by Daniel da Silva, August 16, 2015:    A month ago, the city of Chattanooga was in deep shock and commotion over what happened the morning of July 16. A man opened fire on a military recruitment office before driving a few miles away and killing four Marines and a Navy sailor at a military training facility.

The Chattanooga area came together as a community to mourn the loss of those five men. Vigils were organized. Prayer meetings were held at area churches. Volunteers worked together to support the victims. Fundraisers were organized. Businesses, local institutions and churches united to help the city cope with this tragedy. People were hanging flags and signs across the city with the slogan, “Chattanooga Strong.” News media carried stories of local people who were trying to help others at this difficult time.

At the funeral services, the whole community was involved with the procession. Local pastors, law enforcement officers and the Boys Scout of America lined the roads to the cemetery to show support for the families.

I live in Collegedale, a suburb of Chattanooga which is considered by some people to be “an Adventist ghetto.” I observed that we were not involved in showing support for our local community during this tragic time. I did not see our Pathfinder Club out waving flags, or our churches opened to host community prayer meetings, or any of our local institutions with a tent pitched near the memorial sites distributing water or something that the community needed in that moment. My take is that we as a faith group failed when it came to being involved with our local communities both here in Chattanooga and across the United States.

This was a perfect opportunity for us to show compassion and help others during a difficult time. We needed to have a tent with volunteers providing water and snacks for the media, law enforcement officials and members of the general public who were at the site of the shootings. This was not a time to hand out pamphlets with the beasts of Revelation or doctrinal concepts; it was a time to love people and show sympathy for their needs.

When Jesus was on earth, His first concern in pursuing His mission was to mingle with people and meet their needs, leaving it until later to gain their respect and share spiritual ideas. We Adventists need to be less self-centered and more focused on our neighbors. Unfortunately, the way I see it, our church has a big lack in being a part of our local communities.

It’s time to change this and make a real difference, if we want to live what the Lord says. We need to be more involved with our local community and be aware of their basic needs and give them something special that expresses God’s love.

Jesus says in Mathew 5:13 that we are to be “the salt of the earth.” In order for us to make a difference in this world we need to mingle with our neighbors outside of the walls of our churches. We need to start showing the love of the Father in our lives and doing something concrete for our neighbors. We may not necessarily agree with what has happened or how things were handled, but to be present and stand with our neighbors in a time of need is the greatest testimony to our belief in Christ.

Daniel da Silva is a senior theology student at Southern Adventist University. He already has a BA in international relations. Born in Brazil from a Portuguese Sephardic Jewish background, he is now a resident of Washington State in the northwest U.S. He has a passion for evangelism, reaching out to local communities across America, and humanitarian causes. In his spare time, he loves Legos and camping. He is married to Wendy K. da Silva.