First Baptist Church Islamorada is living on mission at home and abroad through ministries in their own community and a partnership with Las Brisas Iglesia Bautista in Cuba.
Jonathan Elwing, pastor of FBC Islamorada, says that the church serves anywhere from 100 to 150 hot meals and 10 to 20 pounds of groceries every week. In addition to food, FBC Islamorada’s ministries include a clothing thrift store, free haircuts, and dental care through the Mobile Dental Unit of the Florida Baptist Convention (FBC). These ministries provide FBC Islamorada with significant opportunities to share Christ’s love and the Gospel.
“We are not a huge church,” said Elwing. “We average 75 every Sunday morning for worship.” Still, they do not allow numbers to discourage them from being on mission wherever God calls them.Since 2014, FBC Islamorada has also been going to Cuba twice a year. In 2015, FBC Islamorada partnered with a church in Las Brisas, right outside of Havana. FBC Islamorada also began a partnership with the Eastern Cuba Baptist Convention, being among the first churches to go on mission.
“After our first trip we expressed that we wanted to go back and we were partnered with Las Brisas,” said Elwig. “I talk with the pastor of Las Brisas at least twice a month, if not more. They pray for us and we pray for them.”
For the past five years, FBC Islamorada has traveled twice a year to assist the church in Las Brisas to lead community evangelism and help disciple their church members. It was during this time of partnership, that the Cuban church planted another 37 satellite churches.
“When we go, we preach every night or every other night. Last October, more than 50 people accepted Christ,” said Elwing. “Our [mission trip] goal is to leave the place better than when we found it, so we try to put our resources into the church and into the community.”
“These missions partnerships are important because God says they are,” said Al Fernandez, the FBC Southeast Regional Catalyst. “It’s how the local church gets personally involved in not only sending money to missions but actually going on mission. Based on my personal experience as a former pastor of a local Southern Baptist Convention church, I would encourage all churches to seek mission partnerships because it actually transforms and changes the lives of those who go. They come back with new sets of spiritual eyes on what can also be done in their home mission field.”