For the second year in a row, the Orangevale Adventist church — located in the greater Sacramento, California area in the United States — hosted a Drive-thru Christmas event for its neighbors.
During two hours on Saturday (Sabbath) evening, December 11, the church welcomed more than 350 people, who drove by various stations to see a manger scene with live animals, hear voice and handbell choirs, enjoy refreshments, and receive gifts.
At one station, church members offered to pray with the guests. With tears streaming down her face, one woman told a volunteer, “No one has asked to pray with me before.”
About 100 adults and children volunteered during the evening, including students from Orangevale Seventh-day Adventist School, who welcomed guests, sang, and played handbells. In the days before the Drive-thru, students made Christmas ornaments and filled jars with dry ingredients for “friendship soup,” which were distributed as gifts.
“I love seeing our church family serve our community — sharing with our children the true meaning of the season and the joy of serving others,” event organizer Lian Funada said.
Guests had the opportunity to participate in a canned food drive for the church’s food and clothes closet ministry, which serves about 500 people a month. When they heard about the need, people were so eager to contribute that they drove home to get items to donate.
Local church pastor Jon Cicle welcomed the guests in every car. “I was happy to meet new people from the community who felt this was a safe holiday event to come and enjoy,” he said.
The church held its first Drive-thru Christmas in 2020 as a creative way to reach out to the neighborhood during the pandemic. “We asked ourselves: What resources has God given us, and how can we use them to bless our community?” Cicle said.
Now that people are able to attend indoor programs and mingle more freely, church members wondered if their neighbors would be interested in the event this year, and they were excited to discover that attendance increased.
Although the church advertised on its website and social media, a large number of people learned about the Drive-thru after seeing a banner posted on the church property. Similar to last year, some people spontaneously pulled their cars into the parking lot as they were driving through the area looking at Christmas lights.
Members of the Orangevale church and school community were grateful for the opportunity to bring hope and joy to their guests. “Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus,” Funada told the volunteers. “Thank you for shining your light.”