Florida ministry center impacting hundreds thanks to new vans
Lakeland, Florida - When Francisco Ayala packed up his van to help the nearby community of Mulberry, Florida, after Hurricane Irma, he was unknowingly sowing seeds for a compassionate ministry that is now impacting hundreds in the Lakeland area.
Ayala is the pastor of Nuevo Comienzo Church of the Nazarene in Lakeland, Florida, which houses Nuevo Comienzo Compassionate Ministries. Through a partnership with Humana, a medical insurance company, the center was able to obtain two industrial vans in December, allowing them to double the amount of food they serve and to provide more services at their ministry center.
“If there’s anyone out there that has that desire in their heart to start a food pantry or resource center, go ahead and do it,” Ayala said. “Because once you start working and providing for people, God will open up the doors so that you receive what you need because we started with nothing.”
After Hurricane Irma in 2017, Ayala and his team continued to serve Mulberry, starting with grocery bags and hygiene kits. It morphed into Ayala and his team helping to open an access office to help people with food stamp applications. They even partnered with an immigration lawyer to help members of the community make sure their immigration paperwork was up to date.
As the ministry grew, the team dreamed of expanding their services into Lakeland. Ayala went to his church and asked about creating a compassionate ministry. They were 100 percent behind it.
Nuevo Comienzo provides a host of services outside of its food pantry and meal services. They assist with immigration services, furniture and bedding, family counseling, creating resumes, job searches, financial aid, tutoring, English as a second language classes (ESL), and even a basic computer literacy class.
These services have helped hundreds of people since 2017. Recently, a homeless man named Tyrone* lost his wallet. He asked the center for help in getting his documents back, so he could try to get a job. One day, Tyrone approached Ayala’s daughter, Marilyn, who is the assistant director, and told her he had a job interview the next day. She gave him a hygiene kit and some interview tips.
“The following week he came back super excited because they hired him and he thanked my daughter so much because he was able to go clean-shaven and fresh,” Ayala said. “Now, he has his own place.”
Ayala says the center is for people like Tyrone and the many others that have come through.
“We thank God for everything that we have and that He continues to bring our way,” Ayala said. “This started out of a hurricane that hit a city, and now it’s not only locally (in Mulberry and Lakeland) but sometimes we go out into the Orlando area, which is an hour away. They call us, and say, ‘Hey, we need some help over here,’ and we go because where God opens the door for us to go and help, that’s where we’re going to go.”
To learn more about Nuevo Comienzo and their services, visit their Facebook page.
*Full name omitted for privacy