JACKSONVILLE (FBC)— It was not exactly a tractor pull, but the celebration surrounding First Baptist Church of Sarasota’s gift of a semi tractor to the Florida Baptist Disaster Relief and Recovery stirred up just as much excitement.
Sunday, July 9, the church held a special dedication service and luncheon to present the tractor to the effort. “It is wonderful that we have the privilege of living in a place where we have the freedom to give,” said Bill Hild, pastor of First Baptist Church.
“Last year we were able to join hearts and hands with the Florida Baptist Convention to help with disaster relief,” explained Hild. “We had 100 of our people give of their time and we raised a quarter of a million dollars for relief efforts.”
For the past seven years the church has been participating in disaster relief. It is just one of the many mission efforts the church takes part in. They recently sent a mission group to Jamaica, sent their youth on mission to Houston, Texas, and are sponsoring a pastor in New Orleans. “When you share Christ in such a way, you never know the doors and hearts that are opened,” said Hild. “We are called to care like Christ.”
Hild said they learned of the need for a semi tractor to pull the largest feeding unit when volunteers from the church were serving among the disaster relief servers.
Pam Todd, a 40-year member of First Baptist Church, said the money raised for the vehicle came from, “wonderful people who have given incredible donations.” This included persons in the community who were moved by the devastation left by last year’s hurricane season and wanted to help.
The used semi tractor, purchased for $50,000, is the largest single donation made by any church to disaster relief, said Fritz Wilson, director of the Disaster Relief and Recovery Department of the Florida Baptist Convention. “This gift will allow us to magnify what we have been doing.”
“Thank you for helping us continue our ministry,” said Wilson at the church service where he was presented with the keys to the semi tractor. Florida Baptists’ relief efforts are composed of three Convention-supported employees and 3,000 trained volunteers.
The luncheon following the dedication ceremony was prepared and served by 30 of the church’s own disaster relief volunteers. Nearly 400 meals of rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans were served in the church fellowship hall. “There are very few meals that we cannot do,” said Wilson.
The feeding unit was hooked up to the new semi tractor and open for the congregation to come and survey their gift. As children and adults alike climbed throughout the large cab and peeked into the expansive trailer, volunteers stood close by answering questions and taking pictures.
“This has been a very active church and for the past few years they have provided a large number of volunteers. This is a natural extension for them,” said Wilson after the service.
“The real opportunity that drives us and moves us is the chance to open our hearts and show those in need the love of Christ,” said Hild. “The great joy we have is to tell people that Jesus really does make a difference.”
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