At first glance they looked like they might be protesting or selling something, holding their brightly colored signs on Main Street corners in downtown Elkhart on Tuesday, Dec. 24.
But such a notion could quickly be dispelled with a closer look at the signs, reading, “FREE COFFEE AND DONUTS, GOD BLESS YOU.”
Members of El Divino Redentor (Spanish for The Divine Redeemer) church, 1137 E. Hively Ave., simply wanted to give away hot coffee and doughnuts in 7-degree weather Christmas Eve, said member Sacnicte Pena.
“Since it’s Christmas, we felt a lot of people lack having a family,” said Pena, 24, who is studying at Ivy Tech Community College to become a medical assistant. “We ask people if they want us to pray for them. It might be easy for us to stay home and be warm but there are a lot of people who are forgotten about. We are Hispanic from different cultures. Being in this country, we have received a lot of help from our brothers, so it’s just the satisfaction of giving something back.”
The church members set up a portable tent on the downtown plaza and played Spanish cumbia music while waving at passing vehicles. It was the first time the 14-year-old church had organized the event, but they often spread the word of God at homeless shelters, jails and prisons, said Francisco Barrios, assistant pastor.
“The Lord has blessed us all throughout the year so the blessings he gives us is for us to give to others,” Barrios said in Spanish, with Pena translating. “This is very important, especially today. For us it’s not about the gifts and the money, it’s about the love of God.”
Kendall Hinds appreciated the gesture. He stopped for a doughnut and coffee while driving through downtown to visit friends.
“It’s good that they get out and share with people,” Hinds said. “It’s good that we all come together at Christmas and socialize a little. All of us should thank God for what we’ve got. A man who’s got his health, that’s a lot.”
Troy Lemler, of Goshen, agreed. Church members held his hand while saying a prayer as he ate and drank.
“That’s pretty nice and generous, I didn’t expect it,” Lemler said. “I was driving through here and doing some errands and thought I’d stop by.”