In 2014, Hurricane Ivan entered the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in Pensacola. He then traveled into the Carolinas and jumped back out into the Atlantic. The storm headed south and crossed the Florida peninsula before racing, once again, across the Gulf and making landfall in Texas. It was a nervous time for us along the Emerald Coast. Our church was in the eye of the storm and in the heart of the clean up. We had zeal but not much of a plan.
God spoke to me during the disaster relief phase: “You do not have to have a storm to do this work at all times.”
That was the word that lodged in my spirit and launched what is now known as The Ministry Village at Olive. With Matthew 25 as our guide, we began to see what God was calling us to do. Our vision was like a three-legged stool:
- It is right, and God commands us to do this kind of work.
- The need is acute. Hurting people are all around us.
- This is an avenue for scores of volunteers to get involved.
We started with food, because there are always hungry people. Each Fifth Sunday, our church brings grocery items to fill the pantry. Paying power bills is a big need. Each Christmas Eve we take an offering called “Keep the Lights On.” We use that money throughout the year to help with utilities. We discovered our area didn’t have a ladies’ shelter. We launched the Charis House for women, a residential program for those who are coming out of addiction. Not long ago, we built a facility for the Health and Hope Clinic. The newest piece is an early learning center for children.
The greatest challenge is keeping the gospel front and center. We must meet needs, but we are always aiming for the heart. Training volunteers to share the gospel is a key component. And when hurricane season rolls around in Northwest Florida, we are ready to go!
Published June 3, 2018