GREENSBURG — New York City (NYC) is some 700 miles from Greensburg, but for Bishop Carmelo Velez and his wife Pastor Emily, the distance between the two cities can’t be expressed in such simple terms.
“Greensburg is a paradise,” Carmelo said. “I strongly believe that the people here don’t fully realize how wonderful this community is.”
Carmelo draws this conclusion following more than two decades ministering in NYC.
Working through their God in Action Ministries, the Velezes specialized in ministering to the homeless, to drug addicts, prostitutes, victims of domestic violence and HIV sufferers.
“New York is a great city,” Carmelo clarified, “but it’s so fast-paced, and there comes a time in life when you just want peace. We’ve found it here.”
Emily agreed. “There’s such a tremendous peace in this community,” she said. “People are so different here. They nod and wave and say ‘good morning’ when you see them out.”
Emily first came to Decatur County not long ago to visit her granddaughter and her family, who’ve lived here for two years.
“I fell in love with Greensburg,” she said.
In NYC, the Valezes focused on some of the city’s most drug-infested neighborhoods. Prostitution, homelessness, gang activity and HIV infection – all were rampant in the areas where they ministered. The locales were so treacherous, in fact, that the couple never ventured out alone.
Carmelo described “cities of cardboard,” wherein inhabitants literally lived out of cardboard boxes.
“We went in, brought them food and clothes and ministered to them,” Carmelo said.
He added, “We always made sure to help educate them, too. You have to teach them about Christ’s love and that God’s always there for them, but that’s simply not enough; they need more than a Bible. That’s why we had numerous relationships with rehab clinics and education programs around NYC and elsewhere.”