Jesus Cares For Veterans
SANTA FE, N.M. – The Advent Life Seventh-day Adventist Church in Santa Fe has been intentionally involved in caring for the needs of homeless Veterans and civilians in the community of Santa Fe for almost a decade. Apart from actively being engaged in the local homeless shelter known as “Pete’s Place,” every year the church hosts an event called the “Annual Veteran Stand-Down” around the time of Veterans Day. In military terms, a stand-down takes place when combat units need time for rest and recovery from battle. But today the expression gains an added meaning: giving rest and recovery for Veterans who are battling a completely different war. A war against mental illness, poverty, homelessness and hunger. Events like this take place around the country, and Phil Chavez, an elder at Advent Life church and combat Veteran, implemented the program in Santa Fe in connection with the local Veterans Center.
The vision of the church in doing this work is found in Jesus’ teaching on the Sabbath as laid out in John 5. While the religious leaders of the time were worried about “keeping” the Sabbath by going up to the temple/synagogue to worship, Jesus, on the Sabbath, was found in the midst of a multitude of people with multiple physical needs near a pool called Bethesda. And it was there that Jesus not only healed a paralytic on the Sabbath but taught us a profound lesson about what the true meaning of the Sabbath is: finding rest from labor and extending that rest to others. Jesus was less worried about Sabbath “keeping” and much more worried about Sabbath “living,” that is, restoring the Sabbath rest into a principle for life (as Exodus 20 already anticipated this by emphasizing the importance of bringing rest to everyone around us, from foreigner to cattle). So, the Advent Life church strongly believes that the Sabbath is not only a day to find rest from labor, but a day to give rest to those who are weary and heavy laden within our community, as Jesus taught us.
With this vision, the Advent Life church hosted the annual Stand-Down once again and attended to the needs of over 340 homeless individuals who came through its doors on Sabbath, Nov. 9, 2019. Different organizations were present in our building to give support to the event and additional care for the homeless. Among these organizations were Goodwill Industries (for job opportunities), Pacific Dental/Modern Dentistry (for dental care), Medical care (from Dr. Robert Gardner, former Army Combat medic), the Red Cross (for basic hygiene kits), Listening Horse Therapeutic Riding (for therapeutic horse rides), Guadalupe Credit Union/Lithia Chrysler/Dodge (for financial assistance), and the local Vet Center professionals (counselors, case agents, etc). In addition to these groups, the event would not have been possible without the help of a vast number of volunteers from the Advent Life church as well as from the other local Adventist churches. Volunteers provided car rides to and from the church, food, clothes, sleeping bags, haircuts, spa treatments and massages and even showers. On Veterans day, the church also hosted an Award ceremony for the Veterans in our community.
The Advent Life church understands that the best way to prepare for the soon coming of Jesus is to live like Jesus lived: anticipating the reality of the future kingdom and experiencing it in the present. Bringing food to the hungry, rest to the weary and attending to the needs of those around us for the single reason that in the future kingdom there will be no hunger, no weariness and no physical need. And realizing that whenever we do these things to the least among us, we have done it to Jesus Himself (Matthew 25:40). Yes, Jesus is coming soon! But Jesus also comes to us daily and can be found in the face of those in need in Santa Fe and in every city in the world.
By Tiago Arrais, Pastor