Central Florida Baptists step up to help Puerto Rican Evacuees

0 1,420

More than 200,000 Puerto Ricans have arrived in Florida since September when their tiny island nation was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Many of them are overwhelmed and in need and now in the midst of a major life transition they weren’t expecting.

Processing centers to accommodate the evacuees have been set up by the state government at the Orlando International Airport, Miami International Airport and Port Everglades with most evacuees coming through central Florida, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Florida Baptist churches in central Florida are finding ways to minister to the wave of evacuees as they rebuild their lives.

First Baptist Church of Kissimmee is trying to connect with the newly arrived Puerto Rican families through the local schools, according to pastor Tim Wilder.

Approximately 2,000 new students have enrolled in the Osceola Country School District and another 1,000 are expected in the next couple of months.

The schools taking on the most new students are located close to the church. The church already has a close relationship with the schools, making ministry there easy.

“We received 400 names of evacuees from the schools and our church families each picked a name and bought them a Christmas present,” says Wilder. Church volunteers are also mentoring the new students after school through counseling and tutoring.

The church also plans on starting English classes for foreign language speakers to help the parents of the children assimilate in their new environment.

First Baptist Orlando, like FBC Kissimmee, has started to translate Sunday morning worship services to accommodate Spanish speakers who are new to the area.

“We want families to worship together,” said pastor David Uth. Spanish speakers can utilize a special phone number to call in and receive instant translation of the preaching.

The church’s food pantry has also been able to provide needed relief to evacuees.

Dover Shores Baptist is using its food pantry ministry to bless the Puerto Rican evacuees in addition to partnering with other local organizations to help the new comers find jobs, housing, I.D. cards and driver’s licenses.

Through the Grace Resource and Training Center, which is located within the church and staffed by church volunteers, Dover Shores is able to provide Spanish classes for English speakers and English classes for Spanish speakers, helping families overcome language barriers that may keep them from getting settled in their new country.

“We are just really getting started,” said lead pastor Jack Parrott. “We will be doing a lot more.”

Want to find out how other Florida Baptist churches are responding to the incoming Puerto Rican refugees? Click here.

By Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Convention, December 21, 2017

Several of FBC Kissimmee staff delivered the 400 gifts the church gave to Kissimmee, Central, Highlands & Flora Ridge Elementary Schools.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.