MIAMI– Nueva Esperanza–New Hope Ministries–is bringing people to Christ through its food distribution ministry.
Pastor Jose Garcia helped the church grow through weekly food giveaways to Miami’s low income Allapattah neighborhood. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the need among residents, and the church responded, supplying additional food almost daily.
Working hand in hand with the Florida Baptist Convention, the bivocational pastor also provided his warehouse as a distribution point for food to other Florida Baptist churches. The outreach has led to hundreds of professions of faith, and Garcia baptized 30 new believers in recent days.
The food boxes that arrived in South Florida were available for needy families through a partnership between the Florida Baptist Convention, the state of Florida, and private food corporations, all of which sent multiple tractor-trailers loaded with thousands of meal kits for Florida Baptist churches to deliver in their communities. Churches loaded the food boxes onto trucks at a warehouse Garcia owns.
“Churches with ongoing food ministries have been very thankful for the boxes,” said Marc Johnston, Florida Baptists’ community ministries catalyst. “Many of their pantries have been depleted and with the number of hungry persons increasing, their sources for food have been decreasing. Some churches are using the contents to provide backpack lunches for out-of-school children.”
Garcia began the food distribution ministry shortly after moving to the church’s Allapattah location in 2016. He was aware of the need in the community, and when he found out about Farm Share, he saw an opportunity to meet a need. Farm Share is a food bank that distributes surplus food free of charge to churches and other organizations that feed the hungry.
Garcia, who runs a cargo business, also distributes bakery items donated by Publix grocery stores to section 8 apartments during the week.
“We want to share with them that our church is here,” he said.
The bags of food, distributed by Garcia and volunteers from his church and business, contain items like chicken, ham, pasta, vegetables and fruits, as well as canned goods.
“Some people have shared that they’ve been able to live off of one bag of food for a week or two,” said Ryan Garcia, Jose’s son and the church’s associate pastor.
“This is the tool God has given us and we’re being obedient,” Jose Garcia said. “The first time we did it we were only able to distribute 26 bags but the last time we did it we passed out 520 bags.”
As the ministry has grown, so has the church.
“We started with 17 people meeting in my abuela’s (grandmother’s) house,” Ryan Garcia said.
The church now averages between 60 and 70 people each Sunday.
“[This ministry] has helped the church grow and be known as a church of love,” said Jose Garcia, adding that many of those who attend on Sundays connected with the church through the food ministry.
As of Nov. 23, nearly 700 Florida Baptist churches have delivered sustenance, hope and love while distributing 8,216,000 meals valued at $31,631,027 to communities facing hunger, unemployment and health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, these churches have reported 1,055 professions of faith in Jesus Christ, according to Myles Dowdy, missions and ministries lead catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, which spearheaded the massive relief effort across the state. The food distributions will continue throughout the remainder of the year.