Reaching out to our community and showing God’s love to people who don’t get to experience love every day has been the focus of community outreach at the Rancho Viejo Seventh-day Adventist Church in Santa Fe, N. Mex. Seven years ago, a member of the Rancho Viejo Adventist Church, Phillip Chavez, felt the call to reach out to the large population of homeless people in the Santa Fe area. Looking into statistics of homeless people, Philip found that there were many who were also military veterans. Being a veteran himself, it hit close to home. “As a veteran and a Christian, it is our job to serve others,” says Philip, when asked why the Veteran Stand Down was important to him.This Veterans Stand Down is hosted by Adventist Community Services.
Not only does it allow the churches in the Santa Fe area to get involved, but it also gives the churches an opportunity to get other businesses and organizations involved. About 10 organizations and businesses were able to provide services and goods to homeless veterans and non-veterans this year. Some of the services provided were haircuts, free dental care, health education, free physicals, free flu shots, clothes, hand massages, and more. This year, the Santa Fe Veterans Center and Lithia were the main sponsors.
One of the most popular services were the free hugs that were being offered by some church members. There were volunteers walking around and talking to people who were wearing signs that said “free hugs.” One of the volunteers said it was heartwarming to see the huge smiles on people’s faces after they received their hugs. One of the homeless people even said they hadn’t felt human touch in a long time, and they appreciated what the church was doing.
The head elder of the Rancho Viejo Adventist Church, Robert Winn, said that it is a special opportunity to be able to “invite people to church services, just talk to people, and hand out Bibles.” He also mentioned that it was great to see people who return every year and the people keep in touch with them throughout the year whenever they need help.
Among the businesses and organizations that got involved was the local Adventist school, Adventist Academy of Santa Fe. The students were honored to draw patriotic and veteran-themed pictures for the event. The paintings the students made were displayed at the Veterans Stand Down so that people could enjoy them. Phillip expressed how much the veterans enjoyed the paintings because it reminded them of drawings they received from children while on deployment. The students from the 4th-8th grade class were honored and proud that they could contribute with their art, serving people food, and helping with the event.
Thank you to the sponsors who helped with the Veterans Stand Down: the Equine Services for Heroes, State Veterans Service Offices, Women Veterans of New Mexico, Goodwill, Santa Fe Modern Dental and Pacific Dental, Walgreens, and the Guadalupe Credit Union were organizations that came together for the event. It was also great to have the support of our local conference, and have our president and his wife, Lee-Roy and Nelva Chacón, support the event.
The Santa Fe community hopes that they can continue to reach the people in the area. Pray for outreach to continue so that we, as an Adventist family, can continue to reach others by simply showing God’s love to those who don’t experience love every day.
By Melissa Chacón