Florida Baptists respond to Orlando’s influx of Puerto Rican Refugees

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Florida Baptists respond to Orlando’s influx of Puerto Rican Refugees (Spanish version).

“The Florida Baptist Convention is excited to partner with the churches in the Central Florida region as they respond to the needs of the Puerto Rican community moving into the area,” said Dr. Tommy Green, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention (FBC).

Approximately 300,000 Puerto Ricans are expected to arrive in Florida in the coming months as a result of the damage wreaked by hurricanes Irma and Maria in the island nation.

Most of the influx is happening through the Orlando International Airport which means that most Puerto Rican evacuees are currently calling the Central Florida region home.

Myles Dowdy, director of FBC’s Missions and Ministry, is leading this response effort by coming alongside churches as they minister to new arrivals.

“We are helping churches by giving them resources to help set up ministries of assistance to the Puerto Ricans,” he said.

One hundred percent of all contributions to the FBC (earmarked for the Puerto Rico effort) will go directly to Florida Baptist churches as they respond to the needs of refugees and establish other churches.

The FBC is working in conjunction with the Greater Orlando Baptist Association and the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention in this response effort.

“People movements are Gospel movements,” said Emanuel Roque, Hispanic church ministry catalyst, adding that if churches can claim just [10 percent] of the total number of Puerto Ricans for Christ, it would be a significant number of new believers.

“This is a result of a crisis but I see it as an opportunity,” said Dowdy. “God is the only One that can make good come out of something like this.”

Already churches in Central Florida are helping Puerto Rican families in their vicinity.

At Iglesia Casa de Bendicion, where pastor David Perez is pastor, family members of church members have started coming to church services and other churches like Templo Biblico Bautista, pastored by Jose Cardona, are responding to the clothing needs of the new arrivals by donating clothes.

Hispanic churches will play a key role, said Roque and Dowdy, as they are poised to make cultural connections. But other non-Hispanic churches are already positioned to help like First Baptist Church in Orlando and First Baptist Church in Kissimmee who are both offering Spanish language worship services and Sunday school classes.

Churches who want to get involved should contact FBC’s Missions and Ministry group or Emanuel Roque.

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, January 11, 2018

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