New Salvation Army leaders prepare for Christmas

As a 10-year old, Luis Viera worked in the Puerto Rican family furniture business, twisting and bending rattan. Around the same time, Lucy Luz was helping her mother care of her three younger brothers and was very busy in her church.
Today, the 60-year old Luis joins his wife, Lucy, 57, as the new officers and pastors of the Salvation Army in Asheboro. They were sent here in January to make significant changes to the local operation which serves Randolph, Montgomery and Richmond counties. They have been overhauling the entire operation, re-training current staff and training new ones and reaching out to build community relationships.
Their offices, and chapel, are located at 345 N. Church Street, directly behind the Randolph Health hospital emergency room. Sunday church services are held at 10 a.m., in English and 11:30 a.m., in Spanish. Sunday school runs from 10:45 – 11:30 a.m.
The store is located at the corner of Dixie Drive and Zoo Parkway.
The Vieras have been affected by Hurricane Maria. Lucy’s mother lost her home. They haven’t spoken in weeks.
“Puerto Rico is a small island with three cultures. The Taino Indians were the original inhabitants. Spain seized the island and the blood lines mixed, forming the Criollos. Then, the Spanish brought in slaves from Africa.” Luis explained.
Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States and its residents are American citizens. Viera estimates a third of the nation’s income comes from tourism, as the island is surround by beautiful beaches and the food is good – particularly the rice with gandules beans, roasted pork and plantains.
He has enjoyed those flavors since his childhood.
In Puerto Rico, Luis’ family lived together in a compound with his uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents. They were very close.
When Luis’ uncle was a young lad, he contracted polio, which left him a paraplegic. His challenges spurred him through elementary school, where he was a victim of bullying. He pressed forth to launch two businesses, eventually owning his own rattan furniture company. After his death, Luis, 18, inherited the company.
Lucy’s childhood was much different.
The eldest of four children, Lucy matured quickly, as her father was an alcoholic. Her role was to help her mother care for her younger three siblings.
At 7 years old, she accepted Christ as her savior and advanced to become a Sunday school teacher when she was 13.
“I never played with dolls or toys. I was always involved in the church,” she says.
Lucy recalls her first date with Luis was at a church youth gathering. After she graduated high school, they married, and had two daughters and one boy. Today, two of their children work for the Salvation Army in Virginia and Raleigh. The Vieras enjoy their seven grandchildren.
In 1986, the Vieras moved to Cleveland, Tenn. Luis had received a scholarship to attend the Church of God Theological Seminary. There, he earned his Master’s degree in divinity. After seven years of working together as pastors, youth directors, Bible school directors and representatives for the Church of God, the Vieras started learning about the work of the Salvation Army. They saw a fit. “I fell in love with the mission of the Salvation Army, its spiritual recovery and social redemption,” Luis says.
He received an invitation from the Salvation Army to establish a Spanish outpost in Gainesville, Ga.
“Gainesville was our first outreach,” he recalls. “We were there for four years. That city is the chicken capital of the world with more than 17 chicken factories.”
From Gainesville, the Viera’s journey took them to 14 other cities, including a three-year stay in Argentina, two appointments to Aiken, So. Carolina and several other places in the Southeast. They rose through the ranks from Sergeant, to Lieutenant to Captain to Major.
The smallest appointment was in Riverview, near Tampa, Fl. They had no office, just a house and a car. They started the service unit from scratch in South Hillsboro, near Tampa. Their most recent positions were in El Paso, Texas, where they had 56 employees.
While in Florida, Lucy received her Master’s degree, in educational leadership, from the University of Argosy, in Tampa. Her undergraduate degrees are in social work and elementary education from Lee University, in Cleveland, Tenn.
So now they’re in Asheboro getting ready for Christmas.
“We ask the community to support our bell ringers and adopt our Angel tree children this year,” Lucy says. “We are providing presents and clothing to more children this year than in years past and desperately need generous people to help us accomplish that goal.”
The Salvation Army is seeking volunteers to ring the bells; 86 percent of the money raised goes directly to help local people in need.
And the Vieras have a dream.
They want to build a place where homeless families can spend the night. Randolph County has shelters for men and battered women, but not for families. Salvation Army units nationwide offer those services. The Vieras would like to see one here.
“It’s a community effort,” Luis explains. “It’s a meaningful vision to serve homeless families in a way for them to transition to recovery. They are sleeping under bridges, in cars, in the woods and in tents – or bunking over with friends and family. We need a place to help families overcome their immediate obstacles.”
What do the Vieras like to do in their time off? They enjoy spending time with family and traveling. At home, Lucy has two Silver Fox rabbits, Pucho and Noche. Their dog has taken to eating the rabbits’ food – celery, cucumbers, carrots and cauliflower. Luis likes to work in the yard, plays the guitar and sings.
The Vieras love to smile, laugh and are very engaging.
“We are God’s workers,” they say. “The kettle is for God’s work. We pray people will be generous and give this year so we can help more people in need. That is our goal.”

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