By Margaret Colson, Florida Baptist Convention
November 8, 2015
The Diaz family of four has lived in our nation for just over a year. Puerto Rican, they still struggle with learning English and making friends as they try to put down roots in their new home.
Yet, they know St. Andrew Baptist Church is just down the street from the elementary school their two boys attend. And when they heard that the Panama City church was offering a free basketball clinic for children, they immediately registered their sons, Jeremy and Carlos.
On the hardwoods, language barriers seemed to disappear as the sound of bouncing basketballs filled the cavernous gym.
As mom and dad stood by with beaming smiles, the brothers mimicked their parent’s expressions for the camera as church member Patty Glover shot individual photographs of each child. The two then lined up with about 20 other energetic youngsters and learned the basics of dribbling, guarding and shooting basketballs.
During a break in the basketball action, church member Dannon Glover used a large EvangeCube to share the gospel message with the attentive youngsters and their nearby parents.
In the week following the basketball clinic, church members plan to visit the homes of the children who attended. “We will say thanks for letting us love on your kids,” said Jeremy Johnson, minister of adults and evangelism for St. Andrew Church, and offer a framed photograph of each child to the parents, along with the gospel message.
Reaching out with Christian love into their surrounding community is nothing new for congregation, whose ministries include medical and dental clinics, a food bank, clothes closet, a pregnancy center and numerous evangelistic events.
Recently the church has partnered with nearby Lucille Moore Elementary School, where many students are impoverished. St. Andrew Church has helped paint and clean up the school and also has provided backpacks, snacks and even birthday cakes for needy students, all the while building relationships with the families, such as the Diaz family from Puerto Rico.
“Our church is outwardly focused,” said Glover.
The basketball clinic, a part of Crossover: “Love Northwest Florida,” an evangelistic effort spanning across 27 venues in the Panama City region, was a first-time event for the church, but Johnson says it won’t be the last. He hopes to replicate the event quarterly.