The name has changed, but the purpose of the Southeast Regional Center in Hialeah remains the same—to serve as a hub for Florida Baptists’ regional ministry, as well as New Orleans Theological Seminary’s extension center, North American Mission Board’s Send City emphasis and housing of mission volunteers.
The center, formerly known as the Urban Impact Center, is located in renovated buildings that once served as the facilities of First Baptist Church of Hialeah. The congregation continues to worship there, as do four other Miami-area churches throughout the week.
“The purpose of the Southeast Regional Center is to provide a strong collaborative presence by ‘standing right next’ to Florida Baptists’ multi-lingual churches, pastors and lay leaders in the Southeast Region,” explained Al Fernandez, Southeast regional catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention.
The multi-use facility serves as a training location for Florida Baptists in the southeast and houses the offices for the Convention’s multi-lingual personnel assigned to serve churches in the urban South Florida region.
Additionally, the facility offers classrooms, offices, library facilities and a student lounge for the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s extension center—all at no cost to the seminary. That includes rent, utilities, cleaning and security.
“We have 200 seminary students every week on the campus,” said Fernandez, which allows “us to build relationships and provide assistance when needed. “
“In many cases, these young men and women are serving our churches in South Florida and want to continue to minister here. The students believe God has called them to minister in Miami and the region. We are developing relationships that will be long-going and mutually beneficial,” Fernandez said.
The Convention provided $200,000 in funding in 2016 to underwrite the New Orleans network of theological education in the state. These funds will help all of the seminary’s theological education locations across the state, including South Florida’s.
“Florida Baptists are continuing to partner with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary,” said Fernandez, and “remain committed in the future.”
The regional center also serves as base for NAMB’s Send City efforts, providing office space for Send South Florida Missionary James Peoples. From that location, NAMB will conduct assessment and training for new church planters.
The SRC is often the site of conferences sponsored by the Convention, NAMB and International Mission Board designed to encourage global missional activities and multi-lingual conferences on church health. One recent disaster relief training offered instruction in three languages, perhaps the first of its kind.
“It’s a hub for mission work,” said Fernandez.
In recent years, NAMB and the Convention have worked cooperatively to renovate a building on the property as dormitory space for visiting mission groups working in the Miami area and South Florida. The facilities can sleep as many as 76 people and provides a kitchen and lounge area. It is a welcome relief for volunteers coming to minister in one of the most expensive cities in the nation.
The mission house proved invaluable to church planter Derek Allen as he used the facilities while launching Christ Centered Church in North Miami. Bringing in help from his home state, he housed 19 mission groups and 600 volunteers in the facilities in the early days of the church.
Other mission teams have used the housing facilities as they met the mission needs of Florida’s most highly populated urban area.
Not a week goes by when Florida Baptists are not using the SRC on a daily basis, Fernandez said.
By Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention, February 11, 2016