MISSION SAN XAVIER DEL BAC AND AGAPE ACRES THERAPEUTIC RIDING CENTER: OFFERING HOPE IN SOUTHERN ARIZONA
Call it divine intervention or call it fate but it was no coincidence that my 2019 US concert tour dedicated to supporting the equine-assisted therapy organizations giving hope to individuals of all ages and backgrounds across America began just north of a place where I personally sought refuge and guidance a decade earlier during my darkest hours.
Located about 10 miles south of downtown Tucson, Arizona, on the Tohono O'odham Nation San Xavier Indian Reservation, Mission San Xavier del Bac or "The White Dove of The Desert" as it is also known is a beautifully preserved Spanish Mission that welcomes over 250,000 visitors from around the world each year.
Still operating as a Catholic Church residents from the surrounding community come to worship and practice their faith on a weekly basis inside its walls. Others make a pilgrimage from far and wide to spend hours studying its architecture and design. For me the brilliant white exterior served as a lighthouse in a sea of desert when I had lost my way.
Many of you that know my story are aware that once upon a time I was one second away from taking my own life. After putting the gun down and deciding to never give up, "The White Dove of The Desert" was the first place I visited. I was drawn there in a way that I cannot explain other than to say that I knew it was where I needed to be.
To this day it is still a place that I visit one time each year to celebrate what I privately refer to as my “alive day.” The day where I was given a second chance at life.
Each time upon arriving I am taken aback at The Mission’s beauty as if I am seeing it for the first time. For me the ritual is always the same: I enter its carved wooden doors, light a candle and say a prayer. Then I sit quietly in a pew, reflect on my journey, contemplate my goals and dreams for the future and give thanks to God for it all. Mission San Xavier del Bac is one of the many gifts I have been given in my life - it gave me hope.
Brian and Janie Nelson founded Agape Acres on five acres of land in Marana, Arizona in 2014. Marana is a small but ever-growing town that sits just north of Tucson and "The White Dove of The Desert.”
Agape Acres mission is to serve their community by providing EAAT and EAL (Equine Assisted Activities and Therapy and Equine Assisted Learning) to children with special needs, children with disabilities and children in foster care.
Perhaps without fully realizing it the dedicated team of horses and humans at Agape Acres are really providing “hope” to the all of the individuals and their families that pass through it’s gates each week, much like the hope I received when passing through the wooden doors of Mission San Xavier del Bac so many years ago.
My concert to help support Agape Acres took place on March 23, 2019. It was a big success and I think I speak for everyone when I say we all had lot’s of fun!
But for me the best part, the greatest “gift” that I received during my stop in Marana was being fortunate enough to spend the night onsite and wake up to witness one of Agape’s therapy sessions in action. The connection that took place between the young rider, patient and gentle horse and loving instructor was nothing less than miraculous and something that everyone should witness first hand.
It is a memory that I will carry with me forever and one that will continue to fuel me as I travel thousands of miles across America, playing my heart out in support equine-assisted therapy.
To view more photos of Mission San Xavier del Bac visit Rich Helmer’s website.
SCOTT HELMER is a singer, songwriter, musician and Guinness World Records title holder for "Most Live Music Performances in 24 Hours (multiple cities)."
Since 2012 his special fundraising concerts have helped raise more than $2 Million Dollars for good causes across America ranging from military veterans and their families, equine-assisted therapy, suicide prevention, first responders, pet and animal rescues, food banks, historic places, special needs children and adults, and more.
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