FORT MYERS–After a blazing fire consumed Morningstar Baptist Church’s 60-year-old sanctuary in February, members stood unwavering in their mission to reach the community and watched as God breathed unexpected new life in its vision.
The Feb. 12 afternoon blaze left the 2,400-square-foot sanctuary in ruins even as fire and police crews responded to the call of the inferno that engulfed the Fort Myers church.
“This burned down building is not Morningstar,” said Dwight Williams, interim pastor at the time of the fire. “It’s a building where we used to meet. Morningstar Baptist Church is still alive and will continue to meet to praise God and express our thanksgiving for His mercy and grace.”
Although initially in utter shock and disbelief, members relocated their worship services to the fellowship hall that was left untouched by the fire, faithfully proving that the local body of believers could continue their mission.
“Losing the worship center, while on the surface is very sad, as there were a lot of great memories in the building, for a lot of people,” Williams said. “But we are praising God, moving on, and haven’t lost any fire or zeal. In fact, we may have more of both now!”
Just days after the fire, the church reopened its food pantry ministry that serves as a lifeline to hundreds in the community.
“We’re feeding 150 families a month,” he said. “People are still hungry.”
Neighboring congregations came alongside Morningstar, offering prayer, cleanup and assistance. Crossroads Baptist Church, located only five minutes down the road, jumped in to help the struggling church with immediate needs. Crossroads members assisted with debris and parking lot cleanup and helped move items to a safe location on the church property to ensure the Morningstar’s food pantry ministry could continue.
“We have nothing but gratitude and thanks for our brothers and sisters at Crossroads Baptist Church,” Williams said. “They have no idea how much of a blessing they have been to us.”
Although the church has been consumed with finishing the demolition process and getting wiring in other buildings on their campus to code, the next steps for Morningstar were simple. “Love God and love the community by sharing God’s love with them,” the interim pastor said.
And then God opened a new door for Morningstar that will ensure the church’s vision will continue for years to come—a partnership with the congregation that linked arms with them in their darkest moments.
Following the Morningstar’s initiative, on Sunday, April 11, Crossroads Baptist Church voted unanimously to adopt its neighboring congregation.
“We have always seen Morningstar as a partner in the gospel, along with all the other churches within our association and state,” said David Gold, Crossroads’ lead pastor.
God began leading them to partner with Morningstar five years ago when Crossroads started regularly praying and partnering with other churches in their local association and state for the purpose of expanding the kingdom, the pastor explained.
“We pray for and seek ways to collaborate and partner with other gospel centered churches,” he said. “When Morningstar approached us, it was an answer to many prayers that had been prayed.”
Beginning Sunday, May 2, Crossroads will send a worship team and teaching pastor to help lead weekly worship services on the Morningstar campus, replicating weekly services taking place at the sponsoring congregation.
“We will be leading the members through a church assessment process that will lead to a formal revitalization proposal to be adopted and implemented,” Gold said. “Our hope is to work with the Royal Palm Association’s Church Planting and Revitalization team to help lead this process.”
Crossroads members will also come alongside Morningstar in assisting with its vibrant food pantry ministry, cohosting Vacation Bible School in July, and repairing and revitalizing a playground as a project for the students’ D-Now weekend. Also, the adopting church plans to help develop and implement various outreach opportunities within their shared community and provide volunteers to canvas surrounding neighborhoods to discover prayer needs, physical needs and spiritual needs.
“The vision is to become a church that, if Morningstar ceased to exist, the community would feel the weight of that loss in every sphere of its life,” Gold said.
“Our goal is to see God glorified through this partnership by making disciples and giving every man, woman, and child a repeated opportunity to see, hear, and respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”