Arizona News February 2024

The Joys of Global Service


"Pack your bags, we're going to Kenya!" Pastor Phil Vecchiarelli declared to the Yuma Central and Gila Mountain church congregations in February of 2023. Although some were initially worried about the expense of the trip, the vision became a reality through prayer and the kind help of many donors.

In November 2023, 29 volunteers from the Yuma Central and Gila Mountain churches embarked on an exciting service adventure with Maranatha Volunteers International, a supporting ministry of the Adventist Church. The team traveled to hilly western Kenya and laid block walls for a cafeteria building at the Kimogoro Adventist Primary School, which gives 230 students a quality Adventist education each year. The cafeteria is one of several buildings Maranatha is constructing for the sorely underdeveloped and overcrowded campus.

When I arrived and saw the condition of that school, I was in shock.


One look at Kimogoro’s current kitchen and volunteers understood the importance of their work. The cramped shack’s dirt floor was littered with ash, open fires, and bubbling cooking pots. The gaps in its rickety walls did little to clear plumes of thick, inky smoke and left the space vulnerable to the elements and insects. “When I arrived and saw the condition of that school, I was in shock,” recalled project leader Tonya Stubbe.

Laying block walls for a 1,920-square-foot structure wasn’t easy, but the team was inspired by the desire to bring about change for the school and tackled hard manual labor with enthusiasm. Even when road erosion lengthened their daily commute, to and from the project, from 30 minutes to 90, the group didn’t back down. “I think they had the attitude that, no matter what happens, they were going to go,” remarked Stubbe. “The weather was not cooperating, but everybody seemed to be in pretty decent spirits because, regardless of rain, they were going to bring joy to other people.”

In addition to construction work, volunteers led community outreach efforts. The Vacation Bible School team sang songs, shared Bible stories, and made crafts with the hundreds of giddy children who attended their morning sessions for the local community and afternoon sessions for Kimogoro students. Each day concluded with an evangelistic meeting led by Vecchiarelli, which had 200 people in attendance nightly. Volunteers were overjoyed when 43 community members chose to be baptized at the project’s close.

After ten days of block-laying, bumpy roads, and bad weather, the volunteers were physically weary but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually refreshed. “I think it impacted the team enough that they want to go again,” said Stubbe. “They found it so fulfilling and rewarding. Really, we’re the ones who are receiving the blessings.” Stubbe believes everyone should experience the joys of global service. “Set your fears aside, let God lead you, and just do it.”

The love of the people most impressed me, It was a blessing to serve them.

Upon their return, members reflected on their journey and mission goals. “What I loved about Kenya was the happiness we received from the children and families,” said Jasmine Huerta, a 17-year-old volunteer.

"The love of the people most impressed me, It was a blessing to serve them," stated Al Appercel, an 89-year-old volunteer.

Energized from their experience, the members of Yuma Central and Gila Mountain churches are determined to apply that same mission fervor to their communities in Arizona.



In Loving Memory of our Friend: Phil Draper



There are many accolades that one could attach to Phil Draper. Whether one sat and listened to him play the piano or organ or chatted with him and laughed at one of his many quips, one was left with a sense of warmth and peace. He had an innate way of making everyone feel welcomed and loved.

When Draper was hired to become the communication and development director at the Arizona Conference in 2003, he had already traveled the world with the Kenneth Cox Evangelistic Association and Voice of Prophecy. He had been one of two official organists at the 2000 General Conference Session in Toronto, Canada. He and his wife Joey, a singer, had also assisted in the NET 2003 meetings. His impact on the office and staff at the conference was instant and profound.

“Little did I know how good of friends we would become,” remembered Hawaii Conference President Erik VanDenburgh. “I don’t think a day went by that I didn’t stop by his office for something.” VanDenburgh, who was youth director for the Arizona Conference at that time, grew very close to the Draper family.

When members of the Arizona Conference staff gathered for worship the day after Draper passed away, the one consistent thought expressed was how special he made everyone feel. The laughter and joy that he brought to the community will be felt in the hearts of many forever.

Arizona Conference President Ed Keyes reflected on Draper’s impact. “We will never forget Phil for what he contributed to the Arizona Conference. He was a real blessing to so many of us.”

Both Keyes and VanDenburgh were part of a small group that gathered at Draper’s bedside in his last moments. Ever the consummate musician, Draper requested songs as they quietly sang together. “Side by Side We Stand” and “When We All Get To Heaven” were favorites of his that they sang before he fell into a restful and peaceful sleep.

“Rest well dear friend; another adventure awaits!” VanDenburgh reflected. “There is nothing too fine for the servant of the Lord!”