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Woe is me? Challenging times didn’t stop migrant worker, homeless mom, or a pastor
Pastor Mike Dillman breaks a smile as he listens to roasters during as 2016 benefit for Manteca Veterans of Foreign Wars Jimmie Connors Post 6311.

Pastor Mike Dillman is a man to be admired.

Not simply because of his career as a pastor, serving in Vietnam, raising a family, and bringing a sense of perspective we all need with the annual Memorial Day Weekend commemoration that he launched to honor those that helped insure our core freedoms.

It is because of a trait that is rare in the modern world where hardship is often measured by whether one has to settle for the basic $199 smartphone instead of a fully-loaded $1,599 iPhone 14.

That trait is keeping one’s head in the face of adversity.

The shining example was back in 2008 at the depth of the housing foreclosure crisis.

Dillman was pastor of the Assembly of God on Button that has since been rechristened as The Place of Refuge.

Everyone seemed to be pulling back from financial commitments.

The gloom and doom Greek Chorus in the mass media echo chamber hammered away at the same message: The economy was going to hell.

It caused people who weren’t at any risk of financial disaster to cut back on spending. That in turn, reduced the demand for jobs in the economy and became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Granted, the economy was in the tank but it tanked even more because of fear whipped up by non-stop handwringing over bad economic news.

Dillman and his congregation had a challenge. They needed money for the church as well as a foreign mission endeavor.

Dillman saw the solution in the 500 block of North Main Street.

It was a home that hadn’t simply been in foreclosure.

It was one that had been destroyed by either the homeless, druggies having parties, or run-of-the-mill vandals.

Walls had been bashed in.

Copper piping and electrical wiring stripped.

Windows were busted.

Graffiti was rampant on inside walls.

People doing the No.2 left it in a toilet — given water had been shut off — that they hadn’t busted as well as throughout the house.

Garbage and trash were strewn throughout the home and yard.

It was a fate a large number of homes in Manteca suffered given Manteca is 10 miles south of Stockton —the national foreclosure epicenter at the time.

Many saw a lost cause.

Dillman saw an opportunity.

The church, he proposed, could buy the foreclosure, clean it up, and remodel it to sell.

The goal was to support the mission project and church programs.

At the same time, they would be helping to not only cleanup Manteca but provide an affordable housing opportunity for some family.

The congregation committed to providing old-fashioned elbow grease to make the cleanup and renovation work.

The Bulletin covered the effort with a story and photos.

It prompted more than a few comments around town.

One gentleman, feeling an apparent need to warn the congregation of how dangerous of a man Dillman was because he was supposedly leading them astray, sent a letter to the Bulletin.

He blasted Dillman for what he called “his poor judgment”.

He stated Dillman was being criminally reckless with church funds.

The letter writer predicted the entire effort would end in disaster.

After all, a blind man knew that the economy was on verge of collapse.

Less than six months after taking the plunge, the remodeled house was sold.

Even with the expense of materials added on  to the purchase price, the church was able to clear a net gain somewhere north of $40,000.

A young family was able to purchase a ready-to-move-into home.

The neighborhood was cleaned up.

And the Manteca Police Department no longer had to make three of four trips a week to the home in response to neighborhood complaints.

Dillman, at the time, noted the importance of keeping one’s head when confronted with trials and tribulations.

He noted opportunities abound to improve the human condition in times of peril.

Dillman also pointed out the obvious that is lost on many: The best opportunities to reposition finances exist in economic downturns.

Not only do prices drop such as in the housing market to become more affordable but is also a time that — if you keep your senses — forces you to not simply reflect on what is important in life but to dedicate yourself to moving toward what is.

Yes, not everyone is positioned to do what the Assembly of God congregation did either as an individual or acting In tandem.

But the vast majority of us are if we get back to basics in terms of what has real value and what we really need.

If you doubt that, there are two other local examples — Amber Golisano and Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa.

Quinones-Hinojosa as a teen on Jan. 2, 1987 jumped the fence separating Mexico from the United States so he could work in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley pulling weeds and picking grapes  to support himself and his family.

He quickly rose to as high a position a migrant farm worker could in the fields.

He wanted something better. He moved in with family in Stockton and started attending Delta College at night while working as a welder for the railroad.

Long story short, today he is known as Dr. Q  and is considered one of the nation’s top brain surgeons.

Golisano six years ago was into drugs and had become perennially homeless. Then she got pregnant.

Determined to provide for her son, she committed to a course to get off the street and buy a home.

Eventually she was able to secure a space in the HOPE Family Shelter in Manteca. She walked miles to job training. Then she walked miles to and from a job.

Eventually she landed a job at Medline making $15 an hour.

She saved anything she could. When stimulus checks were sent during the pandemic, most in the shelter “blew through them” as a pastor said. Golisano put them in a savings account.

He goal was focused. Save the $1,800 needed for a down payment that would enable her to secure a federally guaranteed loan — think FHA and such — to buy a modest shelter for her son and herself.

Four years ago, she was on the streets. Four months ago, she was in a homeless shelter.  Today she owns a mobile home in Stockton.

Quinones-Hinojosa and Golisano even in good economies had challenges to scale that many would view as insurmountable. They also went through economic downturns like everyone although clearly the adversity they faced was much more daunting.

They did not wallow in self-pity of give into despair.

Keep that in mind as you navigate today’s economy.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at