MODESTO – Scott Bird, Pastor at Anchored Bible Church in Modesto, was at first not interesting in a trip to Ukraine, or even Eastern Europe for that matter.
“God works in mysterious ways,” he said Sunday afternoon in the church conference room. Once there, the country gave him a change of heart. Friendly people, music, culture and food were all factors that drew him in.
“I traveled to Ukraine in 2018 as part of a goodwill mission to the Association of Baptist Churches in Kherson Oblast which is now a major epicenter of fighting as Russian troops move northward from Crimea and have attempted to cross the Dnieper River on one of the only bridges in the region.”
“What drew me there? Since the fall of the Soviet Union Ukraine has only had a Kremlin backed president and government. In 2014 the Ukrainian people mobilized in what is called the Maiden Revolution that ultimately saw the toppling of the Kremlin backed government. A free and fair election was held and one of the worlds newest democracies was born. As a Christian I believe in three spheres of authority in our world: civil, church, and family. I was inspired by the civil changes in Ukraine and now wanted to meet those in the church. This was made possible because the Central Valley Baptist Association which I lead has had a 30 year history of cooperative ministry with the churches in Kherson.”
“The people in Ukraine are wonderful. They have a tragic and complex history that makes their attainment of a democratic state a modern marvel. All freedom loving people ought to celebrate that achievement and mourn its attack. The nation is relatively young age-wise, but has a great number of people who were alive and experienced the genocidal famine which Stalin perpetuated against the Ukrainian people, it’s called the Holomodor. Because of this tragic shadow in the past the people today want to and have achieved a nation that walks in the light of the values I fear we take for granted in America. But they are also tough and have a core of steel which we are seeing on display as they frustrate the Russian offensive currently taking place. President Zelenskyy is a model embodiment of the Ukrainian identity, quick to smile, clear on his identity, motivated by duty to protect that which was won at such a cost.”
“On the church side of things there is a robust network of churches all across Ukraine. Right now it appears that most pastors that I have been in touch with are staying in order to serve their communities. In Kherson I’ve talked with pastors who have pulled people from the rubble of their homes after indiscriminate grad rocket attacks by the Russians. In Nova Kakhovka I talked with a pastor who is sheltering over 100 people including the aged and pregnant women. There is anxiety about the future but no fear about what they will do whatever comes.”
“Social media and the world-wide web has been a powerful tool for people to record the atrocities happening, that historical record will stand as a witness against the Kremlin for generations. It also allows contact with people in conflict zones. Social media has allowed continual contact throughout the conflict. In fact I was on a phone call with a pastor in Kherson region yesterday while they were sheltering from a military offensive that was taking place. It’s a strange world we live in but I’m grateful we have been able to communicate. I use those times to remind our Ukrainian brothers and sisters that they are not alone, and whatever happens we will be there to serve them.”
“I do plan to return. My trip this September is obviously on hold but I and others will return. It needs to be said that when Ukraine prevails, the international community will be there to rebuild the nation and the infrastructure destroyed by the conflict. But who will be there to rebuild churches, and orphanages, and schools and colleges? The IMF won’t give a cent to that rebuilding effort. And nor should they. Churches helping churches, this is what helps rebuild the churches in Ukraine. Future trips to Ukraine will be planned to help spearhead an initiative of connecting American financial resources and skills with Ukrainian know how and passion. It must be said this really matters because the local church is a resource center in so many ways to the communities across Ukraine. Most important of which is the message that makes sense of all of this, that sin is real and causes real consequences, but that we can be liberated from it not by being moral or pursuing good works, but by admitting we are sinners ourselves, that we need help from outside of ourselves and that the New Testament contains the declaration that that help has come from God in his Son Jesus. The knock on effects of the gospel life is what has transformed Ukraine and will be all the more necessary as people process the aftermath of this conflict.”
“What our community should know is that this conflict is very simple despite how some sectors of the media and politicians are spinning it. A free democratic state with sovereign borders has been attacked by an enemy of the world. Putin says it’s a nazi nation. The President of Ukraine is of Jewish heritage. Putin says is a war of Russian security. There isn’t one boot on Russian soil attacking them. This war is about one thing and one thing alone, the vain glory which Putin is a slave to; the resurrection of the Soviet world order. The second thing our community should know is that the oppression won’t cease with the end of hostilities. If Russia prevails, when it comes to the churches, I fear the worst will still be ahead. People need to know that the Russian Orthodox Church is funded by the Kremlin, it’s an appendage of the state and as such will brook no competition. Evangelical values are viewed as western propaganda and those who espouse it are enemies of the state. We may be witness in the next few months the suppression of Baptist churches. They may have to go underground like churches in China have had to do for decades. If this is the case it will be a travesty because it was all avoidable. But even if that’s the case our network of churches in the Central Valley will continue to serve support and supply the needs of our partners in Ukraine.”
Stronger Public Safety, Homelessness on the Agenda for Ceres City Council Hopeful
District one in the city of Ceres encompasses a substantial amount of the city’s life blood. The are reaches the commercial corridor through Hatch Road and part of Whitmore Avenue and all the residential neighborhoods in between up to River Road. It is also the area of the city with a high crime rate and visible homeless problems.
These are serious issues for any city, but specifically on the radar for a police department that has challenges with officer retention. They’re also topics that long time resident and city council hopeful Connie Vasquez hopes to bring to light if she’s elected.
“First responders, and the safety and well being of our children are my number one concerns,” Vasquez said. She is a 30-plus year resident of the city who worked in the dental field for 27 years and currently runs a daycare.
Ceres is the third largest city in the county. The police department is also the second lowest paid in the county according to Brian Petersen, the who is president of the police officer’s association. The association is supporting Vasquez in her run for the city council seat.
Because of declining city budgets, the SWAT team association holds an annual dinner fundraiser event to purchase or replace aging equipment essential to their jobs.
“Police officers shouldn’t have to do that,” Vasquez said of the fundraisers. “They deserve the support of the city and the community.”
It’s no secret that officer retention has been a serious issue for many agencies in recent years. Ceres in particular felt a serious loss of officers to neighboring agencies offering higher pay. The hopes are that more support in the council can in turn allow the department to offer more competitive wages to keep officers from leaving.
“I don’t want our officers leaving because they’re not getting paid enough,” Vasquez said.
“There’s nights where we have only a few officers working the entire city, but we’re able to hold things down,” Petersen said.
Naturally, the more serious incidents would occupy the officers pushing other priorities like theft down the list. Thefts along the Hatch Road corridor in businesses like Home Depot have been a common occurrence, with high dollar losses.
“How can someone walk out of the store with stuff like that? If the police department was strengthened, they’d be able to combat that a little easier,” Vasquez explained.
Petersen would also like to see the police department bounce back into a stronger agency. The department has had to lose specialized units like narcotic investigations, auto theft and others. He would like to see those return, along with education and engagement teams to tackle the homeless issue, and a community resource unit similar to what the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office has.
Vasquez agrees homelessness is a serious problem for the region, and Ceres is no exception to the issue. She believes it’s one that will require creative solutions and navigation.
“I have a heart for people and really want to help,” she said. “Some don’t want the help or they want to be left alone without any rules.”
Substance abuse and mental health issues historically are key components to the issue of homelessness. Vasquez believes that offering programs through community partnerships can be a deterrent and gateway to rehabilitation. She said education and engagement is a good way to plant a seed toward finding a caring solution toward the issue.
“Maybe something like a voucher system, where people can work for an amount of hours a day and receive a voucher. They can get socks or shoes or some food.”
Vasquez found the inspiration to run for the district one council seat through the support of her friends and family. She found the idea a good opportunity to get involved beyond volunteering. Change in the community in a positive direction is something she would like to get the ball rolling on.
“We need to bring the community together. We need to get involved. Things aren’t going to change for the better if we don’t stay involved.”
Deputy Recognized for Helping Infant Struggling to Breathe
MODESTO – A deputy with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office was recognized Tuesday morning for his efforts to help a baby who was struggling to breathe.
The incident happened on November 29th, 2020 in Patterson. At about 9:42pm the dispatch center received a call for help reporting a three week old child was having trouble breathing.
Deputy Callahan with the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office responded and arrived within one minute of the call. In a body worn camera video released by authorities, Deputy Callahan can be seen flipping the child over and patting the baby on the back.
“That’s not his color,” one person can be heard saying in the video. Deputy Callahan continued treating the child as he stepped outside and asked for an ambulance. Shortly after, the baby can be heard beginning to cry. Deputy Callahan also stressed the importance of an infant CPR class.
Deputy Callahan was recognized with a life saving award from the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning.
Toy Drive-by Giveaway
LATHROP – Holidays may look a little different this year due to the pandemic but that is not stopping Lathrop Police Services, a division of the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, from bringing the joy of Christmas to children.
Lathrop Police Services will be giving toys away to children ages 2-12 on a first come first serve basis. The event will be from 5-7pm Friday December 11th at Generation Center located at 450 Spartan Way in Lathrop.
“We want to spread some hope and joy this holiday season while staying safe,” Deputy Alan Sanchez said through a press release. “We will be wearing gloves and a face mask. We have 100’s of toys to give away for FREE.”
Families will have the opportunity to drive their cars up to where the toys are given, children will be asked their age and if qualified, they will receive a toy. Getting out of the vehicle is not required.
Children will also get to see Santa, K-9’s and police officers.
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