Providence Road Church lifting Christ high in ‘the gateway to the Americas’
Aug 4, 2014
By BARBARA DENMAN
Florida Baptist Convention
MIAMI (FLBaptist)—Sometimes when people set foot in Miami for the first time, they wonder if they are still in the United States, according to Jose Abella, pastor of Providence Road Church there.
And it’s no wonder.
In the city of 5.6 million people, half were born in other countries. Two-thirds of Miami’s residents are Hispanic; 18 percent are African-American; and 15 percent are Anglo. In the area’s schools, 180 languages are spoken.
“Miami is a diverse area—a lot of cultures there. It’s a big melting pot, a hodgepodge of different people,” said Alex Comesañas, pastor of community groups and member care at Providence Road Church.
“Miami is international,” agreed Abella.
It’s a fact that fuels his evangelistic passion.
“And the Gospel is international. It is for everybody. It really is a burning desire to see Christ lifted high in our city.”
Behind the bright lights of the international city are millions of people who are spiritually blind. Behind the flaunted wealth are people who are spiritually impoverished. Behind the water as far as the eye can see are people who are thirsting for Living Water.
“The lostness in Miami is incredible,” said Abella.
An estimated 95 percent of Miami residents are unchurched.
About four years ago, Abella, who grew up in a home where only Spanish was spoken, sensed God’s call to church planting in Miami, a city nicknamed “the gateway to the Americas.” He soon left a well-paying job, and with a team of two other ministers, Comesañas and Jesse Crowley, planted Providence Road Church.
Such a church-planting commitment is the key to reaching unchurched Miami residents, according to Al Fernandez, director of Florida Baptists’ Urban Impact Ministries.
As the second-most unchurched city in the United States, Miami is one of 30 key North American cities included in the North American Mission Board’s “Send North America” evangelistic church planting strategy.
“There could never be too many churches in Miami,” said Abella.
The Send North America goal is to start 169 churches in Miami over a five-year period.
For the past three-and-a-half years, Abella and his team have been making inroads into meeting Miami residents and sharing the Gospel.
Because of the area’s diversity, the young church, with members from at least 15 different nations, offers two Sunday morning worship services. One service is completely in Spanish, and the other is completely in English. Each Sunday morning, approximately 200 people gather to worship.
In the summer of 2013, with financial assistance from the Maguire State Mission Offering and hands-on help from a student mission team from Nebraska, the church held two vacation Bible schools—one at its church facility and the other in a local park.
|REACHING OUT In 2013, more than 100 children attended a vacation Bible school held by Providence Road Church in a local Miami park. The urban day camp was underwritten by by Maguire State Mission Offering funds. FLBaptist photo|
More than 100 children attended the vacation Bible school in the local park, geographically close to the church but miles away culturally and economically.
On the Friday evening of that week, the church sponsored a Christian concert in the park, capped off with a Gospel presentation.
“The Maguire funds helped us do a much better job (with this summer outreach) than we ever thought possible,” said Jesse Crowley, pastor of worship and missions at Providence Road.
As a result of the outreach, the three ministers and numerous church members can now stroll through the park, in a high-violence, low-income area, and know the people they are seeing.
“They know us, and it can only go forward from there,” said Abella.
“It’s an awesome opportunity to reach out to the entire world with the Gospel.”
Beyond the faces they now recognize, the ministers understand, “If you reach Miami, your reach is far greater,” as Miami residents take the Gospel message back to their homelands, believes Abella.
“When you’re ministering to someone in Miami, you’re not only ministering to that person, but you’re ministering to their family in other countries. It’s a springboard to every nation, from Russians to South Americans. It goes out everywhere,” agreed Comesañas, who also serves dually as the Send Miami Coordinator.
The visionary pastor dreams of Providence Road being “a church that is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, a church for every age, every social status, every race.”
Although the outward differences may be obvious, he said, “What we have in common is Jesus.”
That kind of church, according to Abella, “is a reflection of our city and a reflection of heaven.”
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