Each February, the primarily senior adult congregation of Lake Shore Baptist Church in Jacksonville dedicates a week to wrapping loving arms around their Westside community.
Anchored by the Florida Baptist Convention’s mobile dental unit, the 200-member congregation for the sixth consecutive year spent the week of Feb. 15-19 offering elder source care for seniors, a clothes closet and food pantry, vision screenings and AARP tax preparers to help their neighbors calculate and file their income taxes.
“We want to make known our presence in our community and let people know that we love them and can help them if they need help,” said Anna Guy, women’s missions and ministries director for the church who also serves as president of the Florida Women’s Missions and Ministries/Mission Education organization.
“Ultimately our goal is for people to be saved.”
Although the congregation is aging, Guy said, “We are still obedient to God, not just sitting in the pew. We are still saints that have much to contribute to God’s Kingdom.”
The church property during the week of Feb. 15-19 was a hub of activity as multiple community outreach efforts joined forces and “circled the wagons” with high-tech vans in the parking lot. Prayer warriors roamed the grounds to discover needs of the people God had sent their way and opportunities to share their faith. Bibles and tracts were distributed.
More than 50 members volunteered their time and efforts during this special week they call “Love in Action.”
The church collaborates closely with St. Vincent’s Healthcare, which sent its Mobile Health Outreach Ministry to bring fully staffed doctors-offices-on-wheels to the church. The program is managed by Stella Mouzon, a registered nurse who holds a master in science in health care and wife of Lake Shore pastor Steve Mouzon.
Together, she and Guy cultivate and tap into local community resources to extend the church’s ministry to its diverse, lower middle income neighborhood.
During the week, 17 volunteer dentists and their assistants with the Convention’s Mobile Dental Unit treated 169 patients with basic dental needs. The unit, a renovated bus equipped with two operatories– dentistry chairs, equipment and accessories–travels to Florida Baptist churches for a week of serving the uninsured that fall below the 200 percent poverty level.
Along with the dental treatment, vitals are tested, including pulse, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
“Our goal is to have a dental patient in that chair every minute,” said Mouzon.
As patients waited for treatment, church members engaged them in conversation and showed evangelistic movies.
“The health department told me about this church,” said Beatrice Scartling, while sitting in the church’s makeshift waiting room “Without dental insurance the only treatment I could find was for children. Without this church I would have to endure this pain.”
“I am grateful, this is such a blessing to find such warmth and people who care,” added an unemployed Calvin Davis.
Another group of volunteers staff the church’s food pantry and clothing closet. On other weeks, the ministry is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, helping as many as 40 families a day. Last year, the volunteers served 12,000 needy persons.
The food pantry exists on donations and subsidies from local grocery stores, said the director Linda Saunders. But often the volunteers themselves buy the food that is distributed each week.
“We serve a lot of veterans–mainly men—single parents with children and many people who are out of work,” said Saunders
At the conclusion of the week, two persons accepted Christ through the church’s ministry and 70 persons received prayer.
Love in Action is just one of many ministries church members offer throughout the year to reach their community. They partner with two local schools and provide weekend meals for students and personal items when the school year begins. Their annual vacation Bible school touches lives of dozens of single-parent children who otherwise may never hear of God any other way.
“We are his hands, we are his feet,” said Guy. “But our main purpose is to share the gospel. We believe we are planting seeds, praying someone else will water and harvest.”
By Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention