Native Lighthouse hosts group from the Hacienda who is changing lives, one man at a time

Cahuilla Native Lighthouse Ministries hosted a group from the Hacienda who shared their testimonies of hope and change Saturday, Nov. 5. Jodi Thomas photo
Cahuilla Native Lighthouse Ministries hosted a group from the Hacienda who shared their testimonies of hope and change Saturday, Nov. 5. Jodi Thomas photo

Cahuilla Native Lighthouse Ministries hosted a group from the Hacienda who shared their testimonies of hope and change Saturday, Nov. 5.

The dynamics of relationships, whether they be with friends, family or foe are an integral part of life’s process. You, yourself may be that someone, or you may know someone who has chosen life paths that lead to destruction. Anti-social behavior can lead to breaks in relationships, addiction and jail time. Perhaps you are that mother or father who no longer can get through to a son or daughter and pray that somebody out there can. That is what the Hacienda Christian Life Campus Program, a halfway house for men located in Perris, is all about – restoration of the lives of men that have gone down the wrong path.

The Hacienda, which is a one year, live and restoration program for men, is an integral part of the God’s Helping Hands Ministries. It is one of six that works together to teach, heal and to feed body mind and soul.

The other ministries which work together with Hacienda are Circle of Care, Food Banks feeding more than 10,000 people monthly; GHH Thrift Stores, supplying furniture and clothing to households’ recovery for disasters, homelessness or domestic violence; Donations Station, transportation vehicles for low income families; Metro Kids, an after school, value based program keeping children out of gangs and off drugs and Toy Team, providing gifts for more than 2,000 children in need during the holiday season.

GHH Thrift Stores is a vehicle that provides job experience, life and social skills for the man of the Hacienda House. It also provides funds for the other ministries. This gives the men experience in thinking about and caring for others and their needs – a valuable life lesson.

A large group arrived that morning ready to share their stories and support each other. Leader and the Hacienda Choir Director Matthew Robles shared about the Hacienda, a yearlong program that never charges men for being in the program. The men are required to work Robles said. His life, like the others, had gone down a road of lost years, but after going through the program he found his Savior Jesus Christ and learned how to live a productive life, one he now shares with others as he leads them down the path to recovery.

Daron Darden a tall, seemingly quiet man shared how he followed the path that lead to destruction time after time in his life. He even had a shot to play professional football but he made the choice not to, instead returning to drugs and gangbanging. Eventually there was no choice but the program at Hacienda House. He said he finally found peace, hope and purpose in Christ. He is learning how to truly live his life and he is happy to share the hope he has found.

Bronson McDowell said he is from a mixed Native American family. He grew up on the Pechanga Reservation and as a youngster, he hung out, partied, stole cars for the thrill of it and then for the money to support his drug habit. In 1998, with two strikes against him, he was looking at 30 years to life in prison. When he got out of prison McDowell said he straightened up for a while and then fell back into the old habit of stealing cars. He then went back to prison in 2014 where he found God and received Christ as his personal Savior. In 2015, he was accepted into the Hacienda program. Now he has love in his heart and hope. He is newly married and is looking forward to living a life with purpose.

Tristin Bourgeois, a young man of 19 who is in the program at Hacienda, said he was an ‘Anza Boy, this was his country and his people up here. He loved Anza. He told how he was from a good family who had a good name and an upstanding reputation in the community. He said that, to his shame, his actions during his younger days had darkened that good name. He said it started with the freedom his motorcycle brought. He ran wild around the countryside of the valley getting into mischief. Then he started smoking marijuana and that lead to other drug use and the path he chose from then on lead him down a dark road and to jail.

A special prosecutor intervened and got Bourgeois into the Hacienda program and his life has changed. He now sees the path to a productive life, free from the trap of the old life he had embraced. He found his Salvation and worth in Jesus Christ and wants to make a difference in other lives. He wants those in the valley to know he has changed and to reach out to others who still live in that hopelessness; an aimless life hooked on drugs. He wants to share the freedom he has found through his relationship with Christ Jesus and that they too can be truly set free.

Shawn 39, shared how he spent most his life in prison. He had been incarcerated for 26 years starting with Juvenile hall. Growing up his father and uncles were in prison. He said it felt like the family was in prison with them, and then his mother died when his was young. He was raised on the streets and ended up in a gang and in jail. He never had a childhood nor learned how to act in society. Now he has found a new life because of the Hacienda program. Shawn said his emotions are childlike because he is recapturing his childhood. At Hacienda, he has the freedom to grow and learn. Jesus has given him a purpose and he has found a family at Hacienda.

Choir Director Matthew Robles then preached a powerful sermon about the “Journey of a lifetime.” How the path that God’s children, the Israelites, took out of Egypt could have been traveled in only 11 days. But because they chose to walk in disobedience in their own way it took the approximately 2.5 million Israelites 40 years to get to the promised land. He shared the falling away in his own life and how God restored him. When he chose to submit to God’s will in his own life, things changed.

Robles sees that the greatest move of God will come from the ordinary people. He said that it does not matter what race we are it matters that we are His and God will use us when we submit our lives to Him and that we understand who we are and how important and special we are to our Heavenly Father.

To learn more about GHH Ministries go to or contact the Hacienda Christian Life Campus Program Director Pastor Lewis Russo by calling (951) 657-3041.

The next Cahuilla Native Lighthouse meeting will be the first Saturday of the new year, Jan. 7, at 10 a.m. located at the Cahuilla Tribal Hall. You can contact them by calling (951) 763-0856.

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