As the homeless population grows in the Southern California region, so does the need for more care and resources for the homeless. To assist with this need, Biola nursing students have been providing care to the less fortunate on a weekly basis in partnership with a local organization.

Biola University’s Department of Nursing students provide care to members of the Costa Mesa community weekly by facilitating medical and spiritual care at Lighthouse Outreach Ministries.

Established in 2002 by Pastor Dale Finch, the Lighthouse organization provides a variety of services for the surrounding community including the homeless. Biola began their affiliation with Lighthouse six years ago as part of the nursing curriculum for students.

Noticing a need within the city, Finch sought to offer a place of comfort away from the streets for the homeless population. The organization was formed providing clothing and hot showers. Today, the organization has become a staple in the community and is the largest provider of spiritual and physical healing for the homeless in the area.

The partnership between Biola and Lighthouse has made a huge impact on those in need of simple care.

Deborah O’Dell, professor of nursing at Biola, witnesses her students bring joy and comfort to people sometimes viewed as less than human.

“Spending this time is what we call Christian caring in the Nursing department. This one-on-one time shows them that they are important enough for us to ask them questions and then listen to their answers,” said O’Dell. “Being amongst [the homeless] population, touching them, caring about them and praying with them helps my students realize, ‘They are just people.’”

During visits, Biola nursing students conduct blood pressure tests, wash feet and provide massages. In addition to providing physical care, students engage in therapeutic conversation and spiritual outreach which encourage their counterparts to reflect on their faith.

“What Biola offers that most other nursing schools do not offer is how to perform spiritual care,” said Biola nursing senior Ashlee Mckinnon. “We learn that providing spiritual care is a huge and crucial part of what holistic care is. Biola’s nursing program integrates opportunities at facilities like Lighthouse Outreach Ministries so that nursing students can learn how to care for people holistically.”

In addition to the community gaining physical and spiritual rejuvenation, the program also impacts the students as their stereotypes of the homeless population are shattered through serving and engaging in deep communication with them.

“The stigma that I had about homeless [people] broke, and my heart yearned to care for those who are homeless,” said Mckinnon. “I believe that it can be really hard for someone that hasn’t been exposed to a place like Lighthouse, to fully comprehend the blessings you receive and give by taking care of homeless [people].”

According to fellow senior Morgan Campbell, volunteering at Lighthouse allows students to cultivate relationships that build trust with the individuals they serve weekly. The students build credibility with those they serve, which eventually opens the door for spiritual conversations and additional educational opportunities with those they care for each week.

Campbell said an expansion of healthcare opportunities are made possible through supplies handed out, connections made to healthcare providers and knowledge her classmates gain through the nursing program at Biola.

“As a Biola nursing student, this program is essential to our ministry as Christian nurses,” said Campbell. “We are able to be the hands and feet of Jesus as we provide the power of presence, active listening, and prayer.”

Every week O’Dell watches the nature of Christ work through her students. As a result of this invaluable experience, she believes her students are not only prepared but will ultimately break the stigma of caring for homeless individuals in hospitals.  

To learn more about Biola’s nursing program, visit the website.

The nursing department will be moving into the new Alton and Lydia Lim Center for Science, Technology and Health. Join Biola for the dedication ceremony on Friday, Feb.16, 2018.

Written by Kili Wall, public relations intern. For more information, contact Jenna Loumagne, media relations manager, at (562) 777-4061 or