Grant Rowland's day typically starts as he awakens in the backseat of his car. He heads toward a local church to take his shower and begins again to look for employment.
For the past few months, Rowland and 50 other guests have been taking showers and getting haircuts at First United Methodist Church in Santa Maria, Calif., through Showers of Blessings. "When the recession hit," Rowland says, "I went through my life savings." He also became depressed when he could not find work and had to live out of his car.
Planning a post-earthquake renovation of the church in 1996, the congregation decided to add two showers to the facility. Volunteers in Mission, youth and Walk to Emmaus groups frequently stay overnight and appreciate the showers, says the Rev. Robert Isip. Members also decided to serve a growing number of unhoused patrons with running water, grooming supplies and breakfast on Monday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon.
"We have become a stopping station for people — a place to find relief and peace, a place to belong and get anchored, a place to find oneself," Isip explains.
Many of the unhoused clients Isip meets once had jobs, homes, food and money to pay bills. He and church members wanted to help them out of their downward spiral and back on their feet.
Rowland, 59, is an example of someone who was employed and self-reliant. He continues to look for work and does odd jobs to buy gas and food. Impressed with First's radical hospitality, he uses Showers of Blessings – and also worships at the church and sings in the choir.
Although he grew up in a Christian home, Rowland considers himself born-again. God filled the emptiness that once led him to consider suicide. "I need God in my life," Rowland says. "It's about going forward, and I leave it in God's hands."
First United Methodist and Crestwood Christian Fellowship, a Korean congregation that worships at the church, collaborate to provide Showers of Blessings.
"We look forward to more years of helping the community as a place of relief and refreshment," Isip said.
AT A GLANCE First United Methodist Church | 311 S. Broadway, Santa Maria, CA 93454 | 805-925-9573 | [email protected] | www.santamariafumc.net | Pastor: Rev. Robert "Bob" Isip | Average Attendance: 195 | California-Pacific Conference