Bellflower lost a very important neighbor...

On May 30, 2015, Bellflower lost a very important neighbor--Charlotte Forrest.  If you knew Charlotte, you would have fond memories of her dancing her heart out at the Bellflower Streetfests every summer, organizing the annual coat drive for Bellflower Unified Schools, and serving with the Lord's Church food pantry, among other things.  What you might not have known is how big of a role Charlotte played in my life as I was deciding what to do after graduating college. In that sense, I guess I consider her a mentor.

The thing about Charlotte is that she was truly a friend of the homeless and of the people most of us choose not to notice. Before I joined the KCB staff in 2006, she used to take me around with her to visit her friends. Sometimes she would bring food, sometimes she wouldn’t… but always she would spend time talking, listening, and praying with each person we would visit. I would do this maybe once a month with Charlotte and feel really good about myself for the “good work” I was doing.  Sometimes I cramped up from patting myself on the back too hard.

But for Charlotte, this was not a once a month volunteer activity--this was her life. Charlotte didn’t need a program or designated time to do outreach. Loving the poor and the stranger was something that oozed out of her being. There was no schedule.

Charlotte befriended and invested in people that many of us would just walk by and not notice. She recognized the value in them, she loved them, she helped them get connected to the resources they needed… and now they are stable families also giving back to the Bellflower community and serving the Lord.

I’ve had a hard time with her loss, if I can be honest. I’m so happy she’s not suffering… and even happier when I imagine her dancing around in heaven like she would every summer at the Bellflower Streetfests. But Bellflower lost a key servant and friend, and for that, I am sad.

To be frank, if more people in our churches and society were more like Charlotte in their willingness to truly befriend the poor and take risks on people, we wouldn’t need organizations like KCB.  I would love to see that happen.

So my challenge, both to myself and to you, is that we pick up where Charlotte left off. That we notice the people in our communities that go unnoticed. That we get out of our comfort zone and challenge our own stereotypes by becoming a friend to a homeless neighbor. That we honor God by keeping his command to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Isaiah 58 says this: “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday."

Let’s carry on this Godly legacy that Charlotte leaves behind in Bellflower.  It's going to take a lot of us to make up for this loss.