Sophia and Raphael enjoy the ministry with their parents.
“People need a friend…it is priceless to see the transformation, to see someone who is destroyed and without hope, able to live a normal life.” Silvia Simoes
by Jill Forman
The Simoes are a charismatic couple: gracious, attractive, and hospitable. Yours truly showed up for the interview with two small children in tow, unexpectedly; Silvia set them up with toys and coloring supplies, and said, “All are welcome here.”
In their native Brazil, Fabio trained as a dentist, Silvia as a physical therapist. They could have been enjoying an affluent existence, yet here they are in Ventura living a life of dedication and service. Instead of trendy clothes, they are wearing Salvation Army uniforms (which look like designer outfits on them.) Owning almost nothing, they live in a Salvation Army house. Instead of being titled “Doctor,” they are both proud to be called “Lieutenant.”
They are in charge of the Salvation Army services in Ventura, and loving it. “We never planned this, no background in social service; we just fell in love with the opportunities to serve people.”
Fabio, in addition to dentistry, studied music; he is a classical guitarist with 17 albums recorded. In 2002, he was invited by the Salvation Army to come to the United States on a religious visa, and he coordinated music schools with 200 students in Southern California for over 7 years.
Silvia came on a student visa to learn English; she lived in the Long Beach area, and was planning to take her boards to be a therapist in the United States. But, she says with a chuckle, “God intervened.”
They met at a Salvation Army Brazilian ministry in 2005 and were married in 2006; their children are Sophia, 8, and Raphael, 7. They worked in their respective fields, music and physical therapy, until 2012.
They were “challenged” to go to seminary and become officers in the Salvation Army. They decided that “People are more important than things…we are here to offer hope in all ways.” In the Salvation Army, both members of a married couple attend seminary. They started in 2012, at a campus in Rancho Palos Verdes, graduating in 2014. Ventura is their first assignment.
The first two years here were spent organizing, learning about the community and about the Salvation Army facilities here. They have several locations with a variety of services, which are frequently changing due to funding fluctuations and the needs of the local populace.
Their children enjoy the ministry which calls for the whole family to work together. Their kids encourage them, and they have been able to bring more families into their church. “When we started we had two children in our program – ours – and now we have more than 40.”
Their Ventura ministry includes the church and headquarters on Petit Street, the Hope Center downtown on Oak Street with outreach and case management among other services, spiritual care for the residents of a senior living facility on the Petit property, family units on Bell Way with housing specialists, an eye clinic in association with the Rotary, recuperative care for post-hospital patients in association with the Health Care Agency, and many other programs planned.