect shoes and socks to share with people in fellowship with the Coopers.