Goodbye Chattanooga, Hello Long Beach
Several weeks ago Pastor Jerry reminded us of the deep commitment Cornerstone Church has for the spiritual and physical wellbeing of children, not just nearby but worldwide by supporting many children’s ministries. In fact, approximately 28% of your Mission Outreach budget goes to nurture children in the Lord’s goodness and saving grace.
There is no end to the many wonderful stories of Christ entering little lives. One of those stories swirls around a new friend and Mission Partner, Susan Bendijo.
A Special Blessing
It is not surprising that Susan’s surname, Bendijo, means “He blessed” in Spanish. Truly her life and her passion is blessing others through her service to young people.
Susan was born in the Philippines. She knew sorrow at the early age of five when her mother died. Susan and her much older siblings immigrated to the US and went to live with different relatives. When their father arrived, the family reunited and went to live with their grandmother. Eventually big brother and sister left after high school graduation and Susan was alone with her father and grandmother, both of whom worked. While they worked long, hard hours she came home from school to an empty house and felt the loneliness of a latchkey child.
Big sister Jocelyn, while in college, connected with Campus Crusade, and came to accept the Lord. That very night, with all the excitement of a new believer and with the 4 Spiritual Laws in hand, she shared her newfound faith with Susan - now a 5th grader who already had a strong sense of right and wrong. That night she too accepted the Lord, but since there was no further spiritual support or mentoring, Susan’s acceptance faded into the background. She and her family did attend church but there wasn’t a strong outreach to children and no encouragement to read the Bible.
As a 7th grader Susan began to hear the Lord prompting her to “open my Word”; there was a Bible in the home ready to be read but it was used as a plant stand. She remembers removing the plant, blowing the dust off the cover and opening it to take peek. Looking at the printed pages, titles and books, Susan was overwhelmed by what she saw. Closing it quickly she returned it to its humble job.
Maximize Your Time Here on Earth
Jocelyn married, had a family, and moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. As time passed, Susan yearned to get to know her sister and family and so decided to"She experienced a vision of Long Beach, and she asked the Lord, “What is that about?” Next, she had a startling dream of children caught in a dark tunnel begging her for help. Where is Long Beach? She was happy in Chattanooga. But, because of the verse and the very strong impression of the children pleading and crying out to her for help, she realized she was hearing from God. " move to Chattanooga as well. Through her sister she met Dr. Marlene, a living example of a deeply committed Christian and team member of Campus Crusade. Marlene’s walk with the Lord was inspiring and her life’s passion of maximizing one’s time here on earth had a huge impact on Susan. She went to Campus Crusade and offered to volunteer. Soon she was involved in high school ministry and was then hired by Campus Crusade (now known as CRU). It was this life of ministry with its incredible impact on others that shaped Susan’s own faith, strengthened her walk and drove her commitment.
Susan settled into life in Chattanooga, a city of 346,000 with a vibrant economy, thriving church life and true Southern charm. She bought a fixer upper and improved it gradually, entered high school ministry with a passion for helping young people and did so for 13 years.
Change Was Coming
While reading during her quiet time, Deuteronomy 1:6 caught her attention. In this verse, God told the Israelites to move out of the hill country and into the land of the Amorites: To enter the land, conquer and settle it. Was she being told to move? She experienced a vision of Long Beach, and she asked the Lord, “What is that about?” Next, she had a startling dream of children caught in a dark tunnel begging her for help. Where is Long Beach? She was happy in Chattanooga. But, because of the verse and the very strong impression of the children pleading and crying out to her for help, she realized she was hearing from God. The Lord persisted, Deuteronomy 1:6 kept prompting, and the children kept pleading.
The call came but there were obstacles to overcome: Susan’s house had to be sold and as she stood in her yard and looked at her old roof, she knew she needed the Lord’s help. She had already replaced two windows, her improvement for the year. There was no money for a new roof.
“Lord, you have to help me with this.” The very next day, the Lord sent a hailstorm, further damaging the old roof. It just so happened that hailstorm damage was covered by her insurance. But could she sell quickly? With a new roof, the house was sold and closed in two months, considered record time in that part of the country. Could she find a new home in Long Beach? Indeed she did and again, in record time. She left the comfort of safe places, sweet faces and familiar social attitudes to encounter the fast California pace of life.
The New Ministry
Over the years, Susan’s workweek has consisted of 40-60 hours and continues here serving at CRU’s high school campuses of Poly, Wilson and Lakewood. There are campus talks, classroom and sports talks, Bible studies, meetings with parents, and with teachers who ask for talks about self-worth and other related topics. She is part of a team through CRU: deeply committed volunteers, interns, and college students who all want to help others know the Lord and choose the best He has to offer. Susan even has financial supporters who are non-believers who believe in the good work being done.
Dr. Dean, a Christian, and science teacher at Poly has been praying for years for students to come to the know Lord and is so appreciative that CRU is one of the Christian ministries now serving the school. The school of 4600 students has high academic programs and a very strong sports program. The outreach to the sports students is huge and many of these young athletes have accepted Christ.
The schools vary widely in socio-economic terms. Many Poly students are poor and from homes with little or no parental guidance. Wilson students are drawn from a more prosperous community but often no less neglected or the very opposite, over-parented. Lakewood High students as well can be just as alienated and upset. The students yearn to be loved, accepted and heard. In their training and in their hearts Susan and the team provide a family atmosphere, modeling authentic Christian values in daily living. Thousands of students have heard the Gospel and hundreds have prayed to receive Christ on Long Beach high school campuses.
Susan and the team take students home from evening events and often bring them to church services. At times, students call her because they are feeling unsafe at a party or other gathering and need to be driven home. So many of the students, girls as well as boys, have been abused sexually before they even enter high school; she and the staff help and console. Then there are the girls who think they may be pregnant or who have been raped – Susan is called for help. She becomes the go-to person, the person who tells the girls they must inform their parents. If the parents fail to take over, it is Susan who takes them to a pro-life clinic to be tested and to formulate a plan for the near future or in the case of rape, to agencies that provide counseling. She and the other team members become the friends who walk with them thru their difficult times.
The Lord knows the hurts and disappointments, the poverty and the neglect. He has brought workers like Susan into this special field. Please pray and help support Susan and the team members who bring Jesus Christ into the lives of our young people.
Susan would love to hear from you, to answers your questions and give you more information. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Susan also wanted to share her special verse with you.
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and to release from darkness for the prisoners….
To God Be the Glory!