28 Jan


By RMCNews – Denver, Colorado …  At the beginning of 2020, none of us ever dreamed that beginning in March, the world as we know it would change so dramatically. As the pandemic gained momentum, conference administrators across North America were wondering how mission would be impacted. How would education be delivered, how would church be done, and what would happen to our camp programs.

“It was very difficult to even know how to project the potential negative impact on tithe or other sources of revenue,” said George Crumley, RMC VP for finance. “A 1% negative impact would have been a decrease in available tithe to Rocky Mountain Conference of $109,810. Assuming our worst scenario of a 20% decrease, that would have negatively affected conference-available tithe by $2,196,200,” he commented.

Crumley further commented, “Sadly, all of us have been directly impacted in one way or the other–the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, contraction of the disease ourselves, a different way of worshipping and of doing school. Yet through all of this, God has been helping us.”

Now that 2020 is behind us, “I want to express my appreciation to all of you for being regular in your tithes and offerings. As we ended the year, the conference total tithe was down by 4.35% for 2020 when compared to 2019.  This is because total tithe includes windfalls which consist of unusual and non-recurring tithe of $50,000 or more, and in 2019, our windfalls totaled $1,176,313 whereas our 2020 windfalls amounted to $389,539—thus, the decrease in total tithe. But our base tithe, which we budget from was only down .03% or basically breakeven,” Crumley explained.

This is an amazing result considering all that we have been through. It could have been much worse. For the North American Division, their total tithe, including windfalls, was up 1.71%.

At this stage, no one knows the long-term impact on the economy and unemployment as we look ahead into 2021 and beyond. “We do need to be prudent in the management of the resources God has entrusted us with. What we do know is that many are hurting and looking for answers in these unstable times. This presents an opportunity for us, as individuals and as a church, to minister to those in need,” Crumley expressed.

The leadership of RMC express their gratitude to church members who have been faithful. “May the Lord continue to guide you and your families in the days ahead,” Crumley commented.

–RMCNews; photo by UnSplash

28 Jan


By RMCNews – Gillette, Wyoming … For one week in August 2024, the population of Gillette, Wyoming, will more than double in size. The 2024 International Pathfinder Camporee organizers are hoping to welcome more than 50-thousand Adventist youth and young adults gathering for one of the largest convocations in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The International Camporee Executive Advisory Committee voted on Tuesday, January 26, 2021 to move from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to Gillette, Wyoming. The decision will allow for more outdoor activities and space to gather.

The news was welcomed with excitement and eagerness by the small Gillette church of 30 members.

“I think the best way to describe their reaction is similar to the way I reacted–both surprised and shocked. Yet this gives us an excellent opportunity to reach the community around us,” Lester Bentley, pastor for the Northeastern Wyoming District said. “This gives us a genuinely unique opportunity to bring together our outstanding Adventist youth from around the world to impact our community in and around Gillette positively. Some of the comments I heard were, “This is great; we won’t have to travel this time.” Others said, “Why Gillette?” My favorite reaction was, “Wow!”

The RMC youth department echoed the Gillette church’s sentiment.

“Looks like we’re going to more than double the population of Gillette in 2024! It will be a fun time for so many Pathfinders to see a part of our conference and have the opportunity to travel through beautiful places on their way to the International Pathfinder Camporee,” commented Jessyka Dooley, RMC assistant youth director.

Kiefer Dooley, RMC youth director, was surprised at the announcement. “Honestly, I was a bit shocked to hear that the International Pathfinder Camporee was moving locations! Having the gathering in Oshkosh had become so expected that it seems like most everyone had been referring to the event itself as “Oshkosh.” I guess “Gillette” can come to have the same ring to it in the future!”

“We’ll look forward to being generous and supportive hosts to what will be the third largest population center in Wyoming over the course of the Camporee week. Our hope is that those gathered will enjoy their time and not only draw closer to Jesus, but be respectful, beneficial, and a blessing to the people of Gillette,” Kiefer added.

Still a few years to go before they welcome the Pathfinders, the Gillette church is making plans to reach out to the community prior to 2024.

“We have an outreach planned this summer with a youth pastor from North Carolina who will present a one-week revival series designed for people from late teens to early ’30s. Several from the community around Gillette have had the opportunity to hear him speak at the winter retreat held each year at Mills Spring Ranch in Casper. We are anxious to have him come and spend a week with us this coming June,” Bentley said.

Kiefer added, “Having the Camporee come to our territory is exciting, but it doesn’t change the mission and the work we have set before us. We anticipate that we’ll work closely with the Camporee boards and planning committees, help to coordinate RMC club participation as needed, adjust summer camp dates if necessary, and work with the Camporee organizers to utilize Summer Camp staff as Camporee staff. I’m sure that there will be a lot more to do as the dates draw nearer. Until then, we’ll continue to put our best efforts into supporting our youth ministry initiatives conference wide so that when 2024 comes, our Pathfinder organization is robust, thriving, and able to bring our youth closer to Jesus through the Camporee experience.”

The “Believe the Promise” camporee will be held at the Cam-Plex complex August 4 – 11, 2024.

–RMCNews; photo supplied

27 Jan


By Jon Roberts – Highlands Ranch, Colorado … Sixth graders at Mile High Academy are quickly learning that doing laundry and putting it away is not just a chore at home, but the way to receive an “A” in their Life Skills class.

During the first unit of the class, students each washed four loads of laundry, folded the clothes and put them away and successfully ironed one dress shirt.

Life Skills teacher, Christina Hernandez, explains the class content: “Students are taught to use the washer and dryer that are at the school and run a load for the athletics department. Their “homework” is to complete four [more] loads by washing, drying, folding, and putting away laundry for their family. They learn how to iron a button-down dress shirt in class. They each bring (or I supply) a shirt to practice on. They will then have a test that shows their skills in ironing.”

The class, however, has had some surprises, according Hernandez. “The funniest reaction I’ve seen this year is that students had no idea that the iron uses water and causes vapor to come out.”

Even with the surprises, the class is well received.

“Some students really enjoy this unit as it is hands on. They also like the fact that they are earning their “laundering” patch for Pathfinders,” Hernandez said.

While students appreciate the unit on laundry, they are keen to the responsibility that comes with learning this skill.

Brodie Philpott, parent of sixth grader, commented “One of the drawbacks [of the Life Skills class] is now she [his daughter] has to do her own laundry, and she knows that she doesn’t want to buy clothes that she has to iron!”

Students are looking forward to the next unit when they will learn how to cook. For some, it may be a class on how to be a contestant on the popular Food Network show “Worst Cooks in America.”

–Jon Roberts is RMC communication/media assistant; photo supplied

26 Jan


RMCNews – Denver, Colorado … In the month of January, several RMC congregations joined with scores of churches around the world in the “10 Days of Prayer” event. Church members were challenged to focus on the love of God, surrendering to Him, and focusing on the Holy Spirit to fill hearts with God’s love.

Some church members may be asking:  What’s the big deal about praying with others?

For Randy Bell, Brighton church member, the answer was clear, “I’m a software engineer. Part of the reason I chose this career is because I don’t HAVE to do presentations. For some reason this year, the Holy Spirit nudged me to lead out a night during the 10 Days of Prayer. So, I told the pastor I’d help.”

“I was given night two about God’s love, which also included the story of the prodigal son.  Great, I thought, I’ve heard that story a thousand times. How can God do anything new with it? But when I began to really ask God to show Himself to me, and when I led out and we began to pray that night, I sensed the Holy Spirit connecting with the people as we prayed together. When we were done, I texted the pastor to ask if he had any more nights available to lead out. I told him, ‘I just can’t explain it–-that was cool! Can it happen again?’” Randy added.

Campion church prayer coordinator, Tenisha Tavares, shared how it impacted the members of her church. “When asked on the last night what had changed in their life during the past ten days, many said it motivated them to have a deeper prayer life. They experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit during the time we had together and wanted to continue that outpouring in their personal devotional time with God.”

If you didn’t have the opportunity to experience 10 Days of Prayer during January, you can still participate. The resources can be found at www.tendaysofprayer.org and are available throughout the year.

–RMCNews; photos supplied

26 Jan


RMCNews with Delbert Hayden – Pueblo, Colorado … The Pueblo First Adventist Church celebrated 13 years of reaching out to the community, on January 13, through their low-powered FM radio station.

The radio studio, equipment, and tower are located on the grounds of the church where church members have volunteered hundreds of hours to make and keep the radio station an option for the community.  Currently,  several volunteers fill various positions to make sure the station remains on the air.

The target audience for the station, according to their website, “is listeners in both the city of Pueblo as well as the suburbs where evangelism may not be present.”  Anton Kapusi, pastor of Pueblo First church said, “We are working on surveying the city of Pueblo in different ways, but based on what we have right now, we estimate that several thousand people in Pueblo are regularly listening to our radio station.”

Hope Radio Pueblo is the second longest-running, low-power Adventist radio station to be put on the air in the United States. The station, according to Delbert Hayden, president of Hope Radio Pueblo, only survives by prayer, talent contributions and donations.

“At one time, by the sale of a car donated by a listener from the community, we were able to pay our bills and continue broadcasting. Truly, God works in many ways if our faith and trust is in Him and we are striving to do His will,” Hayden comments.

In late 2019, the church built a radio studio to program local broadcasts. At this time, prayer meeting, Bible study group, and Sabbath worship, along with locally-produced devotionals and book readings are available through the station.

Kapusi hopes for Hope Radio of Pueblo “to be completely self-sufficient” without the need to rely on other programs produced outside of Colorado to fill the gaps. When local programming is not available, the station airs praise and worship music along with programs from other Adventist-owned radio ministries.

The radio station has even brought visitors to church. “Through the years, we’ve had several people come to church through the programs. The most recent person was Becky McEvoy, a young mother of three who, convicted of the Sabbath through [programs] on the Hope Radio, was looking for a church.”

In 2020, the website states, they received interests from the community in Bible correspondence schools. “Our studio has a correlation with our Bible correspondence schools, through which our listeners can communicate with us at Hope Radio. We have received many phone calls, emails, and letters from our listeners this year.”

Hayden concludes, “We are very proud to be a part of this missionary adventure and are always looking to improve the station so it will present to the public the great God of heaven.”

The future looks bright, according to Kapusi. “Our finances are strong, the vision is strong, and we are moving to a digital platform where we can expend our influence all around the world.”

–RMCNews with Delbert Hayden, president of Hope Radio Pueblo; photo supplied

25 Jan

OPINION: Beyond Conspiracies and Speculative Assumptions

By John Skrzypaszek — What a year of unexpected challenges! COVID-19 pressured us to change the way we live and work. The global impact, apocalyptic scenes of gloom and doom, loss of lives, unrest in the economy and politics built up our fears.

Sadly, many have jumped on the conspiracy theory bandwagon, creating a range of speculative assumptions about the future.

In the past three months, the questions I received about last-day events caused me to wonder whether we truly believe God is in control of our future or just in the fancy of speculative assumptions. Social media is filled with topics that seem intended to scare people to heaven. Quotes from Ellen White’s writings are used out of context to support personal conjectures.

These questions challenged me to examine the essence or purpose of the prophetic voice, both from a biblical perspective and the inspired and inspirational voice in Ellen White’s writings.

Biblical Perspective

The Bible describes a specific purpose for the prophetic voice.

First, the prophetic voice provides a pathway of secure, inspirational focus that nurtures our spiritual life. It imparts comfort, encouragement, and hope secured in the reliability of the prophetic message (1 Cor. 14:32 Pet. 1:19).

Second, the essence, or the heart, of the prophetic voice unfolds the panoramic view of God’s saving acts through Jesus. It takes the human mind away from the fear of events driven by the fancy of varied interpretations. Instead, it calls attention to the climactic event — the Messianic event (1 Pet. 1:10-12).

Third, it offers an environment for transformational change, which motivates believers to recapture the depth of God’s incomprehensible love and care in places where our lives get difficult and we can’t see God working (1 Pet. 1:18-21Isa. 40:9-11).

No wonder Peter’s conviction about the steadfastness of the prophetic voice moves beyond the framework of speculative ideas. “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were the eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16, NIV). Peter’s account affirms the trustworthiness of God’s unfailing promises.

Commenting on the purpose of God’s communicative intent in Hebrews 1:1-3, theologian F. F. Bruce asserts, “Had God remained silent, enshrouded in thick darkness, the plight of mankind would have been desperate indeed; but now He has spoken His revealing, redeeming and life-giving word, and in His light we see light.”1 He expands his thought even deeper, stating that “divine revelation is thus seen to be progressive — but the progression is not from less true to more true, from less worthy to more worthy, or from less mature to the more mature…. The progression is one from promise to fulfillment.”

God’s involvement in human life encompasses the overarching development of the Messianic promise given to Adam and Eve in the context of fear and confusion (Gen. 3:15). Touching the dirt of human life, God provided comfort and encouragement flowing from His assuring presence and the hope embedded in the Messianic promise. The ongoing purpose of the prophetic voices reminded people about the trustworthiness of God’s promise, and it challenged them to accommodate a visionary view of the Messianic hope (Isa. 42:5-7). A time came when, through Jesus, God touched the dirt of human life again to impart comfort, encouragement, and hope. No wonder that in the context of His promised return (John 14:1-3), Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27, NIV).

It’s so easy to lose focus on the central element of the Christian faith, namely, the full wealth of spiritual depth embedded in Jesus, the promised Messiah (2 Pet. 1:34).

The Jesus narrative is the fulcrum of Christian comfort, encouragement, and hope. Here one finds the essence of the prophetic voice, which unfolds the panoramic view of God’s saving acts. The Messianic story takes the human mind away from the fear of events, driven by the fancy of varied interpretations. Instead, it challenges us to recapture the depth of God’s incomprehensible care and love, which gently nurtures faith in the places where life becomes difficult. Such a voice continues to remind the church about the trustworthiness of Christ’s promised return (Heb. 10:35–37) entrenched in the reliable authority of the Bible (2 Tim. 3:162 Pet. 1:1617).

Ellen White’s Perspective

Why was it expedient for God to raise a prophetic voice in the 19th century? How relevant is that voice to the ongoing journey of faith?

Ellen White clearly understood the essence of her prophetic voice. In 1901 she wrote, “The Lord desires you to study your Bibles. He has not given any additional light to take the place of His Word.”2 Further, she understood her relation to the authority of the Bible. “The Spirit was not given — nor can it be bestowed — to supersede the Bible, for the Scriptures explicitly state that the Word of God is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.”3

Her voice encouraged the movement to immerse life experience in the power of God’s Word. “I have felt to urge upon all the necessity of searching the Scripture for themselves that they may know the truth, and may discern more clearly the compassion and love of God…. There is one central truth to be kept before the mind in searching of the Scriptures: Christ and Him crucified.”4

Her voice shaped a motivational and inspirational framework of God’s designed purpose for Christian living. It called upon the meandering movement to live a spiritually relational life, anchored in the teachings of Jesus, and to demonstrate to the world the transformational impact of God’s grace.

Finally, her emphasis on God’s love and the trustworthiness of His promises aimed to inspire a spiritually missional life.

In the context of her progressive understanding of God’s unconditional love for the world expressed through Jesus, Ellen White expanded the view of mission. It moved beyond the proclamation of specific distinctive doctrines. From about 1900, Ellen White called for an all-inclusive engagement in the mission “not merely by preaching but the deeds of loving ministry.”5 The challenge to an inclusive engagement was a calling to pastors, medical doctors, nurses, teachers, students, and people from every profession and walk of life to share the knowledge of Jesus.6

Ellen White’s prophetic voice focuses on Jesus and provides a view of the practical application of faith. “The work Christ came to do in our world was not to create barriers and constantly thrust upon the people the fact that they were wrong. Though He was a Jew, He mingled freely with the Samaritans, setting at naught the Pharisaic customs of His nation. In the face of their prejudices, He accepted the hospitality of these despised people. He slept with them under their roofs, ate with them at their tables — partaking of the food prepared and served by their hands — taught in their streets, and treated them with the utmost kindness and courtesy.”7

Her voice challenges the church to sway away from a speculative assumption about the future, arising from a reactionary response to current events. Instead, it calls the movement to recapture the power of God’s transforming grace, to maintain an implicit trust in His unfailing promises, and to wait in full confidence for His return. “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay’” (Heb. 10:35-37, NIV). Further, her voice highlights that “in time[s] of confusion and trouble before us, a time of trouble as has not been since there was a nation, the uplifted Savior will be presented to the people in all lands, that all who look to Him in faith may live.”8

— –John Skrzypaszek, DMin, has written for Mountain Views and has recently retired as the director of the Ellen White/Seventh-day Adventist Research Center, and is a lecturer at Avondale University College (2005-2020), Cooranbong, NSW, Australia. Polish by birth, John takes a keen interest in heritage, spirituality and identity studies. He is married to Brenda and has two sons, Raphael and Luke. Email him at: [email protected]

The original version of this commentary was Adventist Record republished by Adventist Review.

1. F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012), 1, 2.
2. Ellen G. White, Letter 130, 1901, p. 1.
3. Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy(Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1911), vii.
4. Ellen G. White, “Circulation of the Great Controversy,” Ms. 31, 1890, para. 14
5. Ellen G. White, “Enter the Cities,” Ms. 7, 1908 (Feb. 24, 1908), para. 3.
6. Ellen G. White, “How Much Owest Thou Unto My Lord?” Ms. 79, May 1, 1899.
7. Ellen G. White, “Our Duty Toward the Jews,” Ms. 87, August 16, 1907.
8. Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 8 (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1904), 50.

21 Jan


RMCNews with Campion pastoral team – Loveland, Colorado … The Campion church pastors put the Bible verse “Build your house on the rock” into action by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity during the month of December.

Campion ministers invested not only in words, but committed themselves to lead with action. Collectively, they served on the board of the local House of Neighborly Services, the faith committee of Habitat for Humanity, and as chaplains for the local police department. At least once a year, as part of the team’s advance planning, they take a day to grab tool belts and gloves and lend their energy toward building a house with Habitat for Humanity.

These community connections are important for the outreach of the church.

In the opinion of Nestor Soriano, evangelism and worship pastor, the hard work of assisting in construction is worth it. “What a blessing it is to know that through my little efforts, I made a difference for a family in need.”

It’s not just about the studs and sheetrock, but about the family who will receive the home, explained Michael Morss, discipleship pastor. “It’s always a privilege to partner with Habitat for Humanity and to pray, while working, that God blesses the family that receives this home.”

Micheal Goetz, senior pastor, comments that taking a day to build a home is part of their mission. “The Campion church is the combination of two parishes, campus and community. With that, two of the essential activities of our team include interaction with our students and participation in a local organization. Individually, we look for ways that express our gifts and passions.”

-RMCNews with the Campion pastoral team; photo supplied

21 Jan

Ken Bacon Named President and CEO for AdventHealth’s Multi-State Division

By AdventHealth – Altamonte Springs, Florida… Ken Bacon who currently serves as group president for the Denver Metro Group of Centura Health, has been named president and CEO for AdventHealth’s Multi-State Division, effective March 1. Bacon is also a member of the Littleton Church.

As one of AdventHealth’s joint operating agreement, The Denver Metro Group includes the five AdventHealth hospitals which make up the organization’s Rocky Mountain Region, as well as three CommonSpirit Health hospitals. In addition to his group president role, Bacon serves as the regional CEO for AdventHealth’s Rocky Mountain Region.

In his new role, Bacon will oversee the strategic direction, development and expansion of the entire division, which spans five regions comprised of 20 campuses across eight states.

“Ken is a seasoned and collaborative leader who consistently rallies his team around a common vision,” said Terry Shaw, president/CEO for AdventHealth. “He’s driven by our mission and with his extensive experience, I have full confidence that Ken will continue to help AdventHealth deliver faith-based, whole-person care across our Multi-State Division.”

Bacon began his career at Ernst and Young before joining AdventHealth in 1991, where he quickly advanced in the organization. He served in various leadership roles including president/CEO for Littleton Adventist Hospital. Additionally, Bacon helped to lead the development and opening of Parker Adventist Hospital where he served as president/CEO.

As regional CEO for AdventHealth’s Mid-America Region, Bacon oversaw the opening of a new emergency department and outpatient campus in South Overland Park. He was part of the team that helped to bring Ransom Memorial Hospital into an agreement with AdventHealth. The hospital is now known as AdventHealth Ottawa.

“I have been privileged to work with incredible teams throughout my career and feel honored to be asked to serve in this role. I look forward to engaging with the teams that make up the Multi-State Division and getting to know the communities in which we are called to extend the healing ministry of Christ,” said Bacon.

Bacon earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and management from Union College, located in Lincoln, Nebraska. He received his certified public accountant license in 1990 and went on to earn a master’s degree in business administration from Texas State University. Bacon has consistently been an active member of his community, serving on multiple boards throughout his career, including the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and the Adventist Community Services board in the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Mid-America Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.

Bacon and his wife of 26 years, DeAnna, have three children: Paul, Mark and Olivia. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, camping, golfing and riding his motorcycle from time to time.

–AdventHealth news; photo supplied

20 Jan

BAA students celebrate MLK Day with community service projects

By Jodie Aakko – Brighton, Colorado … “My role as a young person [is] to support and promote social justice to help out with community service and telling others to not judge people from the outside,” Elid Provencio, fifth grader at Brighton Adventist Academy (BAA) reflected after a day of community service events to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. at BAA.

The academy staff and students celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a “day out” in the community, rather than a “day in” at school.

The CHERISH (Christ-centered, Honor, Exploration, Responsibility, Integrity, Service, Heroism) core values shine brightly in the mission and purpose of  Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership; therefore, the day provided an excellent opportunity for the students to put the values into action.

To begin the day, the student body assembled for worship which included a personal, inspirational message presented on video from Dr. Alexander Bryant, president of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. Bryant shared his personal testimony, and highlighted the lives of Martin Luther King and Joseph from the Bible.

“I thought it was very cool because it meant a lot to us for him to make a video for us even though he lives near Washington, D.C. and has a bigger job to do. He told us to dream big with God’s plan,” Gizelle Luna, seventh grader said.

After worship, students spread into the community in groups to participate in Covid-safe outdoor community service projects.

One group circled Brighton Care Center to visit residents through the windows. The senior citizens’ faces beamed with jubilation and glee as students held up signs, called out greetings, sang songs, and jumped for joy. “It was fun to make people feel better even though we were seeing them through the window,” Liliana Marr, fourth grader exclaimed.

A few miles away, another team presented congratulatory posters to the Platte Valley Medical Center for sixty years of service, along with a basket of treats for the doctors and nurses. One poster spotlighted doctors and nurses as super heroes for their work during this pandemic, while another poster featured young students’ praying hands.

“It was nice that the doctors and the nurses and the directors came outside to meet us. I appreciate that they help keep us safe,” Kierstin Syvertson, seventh grader, stated.

A final group of students created personalized greeting cards for many Brighton church members who need a little bit of cheer during the current pandemic. Each card was safely hand-delivered with roses, and the surprise visit was complete with pleasant front-porch visits.

The day concluded back at BAA with a variety of learning activities and projects on Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights Movement, and the lives of famous Black Americans. Some students studied King’s speech, “My Life’s Blueprint”, and Maya Angelou’s poem, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” while others were challenged by guest speaker Debbie Jackson, director of the Park Hill Pathfinder Club, to be a part of social justice today.

Jackson reminded students that King was a dreamer of what others could not dream.

–Jodie Aakoo is principal of Brighton Adventist Academy; photos supplied

20 Jan


By Karrie Meyers – Highlands Ranch, Colorado … On January 14, 2020, Mile High Academy student Mya Peña lost her life in a murder-suicide, the victim of domestic violence. On the one-year anniversary of this heartbreaking loss, the Denver community, Peña family, friends, and Mile High Academy students and staff gathered to honor Mya’s legacy, remembering not only a kind-hearted individual, but also creating awareness about domestic violence and mental health.

They gathered on January 14 in downtown Denver where local artist Austin Zucchini-Fowler painted a mural in remembrance of Mya at the corner of 21st and Lawrence streets. This location holds significance as it is near the area where Mya frequently served food to the homeless.

Attending the gathering, Andy Nash, Littleton church lead pastor, reflected on the event, “It was very meaningful to see so many students and families come together for Mya and her family. As parents ourselves, we especially want Audra to know that her beautiful daughter will remain in our hearts until the day Mya herself is with us again.”

To commemorate the anniversary, Mya’s mother Audra Peña teamed up with local businesses, churches, Mile High Academy, friends and family, collecting donations to distribute to the homeless community. Food, water, coats, gloves, hats and blankets were brought to the downtown mural where volunteers distributed them to those in need.

While time, memories and friendships have helped with the loss, there will always be a hole in the school community.

“The loss of a friend is like no other loss. There’s no way of just ‘getting over it,’ but it’s possible to get through it with the support from others. Having created so many memories helps make everyday a little easier,” Emily Raymond, classmate and Mya’s best friend, said.

MHA planned to mark the anniversary by hosting a day of events in her honor. Unfortunately, due to an ongoing quarantine, upper school students weren’t able to be on campus; however, they shared stories about Mya and prayed together for Mya’s family during an online time of reflection.

Mya’s best friend Emily reflected on the day’s events, “Her [Mya’s] memorials give us a chance to remember her life, not her death. I’m thankful so many people cared about Mya. Seeing how many people loved and cared for her has helped me grieve, encourages me to give back to her and try to live a meaningful life for her.”

Audra Peña, Mya’s mother, was grateful to MHA for all the love and support shown to her family over the past year.  In an email to MHA she said, “Thank you again for everything! You all are such a precious blessing to my family and I. Mya would be so honored. We cannot express our appreciation enough!”

She has created the foundation Mya’s World whose mission is to provide a place for young people struggling to come to terms with domestic violence and mental health, or struggling in a relationship or needing a place to call for help.

To follow the foundation as it continues Mya’s legacy of helping others, please visit https://www.facebook.com/MyaWorld-102439001318533.

–Karrie Meyers is Mile High Academy’s communication assistant; photos supplied

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