Burglars, vandals distract from church’s mission

       In the past year, the Living Faith Church of the Nazarene at 2120 King St. has begun dedicating itself to helping people who are down and out.
       Pastor Ted Dittmer, who was hired about 15 months ago, has led the establishment of a food pantry through Care and Share, and he and church members have gone out to homeless camps to help those they can.
       John Corbin, a former homeless man, has since joined the church and organized the pantry project after he and his wife were helped by a pantry elsewhere. Open Wednesdays and Sundays, the pantry now gives needy people close to 2,000 pounds of food a week (along with medical and other supplies, as available), said Corbin.
       Unfortunately, there are those unappreciative or ignorant of such efforts, as shown by Living Faith having been burglarized or vandalized three times in the past year.
       Dittmer was particularly dismayed by two recent attacks - one in which a recently purchased lawnmower and weedeater were stolen from an outdoor shed, and early last Sunday, when vandals painted obscenities and anti-Christian epithets on an outer wall.
       A year ago, criminals got inside the church and stole a microphone and other valuables - most of which police recovered months later when the perpetrators were busted for a series of burglaries. There have also been small incidents, such as a missing utility wagon or when a child's scooter disappeared while he was in church.
       Dittmer doesn't believe the crime is gang-related or that anybody is “picking on us.” His guess is it's neighborhood kids, and “we're just a convenient mark.”
       Adding to the frustration, the church is not well to do, and money that goes for replacing or fixing items or improving the security system takes away from other needs. “We're barely breaking even with the tithes and offerings,” he said.
       One emergency action taken by the church is to have a member set up a tent at the rear of the property, so someone is on-site on a regular basis.
       Corbin was inspired to start the pantry after experiencing his own tough times - an incapacitating injury cost him his job and apartment. He said he got connected with Living Faith after someone from the church gave him and his wife an apartment and he heard a Dittmer sermon.
       For the pastor, the job is a homecoming of sorts. As a child in the mid-70s, he attended Living Faith when attendance peaked at around 500.
       In the years that followed, he admitted he did poorly for awhile, even going to jail once before entering the ministry 26 years ago. His brother, he sadly related, died of a heroin overdose.
       Returning over a year ago, Dittmer found that his old church had declined to just 11 members. It's not even listed in the Qwest phone book this year. “I came here when they were about to close it,” he said. Now there's both a Spanish and English church and the total numbers are up to about 70. “All my kids are here and my grandkids,” Dittmer said. “I came back here to revitalize this church.”
       For more information, call 217-9551.

Westside Pioneer article