Florida Baptists partner to help displaced children

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Iglesia Bautista Northside in Hialeah is known as a church “que practica el amor” or in English: “A church that practices love.” And through their partnership with His House Children’s Home, they are living up to their motto.

Four months ago, the church welcomed about 90 teenaged boys and girls from His House International to Sunday worship and have continued to do so every Sunday since.

“This was a blessing we were not expecting,” said Alberto Ocaña, Northside’s pastor.

A former member of the church who is also an employee at the organization arranged for the group to meet at Northside for worship.

“Before they used to visit a different house of worship every Sunday, but the staff has felt welcomed here and the children have pushed to continue coming,” said Ocaña.

His House Children’s Home is a private non-profit, faith-based organization dedicated to providing a safe, home-like environment to minors in state custody. Through His House International, the organization also cares for unaccompanied minors who have fled their home countries due to homelessness, gang violence, economic hardship and abuse.

The boys and girls who attended worship on Sunday at Northside came from Central and South American countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador and Bolivia. Some have faith backgrounds but many do not. So when the group arrived, the church quickly moved to start two new Sunday school classes to accommodate them and minister to their specific spiritual needs.

“They have been through an incredible journey to get to this country,” said Noel Morera, Sunday school teacher to the His House boys; “and my main focus is to share Christ and His love with them.” Already 10 boys and 5 girls have been baptized.

One of the questions Morera is asked most often is “why am I in this situation.” It is certainly a difficult question to answer, but Morera has found that by walking them through the book of Acts, their anxieties are comforted as they learn about the hardships the apostles also faced. “For some sleeping has been difficult because they have many worries so I tell them that God is in control and that has helped them.”

“One of the challenges we’ve faced has been classroom space,” said Ocaña. “The boys currently meet for class in the gazebos and the girls are in an air-conditioned classroom and we’ve also purchased 100 new foldable chairs to provide seating for them.”

The Florida Baptist Convention has come alongside the church with a grant to help cover the cost of serving hot lunch to the group every Sunday.

“Pastor Ocaña showed me the ministry to these children [and] it was really touching to see how the church embraced them,” said Al Fernandez, Southeast Regional Catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention. “Not only did they embrace them but they also fed them.”

The result of the outpouring of love from the church into the His House boys and girls is hard to imagine, continued Fernandez. “They might stay or go back to their countries but their lives have been forever changed by the Gospel.”

By Keila Diaz, Florida Baptist Convention, July 31, 2018

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