Stories & Commentaries

Great Food, Unselfish Service, Genuine Care at the Pulse Café

Great Food, Unselfish Service, Genuine Care at the Pulse Café
Pulse Cafe front with tractor

The Pulse Café, a new Seventh-day Adventist vegan restaurant in Hadley, Massachusetts, sits near the very farmlands that supply some of its menu items. Photo provided by Pulse Café

“Dis-interested benevo-what?” I can imagine a satisfied customer of Pulse Café saying in between bites of award-winning, plant-based cuisine.

That’s disinterested benevolence—an old-fashioned term that means helping people with no strings attached—the vision and driving force behind Pulse Café, a new Seventh-day Adventist vegan restaurant in Hadley, Massachusetts.

“You started this restaurant because you want to help people?”

Walk into Pulse and look around. High ceilings and a muted gray-and-mustard color scheme create a modern yet inviting open space. A sleek, black grand piano is tucked in the corner. Wood tables and chairs that fill the dining area are crafted from 100-year-old logs salvaged from the bottom of a river — giving each piece a delightfully aged character. A couple stylishly comfortable couches are arranged around gas fireplaces with floor-to-ceiling stone chimneys. Pulse sports a smoothie bar that lines an entire wall of the restaurant, and a room for creating fresh-pressed juices as well.

This is a place that draws 600 to 800 patrons for Sunday brunch alone, each hungry soul coming to dine on vegan “chicken” and waffles, or breakfast burritos, or sweet corn tamales, and more, all made from as organic and as locally sourced produce as possible. This is evidence of a forward-thinking and sophisticated business plan, but Pulse’s real mission is to use its service, menu, and other offerings to benefit the community.

A restaurant as an institution to benefit the community? While this altruistic motivation may astound the general public, it should be a well-known method and standard operating procedure for any well-informed member of the Seventh-day Adventist community of believers. It certainly is for Lance Wilbur and his wife, Evita, managers of Pulse, and the owners, Ted Crooker and Keith Rehbein.

Here’s why.

Before becoming an Adventist, Wilbur studied through every major religion in his search for truth—Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism—and realized they all had some kind of health emphasis. “Before I started reading the Bible, I had stopped eating pork and red meat. Eventually I was a vegetarian or a vegan, and I didn’t even know what that was,” said Lance. “When I became a Seventh-day Adventist, I realized that there was a message in the Bible that brought it all together.”

After Lance was baptized, one of the first of Ellen White’s books he read was Evangelism. In it he encountered a practical application of Jesus’ Great Commission to take the good news of salvation to the world: meeting people’s needs, physically and spiritually. Various institutions were mentioned as part of this practical application: schools, wellness centers, literature work, publishing, media, and hygienic restaurants, now known as vegetarian or plant-based restaurants.

“I was excited to know that these things existed, and I immediately went out to see them all . . . and found out that there weren’t many,” said Lance. He saw a need and determined to fill it. “This is one of my reasons for being,” he said. It’s been 18 years since he was baptized, and he’s still adamant: “With these things in place [we] can genuinely help the community in a sustainable way that’s not just looking for converts or looking for money, just genuine . . . love and interest for a community that’s at risk. In many statistical categories, most communities are at some risk.”

Enter Keith Rehbein, a Seventh-day Adventist farmer and businessman in western Massachusetts interested in promoting God’s work. When he spotted a restaurant that had closed and was up for sale, he recognized an opportunity. Rehbein notified Ted Crooker, an Adventist from Maine who had recently sold a construction business and, because his heart was also infused with the spirit of disinterested benevolence, was seeking a health ministry to invest in rather than the stock market. With the intent of creating a plant-based restaurant as a center of influence to bring God’s message of hope and wholeness to the community, Crooker purchased the property. He and Rehbein also purchased property nearby to create an organic farm to supply some of the produce for the restaurant.

With a timing that only God could orchestrate, Lance, while conducting evangelism training in western Massachusetts, met Rehbein, and the two found that they shared a vision for health ministry. To Lance’s surprise, Rehbein told him about the property and said, “We are looking for a ministry to partner with!”

“Well, we’re a ministry looking for a business to partner with!” replied Lance. So Pulse Café began.

photo Ted & Keith Pulse Cafe owners

Owners Ted Crooker and Keith Rehbein, promote God's work — and good food — at their vegan restaurant. Photo provided by Pulse Café

From Scratch

Between Lance and Evita, they had experience in administration, food service, and catering, but never all together. They leaned on instructions from Ellen White’s books and adapted them to the twenty-first century. “We started with no one,” Lance says. “We had to develop all of the systems, the models, and [find] the workers to pull it off. We traveled to places, scouted out owners and managers of different restaurants. We brought in consultants to help us.”

The hardest part? Starting. “A lot of people talk, then struggle with concepts and theory,” Lance shares. “So it requires a sound business mind. It requires capital. It requires construction and knowing how to order and deal with contractors. How do you purchase equipment? Do you get it new or used? What do you use for point of sale? You literally learn how to deal with all that stuff. The only real way to learn how to do it, is by doing it. . . . It taxes you to the uttermost.”

Why all the hard work just to benefit the community with the unique Seventh-day Adventist message of hope and wholeness? Isn’t there an easier way?

“Most people are not going to come to your church . . . [or] subscribe to your doctrinal teachings. And that’s not the goal,” Lance says. He maintains that the goal is to engage the community and show people that there is a better way to live.

At the bedrock of Pulse’s mission is Christ’s method of reaching people: “The Saviour mingled with [men and women] as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’”*

“We’re told that the hygienic (plant-based) restaurant was designed by God . . . to reach people with the gospel,” says Lance. “It’s the practical extension of the concept of God desiring to restore [humanity]—complete restoration of health, peace, and . . . character.”

The restaurant model brings people in, allowing Pulse employees to mingle with all classes of people, show sympathy through caring service and Christlike demeanor, and then minister to their needs.

“What is their need?” Lance asks. “Food! They come here because they need to eat. They want to eat. So if the food is healthful and tasty—looks good, smells good, tastes good—and the service is of the same quality, you win the people’s confidence almost instantaneously. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Food is powerful. “However secular we’ve become in New England—one of the most secular regions in the United States—food is still somewhat intimate,” Lance continues. “There’s just a different level of vulnerability and mutual agreement between patrons and those providing the service.”

The Pulse Cafe serves up plant-based, wood-fired pizza, as well as many other dishes and fresh, cold-pressed, organic fruit juices.

The Pulse Café serves up plant-based, wood-fired pizza, as well as many other dishes and fresh, cold-pressed, organic fruit juices. Photo provided by Pulse Café

Coming Back for More

The food brings people in and keeps them coming back, and the Christlike service and atmosphere warms their hearts. But Pulse also offers practical solutions to the health risks of the community, just as Christ did. In addition to offering a healthy plant-based menu, Pulse has hosted a cooking class for children, a breast cancer awareness event, a health screening expo, and seminars and workshops on everything from hypertension and heart disease to reversing diabetes and arthritis. They also offer one-on-one wellness consultations.

In essence, Lance and Evita, with support from owners Crooker and Rehbein, are doing whatever it takes to make it easy for the general public to experience health and wholeness. They sell a packaged juice cleanse, complete with an insulated tote, which offers a three-day supply of fresh, organic, cold-pressed juice, making the benefits of a cleanse easy to attain and available to all. In addition to their decadent-tasting comfort foods and desserts, they offer increasingly popular whole food rice or quinoa bowls topped with vegetables. Pulse offers gluten and other allergen-free options on their regular menu. But if you call ahead, or are fortunate enough to find Evita on duty—despite her busyness as manager of the Café, wife, and mother of four— when you come in, she will create a plate tailored to your specific health needs or allergies.

The outcomes? Pulse Café was awarded number-one plant-based restaurant in the area within six months of opening. They’ve shared both health and spiritual information with many people. “But the most tremendous element is the relationships,” Lance shares. “We have regular customers . . . who are literally like family. . . . You connect with people in ways that you would have never connected with unless you had a restaurant.”

Then what?

“People ask questions,” Lance says. “‘Why are you closed on Saturday, the busiest day of the week?’ ‘Why is everybody so happy?’ ‘What is this music [that] you’re playing—hymns?’” According to the Spirit of Prophecy, these are the questions that will be asked, and these are the questions that Lance, Evita, and crew, are asked without solicitation. And the Adventist community has answers to share! With help from the Florence Seventh-day Adventist Church in Massachusetts, 12 Bible studies are under way.

A Serving of Disinterested Benevolence

The world is hungering for a better way to live. People crave acceptance and fellowship in a loving community—and are ready to receive answers that God has to offer. Lance cites the evidence: “What is the fastest growing industry? Health food, supplements, a plant-based [lifestyle], veganism.” The Seventh-day Adventist Church has answers for the needs of body, mind, and spirit, and proven ways of sharing these answers with success. Plant-based restaurants such as Pulse Café is just one of these ways.

“Come and see!” invites Lance. Drop by, sample the food, experience the service and atmosphere, ask questions—get a taste of Christ’s method for reaching people. There is a need for more workers—from investors, businesspeople, chefs, farmers, and waitstaff, to Bible workers, literature evangelists, and prayer warriors. Answer God’s call, seek training, and get involved in twenty-first century disinterested benevolence!


*Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 143.


— Sandra Dombrowski is a freelance writer based in Connecticut. Visit for more restaurant information.

kmaran Wed, 01/15/2020 - 08:11

Remembering Y2K With an Eye on Eternity

Remembering Y2K With an Eye on Eternity
stock photo of 2020 candle

Photo by iStock/pr2is

Twenty years ago, John was in the final stages of preparations for the new year. Light gleamed off the rims of stacked cans of beans and vegetables. Powdered milk boxes, dozens of granola bars, and other dry foods made the shelf above the cans slope just a bit. Blankets and sleeping bags adorned another corner, while battery-operated, solar-powered, and crank-run lanterns and radios festooned yet another space in our basement — next to the giant jugs of drinking water. 

Last-minute Y2K measures included filling the upstairs tub with water, filling a large trash can with potable water, checking propane stove canisters, refreshing the medical kit. Pepper spray? Check. Air filtering masks? Check. Iodine pills? Check. Folding knives and other weapons? Check.

Ushering in 2000 with dire warnings of computer malfunctions causing anything and everything from complete utility failure to biological warfare to mass robberies/murders, John and his wife Karen huddled on the couch in their basement. Ready for the worst imaginable, when the clock moved from 11:59 to 12 midnight, they watched the ball drop on a live television program. 

Doubtful the predictions would come true after living a portion of her childhood ready to flee to the hills with her family and the footlocker of supplies her father had packed, Karen poured sparkling cider into glasses and the couple clicked cups.

A neighbor’s weak firecracker popped outside. Then silence.

No alarms, no bombs, no interrupted TV broadcast. With a heavy sigh, John climbed the basement stairs and went to bed. With such preparation, with the belief that something bad would come to fruition, disappointed marked each step to the dark bedroom.

Waiting Game

It was not unreasonable to think something would happen to dramatically change lives around the world with the turn of the century. Machines that had not been programmed to process beyond 1999 had to be reprogrammed. There was some justifiable cause for concern. [Read Time’s “20 Years Later, the Y2K Bug Seems Like a Joke — Because Those Behind the Scenes Took It Seriously.”]

Many people had stockpiled supplies and prepared bunkers. But much like the end of the world predictions Adventists are most familiar (1843 and 1844), and really any of the predictions that current existence would end during any time period, it didn’t happen. It. Just. Did not. Happen.

Those who would later start the Seventh-day Adventist Church believed that the Lord would come on October 22, 1844. They are part of a long list of world’s end predictors. In fact, since Christ’s death and resurrection there have been hundreds of individuals and groups to have publicly declared apocalyptic timeframes. For varying reasons.

Harold Camping, a founder of Family Radio in the U.S., was arguably one of the most prolific modern predictors of end times. He publicly predicted the end of the world as many as 12 times. He based his interpretations on biblical numerology; his last prediction was October 21, 2011. Camping died at age 92 in 2013.

Some thought the Mayan calendar’s end of the “Great Cycle” predicted the end of the world on December 21, 2012. And back in 1806 the British Prophet Hen of Leeds laid eggs with this inscription: “Christ is coming.” It was discovered that the owner had been writing on the eggs and inserting them back into the hen.

Refresher Course

While I wasn’t of the same mindset as my friends John and Karen, I used to think that we’d make it to 2003 and that would be it. I’m not sure where the thought came from, however, the feeling was persistent. But 2003 came and went, I got my master’s and had my first child in 2004 and the rest, well, is history.

Although we’ve been told in quite a few places in Scripture "about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32, NIV), that hasn’t stopped us from trying to figure out when "people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (verse 26). As evidenced by history, this is an exercise in futility.

Our time is better spent going about the Father’s business, especially as these days become perilous (see 2 Tim. 3:1-5). We are to follow the golden rule (see Matt. 7:12 and Luke 6:31), and be His disciples to a world in need (see Matt. 28:19).

For a quick refresher course, read Mark 13 and Matthew 24. Both chapters are full of prophetic promises.

You’ll notice that these predictions don’t come with a specific date the events will occur. We are to recognize the signs and be ready, share His Word: “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14).

Looking for more? Check out 1 Corinthians 15:52-54, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Ezekiel 36:24, Isaiah 2:2, and Revelation 7:15-17. These are just a few of God’s prophetic promises His given to us in the Bible. 

The point is: It’s not about predictions and “getting ready,” it is about “being ready” and surrendering to Christ, loving and serving others — living in the moment — with an eye on eternity.

kmaran Tue, 12/31/2019 - 20:03

A Christmas Greeting - 2019

A Christmas Greeting - 2019

Daniel R. Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, shares a Christian greeting during the 2019 holiday season.

2019 NAD Christmas Greeting from Dan Jackson, president of the North American Division

"Of all the events of human history, the birth of the Christ Child, Jesus Christ on planet earth — the commencement of God's intrusive, redemptive act on the part of human beings — has been the greatest event that has ever transpired."


Click here for news and information from the North American Division.

kmaran Mon, 12/16/2019 - 18:11

Christians Being Christian

Christians Being Christian
Mary Johnson selfie photo at Love Paradise event in California.

Mary Johnson and another volunteer take a "selfie" photo at the November 2019 Love Paradise shed building event in California. More than 350 volunteers total visited the Paradise Seventh-day Adventist site over the course of several weeks to work on the construction of 200 sheds. Photo by Mary Johnson

The morning of November 8, 2018, began just like any other day for Allen Plowman and his two children, residents of Paradise, California. At 7:30 they hopped in the car to head to school. The kids commented on how beautiful the sunrise was that morning.

But when Plowman pulled in front of Paradise Adventist Academy, he was told to take his kids home. There was a fire nearby, and though there was no official word, as a precaution there would be no school that day.

Ash was now falling from a darkened sky. Not unusual—sometimes fires from as far away as 100 miles drop ash in town. Unperturbed, Plowman climbed onto his roof and began the normal precautions—cleaning pine needles out of the rain gutters and hosing down the roof. It was there that he saw the flames.

“Less than a block away, a tree was burning,” he says. “We hadn’t been warned that there was imminent danger, but the fire was coming fast.”

Plowman’s kids grabbed two of their favorite toys, and he tossed a box of important papers into the back of their truck. It took two and a half hours to get out of town. They passed their regular grocery store and gas station, both in flames, and at one point a truck driving next to them caught fire.

A week and a half later Plowman was watching YouTube videos taken by cleanup crews—the only people allowed into Paradise—and he caught a glimpse of his property. Everything was gone.

One Year Later

In July 2019 Plowman, his kids, and his mom were finally allowed back. It took two months from the time of the fire for them to be permitted to return, and another six months for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to clear the debris enough for a camper to be moved onto their property.

November 8, 2019. Plowman is back on his property. Or what was left of it.

As fall slips into winter around the residents of Paradise, it’s not the haunting, happy sounds of Canada geese flying south that greets them every morning; it’s the visceral roar of a chain saw. Or three.

The bone-dry, charred-black trees still standing around Paradise leave the area vulnerable to another, more terrifying fire. And though they’ve removed 60,000 of them, more than 600,000 remain. From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, Plowman and his neighbors live their lives to a soundtrack of chain saws. And because none of the residence plots have electricity restored, the constant rattling drone of generators fills whatever breaks there are in the chain saw work.

Surrounded by a landscape of fire retardant-covered dirt, felled trees, and piles of garbage and debris waiting to be hauled to the dump, Plowman has crammed everything the family owns into their camper with them, or tightly into the back of their truck. In the middle of what they call “the yard”—a flattened piece of land where their house used to sit, and where one day they hope it will again—sits Plowman’s daughter’s drum set, covered only with a small blue tarp.

“We don’t have anywhere else to put it for her to practice,” he says. “But we can’t leave it out, or it will get ruined or stolen.”

Plowman hesitates to purchase anything of value for lack of anywhere to store it securely. Stories have been passed around Paradise of entire campers disappearing while the owners are at work. And with the rainy season quickly approaching, storing items outdoors, especially if they are sensitive to temperature and humidity fluctuations, isn’t an option.

An aerial view of the shed build at the Paradise church site where volunteers constructed more than 200 sheds.

An aerial view of the shed build at the Pardise church site where volunteers ended up constructing more than 200 sheds. Photo by Tom Lloyd

This is particularly an issue for Ashley, a young dialysis patient who administers her own dialysate at home. Ashley lives with her husband and two dogs in a worn-down camper at the end of a dead-end street.

At one corner of their temporary home sits a pile of cardboard boxes full of Ashley’s dialysis supplies, which need to stay dry in order to be viable. If the supplies are ruined, Ashley can’t administer her dialysis, and she could potentially die.

Ashley, who currently lives in a camper with her husband and two dogs, thanks Joelle Chinnock, build coordinator for the Love Paradise project, for a much needed storage shed.

"Ashley," who currently lives in a camper with her husband and two dogs, thanks Joelle Chinnock, build coordinator for the Love Paradise project, for a much-needed storage shed. Photo by Tom Lloyd

Love Paradise

“Ashley is the reason the shed project is so important,” says Joelle Chinnock, member of the Paradise Adventist Church and coordinator of the shed build project. “That storage space is literally saving her life.”

Though their home did not burn, Chinnock’s family, along with 50,000 others, were evacuated when the fire started. Chinnock began giving her time to her church’s outreach ministry, Love Paradise.

Three years ago Garrison Chaffee, youth pastor at the church and director of Love Paradise, met with the town manager of Paradise and agreed to take on Make a Difference Day, a national movement for community engagement. Since then, Love Paradise, with members of the church and community, have cleaned a bike path, painted park benches, planted daffodils, and more.

“Since the fire, the avenues and opportunities for Love Paradise to serve have multiplied exponentially,” Chaffee says. “We set up a distribution center at the Chico church and filled and emptied the gym with donations three times.”

The group also set up a clean water station at the former Paradise church site, as most of the local water supply is tainted with heavy metals as a result of the fire. They got thousands of brand-new T-shirts donated by various sources. Additionally, they put together what they dubbed “Welcome Home Kits,” large plastic bins packed with items a family might need to get their homes restarted after the fire, such as towels, dishes, pots and pans, soap, toilet paper, garbage cans, and gift cards.

In order to continue to be relevant, Love Paradise browsed Facebook support pages to find areas of greatest need. When Chinnock saw a post about a man building a shed for someone, she thought, We could do that.

Joelle Chinnock, project coordinator, poses by a finished shed showing the partners that helped make the build possible.

Joelle Chinnock, project coordinator, poses by a finished shed showing the partners that helped make the build possible. Photo by Tom Lloyd

Two days after suggesting the shed build, representatives from Maranatha Volunteers International were standing in the parking lot of what used to be the Paradise Seventh-day Adventist Church, planning to build 100 sheds.

Chinnock was working on a budget for the project when she got a call from David Woods, the on-site building director. He wanted to build 200 sheds.

“In a panic, I asked him if he had any idea how much money that would be,” says Chinnock.

“David calmly responded, ‘How big is your God?’”

They decided to aim for 200.

Love Paradise volunteers sign the final shed's inside wall. Photo by Tom Lloyd

Love Paradise volunteers sign the final shed's inside wall. Photo by Tom Lloyd

Diverse Investment

Bang-thwack! Bang-thwack! Pause.

Bang-thwack! Bang-thwack! Pause.

A volunteer pounds a sledgehammer against the wall base, fitting it tightly against the floor frame, while inside another wields a nail gun, driving nails deep into the two-by-fours between each stud.

Several yards away, at the edge of the pavement, is a line of three makeshift workbenches where more volunteers zzzip away, cutting boards for the 10’ x 12’ sheds—the largest you can build without a permit. The system is a tight one; everyone moves deftly and efficiently between stations.

“Often when building inspectors see a bunch of older people and kids as builders, they’re skeptical,” admits Kenneth Weiss, executive vice president for Maranatha Volunteers International. He stands on the build site in boots and a hard hat, arms folded across his chest, and chuckles. “But regularly, these same inspectors express incredulity at the high quality of work our volunteers produce. We’re pretty proud of that.”

This is especially true as the number of volunteers increases, as a larger group typically becomes less manageable.

The average Maranatha project in North America has 40 to 50 volunteers, and the organization’s largest project, Ultimate Workout, boasted approximately 200. The shed build project in Paradise has seen more than 350 volunteers come through, some for a day, others for a week, a few for the entire three weeks, topping out at nearly 125 per day.

“What I’ve really enjoyed watching with this particular project is the amazing synergy between so many different involved parties,” Weiss says. “It’s truly fantastic to see this many entities invested in their community.”

One of more than 350 volunteers helps construct a storage shed in Paradise, California. Julie Z. Lee

One of more than 350 volunteers helps construct a storage shed in Paradise, California. Julie Z. Lee

He’s right; the plaques affixed to each shed include the list of all entities who sponsored the project, including not only Adventist churches, Adventist union conferences and conferences, Maranatha, Adventist Community Services, and Adventist Health, but also Capay Farms, North Valley Community Foundation, North Fork Lumber Company, Chico Building, Paradise Rotary Foundation, Schmidbauer Lumber, Inc., Butte Strong Fund, and Trinity River Lumber Company.

The volunteers are also a diverse group, ranging in age from 6 to 80, and coming from various places across the country and beyond.

Shenalyn and her children took a day off from homeschooling to help. Even her 6-year-old daughter, Sonya, happily painted sheds.

Kai is part of an AmeriCorps group and hails from Sierra Leone.

Devin, age 11, and Caleb, age 14, came with their families from Weimar, California, for their first-ever mission experience.

Randy, from Denver, Colorado, read about the shed build
on Facebook.

Keanan drove down from Oregon with his landlord to volunteer, and stayed even after his landlord went home.

David came out from Maine and celebrated his birthday on the build site, enjoying the group’s rendition of “Happy Birthday” at lunch with an extra-large serving of peach cobbler. “It’s the biggest birthday party I’ve ever had,” he said with a big grin to go with it.

Though many volunteers were Adventists, a large number were not.

“It was unusual to get such a large number of non-Adventist volunteers,” says Kyle Fiess, vice president of projects for Maranatha. “Part of the reason for that is the significant media attention we received regionally. People really have an interest in what’s happening in Paradise, and they want to be involved.”

Volunteer builders celebrate the completion of more than 200 storage sheds for Paradise, California, residents who lost their homes in the 2018 Camp Fire. Photo by Tom Lloyd

Volunteer builders celebrate the completion of more than 200 storage sheds for Paradise, California, residents who lost their homes in the 2018 Camp Fire. Photo by Tom Lloyd

Paradise Rebuilt

During the final days of the shed build, Paradise council member Mike Zuccolillo, who also lost his home to the fire, came to meet the people behind the project. About five feet ten with close-cut salt-and-pepper hair, Zuccolillo moves with relaxed intention and has an easy smile.

“I’ve been amazed at how the private sector has stepped up and answered the call to help,” he says. Butte County is not a wealthy one, and for most residents, saving an extra few hundred dollars is a big deal. Finding storage options is next to impossible.

In the year following the fire, Zuccolillo says, the remaining residents have learned to celebrate “all the little happy things.” They’ve gone from a city of nearly 27,000 to a ghost town with an estimated 2,000 residents, but they are a resilient, optimistic bunch. “We celebrate every little victory,” he says, “because to us, as we rebuild our entire town, they’re not so little.”

Rebuilding their town is exactly what this group is working on as they move shed after shed off the line and into the parking lot to be painted.

“One year out from the fire, you have a whole community of people who no longer need peanut butter sandwiches; they need long-term support,” Fiess says. “They need people to care about them and to assure them they haven’t been forgotten.”

The reaction of shed recipients has been one of humble and sincere gratitude. A once-wealthy woman who had lost everything broke down in tears when her shed was delivered. “I’ve always been in a position to help others, contributing where I could to those less fortunate,” she sobbed. “I’m so grateful for others who can now do the same for me.”

One man who came to the site to thank the builders commented, “It’s nice to see Christians being Christian.”

During the build Chinnock overheard her son tell the site director, “We’re building for Jesus.”

In the beginning her family was hesitant to get onboard, certain she was in over her head.

“They were right,” Chinnock says with the hint of a smile. “I am in over my head. But my God walks on water.”

The End of the Beginning 

On November 21, five days before the scheduled end of the project, approximately 120 volunteers gathered on the build site to be a part of the final shed going through the line. Some had nail guns, others had hammers; still others picked up routers. The frame was nailed; the hole for the door cut on one wall. A call went out for “several strong men” to lift the wall to the floor frame; a group of several strong women ran to raise the next. Laughter and chatter filled the space between poundings and buzzings and bangings.

They had done it.

The crowd closed around the final shed and passed around a Sharpie for everyone to sign the inside of the building. Some wrote Bible verses; others simply signed their names with swoops and swirls and tails. People cheered and clapped.

Then a murmur began at one end of the crowd. As the roof was lifted via Bobcat and lowered into place, the word spread throughout the group of volunteers: This wasn’t actually shed number 200.

It was shed number 202.

— Becky St. Clair is a freelance writer who lives in Angwin, California.


Major Impact

As of the end of November 2019, Love Paradise has received nearly 700 applications for sheds.

“We’ve been looking for ways to be relevant ever since we started Love Paradise,” says Joelle Chinnock, coordinator of the shed build project and member of the Paradise Adventist Church, “and we don’t have to search anymore. If we get too diversified, we can’t perfect what we’re doing. We just do sheds now. It’s our thing, and it’s how we can best serve our community.”

The need continues to be great. Nearly 19,000 structures, with more than 11,000 of those homes, were lost in Paradise from the Camp Fire, the most destructive in California history. Burning more than 153,000 acres, the Camp Fire resulted in the deaths of 86 people ranging in age from 53 to 90, and also impacted nearby Magalia and Concow communities.Once a thriving community of around 27,000, Paradise is now populated by an estimated (exact counts are difficult) 2,000, and many of those are living in RVs or trailers.

“These sheds are so important,” Chinnock explains. “For those in situations similar to Ashley’s, a shed can be lifesaving. For a majority of Paradise residents, like Allen, a shed is a sense of security. It’s safety. For some, it’s the closest thing to a home they’ve had for over a year.”

Love Paradise is coordinating with Maranatha to conduct another shed build project in spring 2020. To be a part of this project, sign up to volunteer through Maranatha Volunteers International (, or donate toward the project via Love Paradise (


kmaran Mon, 12/16/2019 - 10:58


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