The life and legacy of an Adventist church is reflected in the life-changing impact it brings to its congregation and the community it serves. At the Azure Hills church in Grand Terrace, Calif., this legacy was exemplified in the life and service of Pastor Salim and Alice Elias. On August 27, 2022, the Azure Hills congregation, Southeastern California Conference, and community leaders came together to dedicate the Elias Community Center as a place where this legacy of love and ministry can continue in the Grand Terrace community.
The Eliases came to America from the Middle East, where he had served as a pastor and church administrator before joining the Azure Hills pastoral staff in 1976. Pastor Elias’ annual Christmas greeting calls, hospital visits, Bible studies, invocations for local community meetings, and gracious hospitality left a lasting legacy of compassion and Christian love. Pastor Elias retired in 2014 and remained the patriarch pastor of the congregation during retirement until he went to his rest in 2021.
In the fall of 2020, plans were made to renovate the 4,000 sq. ft. building with a vision of better serving and loving the surrounding community. The congregation worked alongside contractors to create a space for young adult and community engagement ministries.
The Center provides three large multi-purpose classrooms, a kitchenette, ADA restroom, shower, and laundry. It also supports outdoor ministries and recreational activities.
During the dedication service, Intithar Elias, speaking on behalf of the family, thanked the Azure Hills church for honoring their parents’ legacy and the love of Jesus they shared in this community. The Honorable Darcy McNaboe, Grand Terrace mayor, thanked the congregation for being a welcoming place where neighbors, community groups, and service organizations can gather throughout the year.
Senior Pastor Tara VinCross emphasized, “We are committed to utilizing our campus to its fullest potential, collaborating with neighborhood partners as we serve our Grand Terrace community. We want all to experience the welcome and love of God here.”
This fall, the Elias Community Center will offer space for a community grief group, clothing give-away, and young adult ministry gatherings. In January 2023, the Community Center will host the Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP) with Dr. Hans Diehl and his team from the Lifestyle Medicine Institute, as Azure Hills church provides support for those seeking to thrive in their health—emotionally, physically, and mentally.
By Arthur F. Blinci