homeless lady, malou

My Model Best Friend in San Francisco

Posted 3 CommentsPosted in Personal Development, YWAM San Francisco

— written by Cristina Ancheta


Malou was my model college best friend years ago in Manila Philippines.  She rose from the rank as our class President.  Not only was she smart but she was also one of the top ten most beautiful women in the campus.  I was dirt poor when I was in college.  Malou would often buy me hot meals in the cafeteria.  One time she even bought me a new pair of shoes.  Then next semester, she just disappeared.

Years passed by, out of the blue, a letter came from her saying she emigrated to Daly City, California USA.   She painted a picture of America as  land of prosperity  –“ fancy car, fancy clothes.”    Plenty of jobs and food.  Life is wonderful.   She said she would send me money so I can join her in the USA.  She also enclosed a photo of her boyfriend.

I have not heard from her since then.  I wrote her several times but never got a reply.  Life goes on in the Philippines.  Ruddy and I got married, had 2 children.   Took a YWAM school to serve the people living in the garbage dump in Manila also known as Smokey Mountain.    Door of opportunities opened up for  to travel in the USA for conferences, etc.     I thought of looking for Malou, but never really got into it.

In 2001, we joined YWAM Gleanings in Central Valley CA.    The ministry distributes  food to more than 40 countries around the world.  After seven years we moved to YWAM San Francisco to work amongst the homeless and the marginalized in the city.  I often thought on how I could find my best friend in a country so huge and vast.


Until one fateful night in San Francisco.  It was during our hot chocolate ministry one Friday night . We walk in the Tenderloin streets to engage the homeless and pray for them.  A whole colony of homeless were laying on the pavement adjacent to St. Anthony’s soup kitchen.  We came to our last cup and ready to head home.  But I asked my team to approach the “old Chinese lady” at the very end of the street.

It turned out that she’s a Filipina. We had a small talk and I offered prayer.  She refused saying she despise religion.  “You do not have much of a covering—do you need a blanket?” I asked.  She replied “yes” so I rushed to the YWAM base, grabbed a blanket for her.  She begged me for food.  This woman had no teeth, nor dentures so she prefers soft food, specifically rice and eggs.  So I told her  ” Drop by at the YWAM center tomorrow and I will cook for you.”

The next day, she walked into the door of YWAM , looking frail and wearing an oversized men’s tennis shoes.

At the corner I set the table for us,  the bowl of rice and eggs, cups of water and silverware.  We were about to eat, when she glared at me. “Are you Mockay? Are you my best friend?”.   Mockay– that was my childhood nickname and only close family and friends call me by that name.  I froze, I would have not recognized that this homeless woman was my long lost friend.  We hugged, cried and talked as if forever.

That was not how I envisioned our reunion.  My mind flashed back a picture of my best friend , the former beauty queen, lapping it up in success and luxury, not destitute and broken in the street of Tenderloin. Here’s  the woman who promised me the land of prosperity, the one who fed me, gave me a brand new shoes.  Oh, how the tables have turned.  I am now the one who is feeding her, handed her a blanket and hot chocolate all in the name of Jesus!

We both ended up in the land of prosperity, she in pursuit of wealth and happiness whereas I in pursuit of what I believe was a calling from God. I am so humbled and thankful to God because I could have been like Malou— destitute and broken, if not by the grace of God.  I am also thankful that I found her and now I have something valuable to offer her – I have Jesus!

Please continue to pray and support our ministry. Pray for wisdom as Malou and I reclaimed our friendship.  Pray for a powerful message that only God can give us a real sense of security and our only hope can be found with our Father in Heaven.  American dream, apart from God could be a nightmare.

Why are you homeless? An interesting lesson

Posted 4 CommentsPosted in YWAM San Francisco

During a night crabbing , (not night club-ing 😀) in San Francisco, Boyong, a Fil-American homeless showed us an interesting lesson about crab mentality. 

“Put the lid on or else this one will escape” , he yelled throwing his first catch on the basket.

A few minutes later he threw more crabs, “now you keep it open, no need for the cover”.

Amazing to watch those Dungeness crabs pulling down each other, trying to crawl out from the basket.   Boyong disclosed his sad experiences with people trying to pull him down.

He quipped, “We should do better than these crabs,  we should build people instead of destroying them”.   

That night his fellow friends  made jokes of their own misery as homeless.  Despite his flaws, Boyong was a very generous person. He shares his pack of cigarettes, gives away noodles, and canned goods to his fellow homeless.


Boyong prefers to hang out on the streets of Tenderloin for years despite having an SRO (single room occupancy). He lamented that being a homeless feels like an invisible person. Normal people ignore him and don’t want to talk to him.  His bad breath makes you vomit. But if you can endure his putrid smell and listen,  you probably could decipher him before making a judgement.

One day  a gaping hole turned up in our floor and Boyong offered to fix it. No charge for his labor. He claimed to be a former contractor.  That saved us money!

                         “Oh yeah, he was able to fix that hole, but not the one on his chest”

When a friend donated a brand new washer and dryer, Boyong happily installed them for us.  He fixed the electrical and the plumbing system.    But he works best when he was drank, he called himself a drunken master.  Alcohol –his daily elixir,  makes him shiver when he tried to stop drinking. 


One time I met another homeless guy  Wilson who professes he earned a Ph.D. He could solve crossroad puzzles quickly.  He devour books, novels, just anything. Except he’s really out of this world, he mumbles  and talks to himself.

Boyong confirmed, “that man has a  doctorate in English literature!”.  Okay, whatever.   Boyong brought  zombie- friends like Wilson  to our Bible Study group in Tenderloin.   Well yes, we saw lives being transformed by  Jesus.  Here’s George who now works as a landscape contractor. Danny joined a team of ex-con waiters in a San Francisco restaurant.  DeeJay a former executive who embezzled money  became a manager of a store.  Listen to their stories.


Several years hanging out with Boyong, I came up with my own theory why someone becomes homeless. At times, I believe it’s an easy way out.   Say I lose my mind, that is, if I become addicted with drugs or alcohol or get tired of paying bills.

Fred an alleged contractor, said he owed huge amount of money to creditors.   Got divorced, lost his house and don’t want to pay child support.   People get mad at him hearing his story. 

His creditors forgave him after filing for bankruptcy except for the IRS and the child support thing.  He was a melancholic person. He made several attempts to jump at the Golden Gate bridge.  When he talks, his thoughts wanders around.   Until he’s no longer showing up in our meetings. No one knows his whereabouts. I felt a sudden prick in my heart.  He was gone.  


Boyong bought a Mercedez Benz, a big fancy house in Daly City and owned a construction company.  He was a successful businessman.  Until his life spiral down and hits rock bottom —he was bankcrupt,  separated,  alcohol addict , and had difficult relationships with his wife and children.  When I look in a mirror sometimes I saw Boyong’s broken self-image in me.  His low self-esteem, his failures in life and family.   Nevertheles,  God loves him unconditionally , but he has to fight his own demons… not alone. That wounded image he’s trying to overcome by himself, could be the road to homelessness. 

Boyong craves for attention, he was a lively clown, fun to talk with.   Crying inside but laughing outside. Recently, we have not seen him for weeks, and we sensed something was wrong.  We looked for him.  Found him  outrageously drank. When he got sober he was happy to see us. Until one day he was gone again, this time forever.   He was found slumped face down on a bathroom floor.   We held a memorial  attended by friends, and most importantly,his family- the people he was trying to win but also trying to forget. This time those crabs he was referring to were lifting him up with words of appreciation he can’t hear no more.

Happenings at Ellis Room …

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April 2014 newsletter

–by Cristina A

Thomas is just one of the many people who has visited the Ellis Room, our drop-in center. Every month we have more than 750 drop-in visitors. Some are regulars and some are new people that are struggling with life on the streets of Tenderloin. Thomas visited the Ellis Room as medical issues and unemployment led him to homelessness. This gave us an opportunity, not only to help with his medical problems at a time when he was mugged on the streets but also to pray and share the gospel with him. Through the care given to Thomas he was able to understand God’s love in a tangible way; seeing that God not only cares for his soul but also for his physical needs, like when he needed to use the phone or take a shower. In times when he needed prayer, or someone to listen to him, he was able to find that at our drop-in center, the Ellis Room.

Thomas isn’t the only one who needed these things. Every Friday afternoon showers are provided for those who usually bathe in fountains or not at all. In the last six months the telephone was used 235 times, and more than 1,500 people have been prayed with. The Ellis Room also houses one of the few public toilets in the neighborhood; a much needed service for those who are often kicked out of places that have toilets to use. The bathroom is used by more than 500 people each month. Free haircuts are a recent addition to the services provided, and already 163 have received haircuts. As the ministry grows, so do stories like Thomas’.

Not long after coming to the drop-in center, Thomas gave his life to Christ. Thomas isn’t the only one. Many people have received Christ in the last few months. Each Wednesday we have at least 15 people attending the Bible Study, where they read and discuss books of the Bible. Through this they build community with one another where they can provide support, worship together, and encourage each other to grow closer to God.

Thomas came to visit the Ellis Room on his last day in the city, just a few short weeks ago. He has received some disability benefits and finally been able to move back near his family, and he is again in a housing. On his last day,  in between tears he told our staff he appreciated everything;  the showers, telephone use, soap, and personal prayer time had all made a difference in his life.

Many people wonder how our staff keep going with all the problems they face everyday. It is common to have the emergency services visit our drop-in center because a person had a seizure, someone has threatened violence, or someone outside our door needs emergency care because of drug abuse. It is stories like Thomas that keep them going on, knowing they can make a difference. God is moving in this neighborhood, and he is blessing our staff with the opportunity to share in people’s journeys with an open heart.


**Cristina Ancheta serves at the Ellis Room in YWAM San Francisco

Reflections on the 10 Lepers and the Pharisee

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Word of Life, YWAM San Francisco

My late mother raised hogs in a small pig pen and tended several chickens and roosters in a large cage. Roosters? Yes, but she’s not into cock fighting (sabong ). Early in the morning at dawn break , I was getting annoyed whenever the roosters crow while the pigs were wailing for food. Later I grew fond of the rooster when mom sort of explained that crowing was the way they greet the Creator of the Universe  whereas the piggy whinny was the pigs way of whining and complaining at the start of the day. She then said , “okay  now choose your attitude!!”.

Our Lord Jesus healed the 10 lepers who were screaming for help from a distance. Leprosy was a highly contagious disease so they were kept out of the general population. Jesus told them to show themselves to the priests. As they went they were cleansed – I think their skin turned silky smooth like a child. One of the lepers turned back shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He was a Samaritan, a foreigner, a race despised by Jews. I was a bit surprised Jesus was also looking for the other 9 –the ungrateful ones., is He expecting to be thanked? Good thing though, Jesus did not take back the blessings already given to the them. He never does.   Such were some of us though, you asked God for something, like healing , job .. the moment you received it  for some reason you would disappear.    Gone for a long time,  missing  in the church fellowships.

Another parent told us their teenage child behave like the Jews in the story, ungrateful, spoiled brat.  They felt taken for granted for the good things they did for their child. Sometimes they feel its always their responsibility to give in to their teen’s every whim.

In San Francisco, some street friends we met have this sense of entitlement, very demanding , asking to be served as if its always our responsibility to provide. They said we were indebted to them for serving their country, really ? ..or that the government owe them. And that somehow we are to blame for their misery or poverty. My wife would tell them “you don’t really know what’s like to be poor” after our 12 years serving the poor people living in a garbage dump.

10 lepers
Meanwhile the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14 describes some of us who go to church to look around and criticize. Or maybe he’s just getting bored from the long sermon. This one thinks he is better than the other person.. The focus of his worship is not on God but himself. Jesus said the humble sinner (tax collector) went home right with God. I wonder how ‘s my attitude when I go to church.  Worship Him? or What’s in it for me?
I think I should be thankful to God in everything because He is in control. ( I Thess 5:18) He is the source of everything. Its easier to be thankful in good times though than in bad times. I heard many times that our sufferings intend to make us better not bitter. John Maxwell says our attitude determines our altitude in life. Many times I receive kindness or favor from others most especially my  loves ones.  I forgot to acknowledge or appreciate them… I’m busy.    I know, a sincere “thank you” means a lot instead of taking people for granted.  Maybe treat them like a VIP because that’s how I want to be treated. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you..” that’s the golden rule (Luke 6:31).

So when my spouse or loved ones prepare meals or help me with something… when I received gifts from friends on my birthdays.  A simple word of thanks or appreciation is in order. That’s better than my silence or else I’m taking them for granted because I know words of appreciation brightens the day, clears the atmosphere. Ungratefulness hardens my heart, maybe my arteries too , high blood pressure …  until it shows in  my face – bitter or better, as seen on the TV vinegar commercial

Be Part of a Praying community?

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Word of Life, YWAM San Francisco

Read Acts 12: 1-18
“ So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him” Acts 12:5

Isolation and insulation lead to depression. Isolation when you’re cut off from your loved ones and insulation when you build walls against them. Our friend Roger (not his real name) roams the street of San Francisco after his business collapsed few years ago. He incurred lots of debts from his creditors. His life went down in spiral. He had a divorce, lost his house and ordered to pay child support. His loved ones abandoned him due to his alcohol addiction.

When he filed bankruptcy he said his debts were forgiven by his creditors except Uncle Sam. He basically lost hope, his mind (?), his purpose of living until he found hope in Jesus. We told him “Jesus would forgive ALL your sins if you surrender to Him.” He attended our small group and he was sober. He intimated at times he fall back to drinking. Weekdays he gets moral support and strength from the friendly staff at Ellis Room. But weekends are quite a challenge when he is alone tempted by street friends who are either drug or alcohol addicts. He really needs a supportive community that will guide him the right way. At times  he travels by Bart 30 miles away from SF, stays with us and sleep in the couch. He fixed lots of things in the house too.
huge bell
I heard a story long ago about a huge bell that sank to the bottom of the sea during a voyage. Technicians or engineers were called upon to resolve the problem. A crane and boom were used to lift up the huge bell but to no avail.. The opposing buoyant force prevented the bell from being pulled up. The sun was going down. It was getting dark and the engineers were getting frustrated. Meanwhile, a group of native men standing on the shore multiplied in number as they curiously watched the event. Finally the chieftain of the native men approached the engineers offering to help. The chief engineer brushed him aside and told him to get out of his way. But the ship captain suggested to hear him out  instead of ignoring the chieftain.

The chief engineer wondering how on earth they would help without modern equipment sneered: “Okay, since its getting dark, whatever , as you wish, go for it”. The chieftain immediately gathered all his tribes, waved his hand and they run towards the forest. When they came back they held several pieces of bamboo used in rafts. One by one, the natives dived into the sea and tied the bamboo rafts around and inside the huge bell. Little by little the huge bell was rising up towards the water surface until it floats. The engineers watched in amazement the natives ingenuity while the crowd applaud at them.

The same way, our burdens will lighten up when all together Christian brethren pray and help one another. Its really important for us to be part of a Christian community.  Amen.

Love Unconditional

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This story is in memory of a mentally ill homeless friend disowned, persecuted and abandoned by his loved ones.

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!   Isaiah 49:15 niv

A U.S Marine highly decorated with Medal of Honor for valor talked to his father on the phone before coming home from the war. He misses his family so much after long years in the battlefront. He was very excited upon hearing a familiar voice at the other end of the line.

soldier homeless man

“Hello?” a male voice growled.

“ Hello dad?” I’m back., it’s good to be back” the soldier beamed.

“Oh great , how are you doing son?” the father changing his demeanor.

“Dad, I’m good, very good!”

“Glad you’re back after a long while, ..so when are you coming home?”

“Hmm, soon dad…where is mom?”

“Oh, don’t worry she’ll be here soon. She just need some air. ”

“Okay , dad, I want to tell you and mom something…I’ve a friend who saved my life. I wanted him to stay with us for a while…I mean, he got injured because of me.”

“Why, what’s wrong, what happened?”—the father inquired.

“He lost an arm and a leg …”

“ Am sorry to hear that son.. but how long he’s gonna stay  with us though?  You see, that could be tough for us.. you know… “

“ Son? I hope you understand.. hello?..” hello son? “ There was a long silence..

In the morning, there was a knock on the door of the father. An officer informing him about his son found dead who apparently committed suicide. When the father saw his son’s corpse, it had one arm and one leg.

A suicide note read “ I fear I will love you better in my absence. As I have become what I never wished to be, a burden on those I love the most”

Cristina A – My Whiz Bang IPhone5C

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I was happy with my Nokia cell phone, the flip kind that I had for many years.  With a simple lifestyle,  my “dinosaur” phone is enough to call my family, friends and when occasion warrant it,  call 911 and police emergencies whilst working with the homeless in the Ellis Room.
But guess what!!!!  Ruddy got me a whiz bang iPhone 5C as a birthday gift!  He wants me to use the phone as ministry tool to take inconspicuous photos of my homeless friends, and finish my long over due booklet project, “My Walk with the Homeless”.
While I appreciate the thoughtfulness of Ruddy, I  still feel conflicted when I consider the monthly payment on this newly fangled phone and the thought of how many people in the slum of Manila could probably live on this money.
This is the tension I live in: why do I compare the Third World poor and the homeless as to who is most worthy of my compassion, time, resources and energy?  What’s the worth of the soul and why do I compare and think others less valuable than others?
My sponsored child from the Philippines looks so darn cute on her photo and the sponsor’s card in my refrigerator door, but I think people will think twice of hanging a photo of my homeless friends in their refrigerator door.
You see in the world of my homeless friends, pictures are not just pictures. For some, they are overly sensitive having their photos taken because of their run in with the law and they have way too many mug shots taken by policemen.
Suprisingly,  though, most of homeless friends loves it when I take their pictures.  I realized when I take their photos it communicate value to them, that they mattered to me and to the world, even though they are not the most photogenic subject.  Also, with their destructive lifestyles , they know fully well that life is short and when I take their photos they’re somehow “memorialized”, a proof of their existence and hopefully not easily forgotten.
I wonder if Jesus would walk the Tenderloin, will He take photos?  Not only will He take their pictures,  He’d even tattoed  my homeless friends’ names in His hands..…” I have engraved you in the palm of my hand, I won’t forget you”. Isaiah 49:14-17.
 Wow… Jesus would have notice my homeless friends ,  Your love is way too radical!
Love you all!  Cristina and Ruddy

Pushing The Wrong Button

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“26 “In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.“ Ephesians 4:26-27

Imagine this is you one early morning: –you’re in a hurry, late for work, traffic and you just noticed your gauge was  on the “E” line   ( like maybe someone dear in the family used the car last night forgot to gas up?).    Quite a stressful driving.  Suddenly out of nowhere someone cuts you off that you hit the brakes so hard missing the other car an inch. Now stop and think what would you do?  Not yet the WWJD.   How about if the one who cuts you off  yelled at you —- “Are you crazy?”  Then he got out to inspect his car visibly irked. You rolled down your window to talk sense but he was really fuming mad, said something about your mother then shoved to your face his middle finger.  You maybe thinking how to get even – like blaring your horn, shout at the top of your voice!!!  But of course the best Christian thing to do is to back off and let it go…. pray in the Spirit (use heavenly language) and psych yourself you don’t want to go down his level.. you’re cool!  Or else one of  you may end up either in a hospital or the cemetery .

In YWAM San Francisco, its not fun  when a drunken guy enters the Ellis Room looking for trouble. At times we have to call 911 especially like when our friend B came by the door flashing  a  gun like in the movie Wild Wild West.   Kudos to the staff, trained in de-escalation , they are like defusing a time bomb so that it won’t explode.  You’ve probably met Laura before  or Tinita and Cristina, our unsung heroes in YWAM .. they were spat upon, cussed out and bruised emotionally. Yet they look strong and firm to confront, or to address what is wrong or sinful in your life. They speak the truth in love—tough love, by God’s grace.  Anyway, to finish the story with B the police came  immediately.

The question – “What makes you angry? How you respond to anger? Try to think of a specific situation.” Turns out everyone is vulnerable to anger when you press the wrong button. Getting angry is not a sin until you dwell on it, nourishing it until you explode… surely an opportunity for the devil to control you. Diffusing a tense situation can be a challenge.

Here’s a good reminder in Proverbs 15:1  ” A gentle answer turns away wrath, but  harsh word stirs up anger”.   To be  humble and teachable, that’s our goal to be a disciple of Jesus.   So how long  do you intend to stay angry –the whole day, the next day (s)?   Do you know that “anger”  is a choice?    Now being frank about how we feel regarding the use of (hurtful?) words  and expressing  expectations are also helpful  in understanding one another.  Frustrations, pent up anger, harboring resentments are diffused when we’re able to  resolve conflicts.

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” We may think we have spiritual gifts, we may presume we are holy, we may rejoice with human successes, but until we see Christ and abandon our reliance upon our self-righteousness, all we will ever have, at best, is our religion.”

— Francis Frangipane
Holiness, Truth and the Presence of God p45ywam sanfran