Newsong Church

"Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story
which is written across the whole world in letters
too large for some of us to see."
C.S. Lewis

El Presidente – The Muffin Ministry

Posted on 17 Dec 2013


It’s not too often are we moved to tears by reading about muffins. However, with each story I read on The Muffin Ministry blog, a flood of emotions began to well up in my heart, and eventually, I gave into the tears. I was overwhelmed with the simple and yet significant impact of each person’s experiences. The stories were not about muffins, but of God’s goodness.

The Muffin Ministry is about spreading the love of Jesus one muffin at a time. Ministering and loving on the homeless in Santa Ana through kind words, prayers, and some epic Muffins!

Here’s a story of Caleb and Luis.

El Presidente

The man to my left (your right), is Luis Gaytan, a.k.a El Presidente. No, not tyrant. Presidente. The nomenclature is democratic. And from what I hear, unequivocally well deserved. He rocks a straw hat with the words “Jesus is Love” inscribed in several different languages around the brim. He is a self-proclaimed master at yoga: I could go into a “Scorpion” stance right here and now if I wanted to. He speaks (nominally) at least seven different languages, and made it a point to greet each of us of who could understand him, in Korean, Chinese, Spanish, and French. He has a pot belly that protrudes from above his belt, but he assures us that he drinks no alcohol: I don’t do drugs or alcohol. I don’t need substances to keep me happy or satisfied, only Jesus, he says laughing,

Muffin Ministry-Caleb and LuisThere is a certain magnetism in Luis that draws people to him. A constant smile pasted to his face. A laugh that comes both strong and easily. A spring in his step, as if he was Fred Astaire, dancing in a two piece suit, and not a disenfranchised homeless man living out of his van. Luis walks with dignity. Talks with dignity. He is a man, unashamed of his station in life, passing his torch of dignity from person to person, til’ each and every one around him is warm with the fire they now have. He is a man who looks around and sees a world of possibilities that absolutely transcends the pain and hurt that surrounds him.

Last time I met with him, he told me of a non-profit initiative he has started called the “Homeless Community Workforce”, which he uses to arrange on and off work for the homeless in the area (including himself), roofing houses, gardening, cleaning houses, anything he says that can get willing people to sustain themselves, instead of “stealing the next bicycle to get the next fix” (his words, not mine). Luis even collects the recyclables after we are done passing out food, not for himself, but to give to those around him. Those with children, those who won’t “spend it on alcohol and drugs”.

Last week Luis introduced me to his friend, Mr. B, a frail and soft spoken 84 year old man living homeless in Santa Ana. Mr. B. is the oldest person living on the streets of Santa Ana, according to Luis, and has been out on the streets for the last seven years. I had an opportunity to pray for Mr. B, and my heart broke as he told me – through his tears – of his older sister (87 years old), whom he wishes he could see more often, whom he wishes he could offer more of his help, whom he wishes wouldn’t have to suffer a disease that debilitated her ability to remember who he was.

Muffin Ministry-Serving breakfastMy heart broke, not only for Mr. B’s sister, but for Mr. B himself. Here was a man who could barely walk, and that only with the assistance of his walker. Here was a man missing half of his teeth, who could barely chew and swallow the muffin I had offered to him. Here was a man who had slipped through the cracks, downtrodden, and overlooked. My heart broke, as I felt the second-hand helplessness of someone who more than likely would not have the time or the resources to better his situation before he drew his final breath. If God’s faithful, what about Mr. B? What about Mr. B?

It wasn’t until later, that I found out the answer to that question. Every weekend Luis would rent a motel room. There he would take Mr. B and feed him, shave him, bathe him, and even wash his clothes. Luis told me how after several weekends of taking care of Mr. B, Mr B. returned the favor. This time Mr. B rented a hotel room, and told Luis to stay there in his stead. Did you know Luis, that you’re the only one out here on these streets that sees me? That takes care of me? This time I want to take care of you. But of course, Luis, being Luis, flipped the situation back around, and in the end it was Mr. B. again who ended up staying in the hotel that night. I guess somebody eventually took notice of what Luis was doing, because now Mr. B. is being taken care of by members at the Vineyard Church in Laguna Hills. They have filled Luis’ shoes and every weekend they rent a motel room for Mr. B. There they feed him, shave him, bathe him, and even wash his clothes. Though Mr. B. is in good hands, I wonder…. where would he be now if it hadn’t been for Luis’s selfless generosity? Where would he have been if it hadn’t been for the one man who saw him?

Muffin Ministry-Ready to goCaught up in my own world, and limited to my own very small window of perception, I am often tempted to think that the ministry we have started here is something novel, as if we’re breaking new ground in helping the helpless. But then I meet people like Luis, who has been there all along, working in the shadows, making no name for himself, only silently serving his fellow man. It isn’t from a seat of power or privilege either. Whereas we give from a place of affluence, Luis gives from a place of poverty. He is the widow in the Bible who places the two pennies she has into the offering box. He is the boy who entrusts his loaves and fish to Jesus who will feed the five thousand. He is the last who is first. He is the weak who is strong. I am blown away by people like Luis, who retains his joy despite having no reason to retain it, who lives like a son and not an orphan, who gives freely and generously. I am deeply humbled by Luis, El Presidente. He says he hates that nickname. But the people on the streets of Santa Ana call him that anyways. And for good reason.