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Making Friends Without an Agenda

posted on October 15, 2013, under Church, Florida Living, Video Report by

by Gladys Neigel

Mission trips have a way of bringing conviction to the hearts of participants; yet, after returning home, these feelings often die or lay dormant. Such was not the case with Gabriel Cardona. He immediately sought to share the good news of the gospel.

Cardona began to pass out literature such as Steps To Christ and necessities such as baby diapers on South Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, in an area of drugs, prostitution, and criminal activity. Joining him in this venture were Emilio Navarro, David Hernandez, and Julio Ramirez. It wasn’t long until 30 individuals, including street people, were consistently involved in the program.

Lighthouse Community Mission Group member Emanuel Depina prays with a homeless man. (Photo: Angela Davies)

Lighthouse Community Mission Group member Emanuel Depina prays with a homeless man. (Photo: Angela Davies)

Because this ministry targeted the unchurched and the urban community, the group became involved in working with residents of an extended-stay hotel. For two years, they visited the residents every week and became involved by playing with the children and meeting needs where possible. “The purpose was to make a spiritual connection without an agenda,” says Cardona.

The group started holding a relaxed service at various churches on Sabbaths at 2:00 p.m. They never invited people to church; however, questions about the ministry often led to Bible studies and church attendance which have culminated in four baptisms.

After two years, the group, which had taken on the name Lighthouse Ministries, moved to Altamonte Springs, adopted 300 families residing at Remington Inn and Suites, and began visiting three times a week. Church services are now held in a nearby storefront through the generosity of Florida Living Church members in Apopka.

Once a month, “church” is brought to the Remington community with field day games for kids, free clothing, free food, etc. They recently provided the children with backpacks for going back to school. “The goal is to uplift Christ in the community and in our relationships as we meet people where they are,” says Navarro.

Lighthouse Community Mission Group members prepare lunches to give to homeless with whom they later talk, listen, and pray. (Photo: Angela Davies)

Lighthouse Community Mission Group members prepare lunches to give to homeless with whom they later talk, listen, and pray. (Photo: Angela Davies)

One Sabbath each month, they pack sack lunches to take to Lake Eola in Orlando. Here, they find homeless people scattered throughout the park. First, they sit down, talk, listen, pray, and give a book to each individual before handing a lunch to them, as being friendly matters as much to the homeless as does the food.

The next goal is to find a location large enough to house a place of worship and a community center where classes can be conducted in healthful living, computer usage, studying for the GED high school equivalency test, résumé preparation, and money management. They also plan to provide tutoring, counseling, free wireless internet, and recreation.

Matthew 7:20, “By their fruits, ye shall know them,” definitely applies to the results of this endeavor, with amazing changes happening in people. “When those we are serving come back, we know Christ is making a difference,” says Cardona. “This ‘love in generation’ is tired of hearing sermons and want to see actions of Christ. We are also tired of preaching, so we are focusing on actions of Christ.”

More than 25 individuals became charter members of Lighthouse Mission Group August 31 as they were welcomed by members of Florida Living Church which sponsors the new congregation. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

More than 25 individuals became charter members of Lighthouse Community Mission Group August 31 as they were welcomed by members of Florida Living Church which sponsors the new congregation. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

Florida Living Church Celebrates More Than 25 New Members

It was the dream of Lighthouse Ministries’ lay pastors, Gabriel Cardona, Willie Ramos, and Emilio Navarro, to plant a church from their ministry of more than four years. Florida Living Church, Apopka, adopted this group because of their close proximity, and so that members could become involved in soul-winning activities, if only vicariously.

The first step was to officially become a mission group as voted by the Florida Conference Executive Committee on July 30, 2013. The second step was on August 31 when the sponsoring Florida Living Church congregation welcomed the 25+ members into their fellowship. During the service, Gabriel Cardona was ordained as head elder for the mission group.

Florida Living Church Pastor Jim King, left, congratulates the lay pastors for the new Lighthouse Mission Group, Emilio Navarro, Gabriel Cardona, and Willie Ramos. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

Florida Living Church Pastor Jim King, left, congratulates the lay pastors for the new Lighthouse Community Mission Group, Emilio Navarro, Gabriel Cardona, and Willie Ramos. (Photo: Aric Turlington)

The two congregations are a unique fit with senior citizens from a retirement community comprising the majority of the Florida Living Church congregation, and the Lighthouse congregation mostly consisting of 20- to 30-year-olds. “They can teach us,” says Ramos. “With the wisdom of the old and energy of the new, together we can finish the work.”

“This group is highly motivated and involved by point-to-point ministry—meeting people where they are—which was the ministry of Jesus,” says Jim King, pastor of Florida Living Church. “It is our desire to help them with any particular resource we can provide to help accomplish this mission.”


1 Comment for this entry

  • Lyris bacchus

    Great ministry. This is what all churches should be doing just as Jesus did…go into the world, meet their needs, share a practical gospel.

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