In the midst of a hurting community, local Seventh-day Adventist churches are steadily moving into place to aid those affected by the Las Vegas shooting on Sunday night.
On Monday morning, the Paradise and Mountain View Adventist churches opened their doors to the community to pray with those affected by the event. At Mountain View, church members prayed with individuals in the sanctuary of the church from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
“People from around the world are reaching out to Las Vegas, and our church is doing likewise,” said BJ Boles, senior pastor of the Mountain View Church.
Those from the churches who are trained in counseling have been volunteering their time in the area’s hospitals. Peter Neri and Neat Randriamialison, senior and associate pastors of the Paradise Adventist Church, were among a number of pastors who spent time counseling victims and their families.
“These people need prayer and someone to talk to,” said Neri. “They have been very receptive to praying with us.”
Neri and Randriamialison visited the Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center early Monday morning. When they arrived at the hospital, it was on lockdown. Police at the door directed them to the emergency room and, once there, a volunteer took them to an auditorium where family members of the patients were waiting for news of their loved ones.
For hours, the pastors listened to the stories of those waiting in the auditorium and prayed with them. Though their ministry was well received, the pastors feel it was a small contribution in light of such overwhelming—and unexpected—need.
“We weren’t ready for this kind of disaster, said Neri. “We could be doing so much more.”
Leon Brown, president of the Adventist Church in Nevada and Utah, agrees that there is very limited understanding of this kind of crisis—and thus a need for a different kind of readiness and planning, “We must step up our game so that we can be better prepared for disasters like this.”
Responding quickly to this need, regional leaders have already initiated discussions with local pastors to better understand crisis readiness and disaster preparedness. Jerry Waggoner, director of Adventist Community Services for the region, began work Monday to improve lines of communication between Las Vegas churches and the entities involved in disaster response.
Nonetheless, the willingness of Adventists to be involved in the response to the unexpected needs is making an impact, as the relief efforts are largely individualized by the churches.
Boles says that church members joined the long lines of blood donors at Red Cross blood drives. Members are also coming to the church and ministering to the mourners who come by. In addition to supporting the victims, churches are also supporting the first responders and law enforcement.
“We took 80 sandwiches to feed police and first responders,” Boles said.
At Paradise, church members are also responding to specific local needs. “Our church bought 12 boxes of Capriotti's sandwiches, and we brought them to the police station by the church,” said Neri. He and Randriamialison delivered the sandwiches Tuesday afternoon.
The local pastors are coordinating additional visits to the hospitals to speak to and pray with those who are still waiting for their friends and family members who are being treated. A prayer vigil is scheduled at Paradise for Wednesday, Oct. 4, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. for the victims, their loved ones, and a community deeply impacted by the crisis.