Florida church continues to reach marginalized during COVID-19 pandemic
When Winter Haven First Church of the Nazarene’s pastoral team and church board heard about the stay at home orders, they were quick to transition worship services and Sunday school lessons online. The more difficult decision was what to do with His Mission, a ministry to the marginalized residents of Winter Haven, Florida.
His Mission has been running for two decades, ministering to homeless and low-income families by feeding them meals and holding a worship service and Bible study twice a week. A shelter-in-place order was not feasible for many of those who attend His Mission.
“For many of these people without permanent shelter, the order to self-quarantine had little meaning,” said Wes Eby, the local Nazarene Missions International president. “Where would they eat? How would they get laundry done? Or take a shower?”
The ministry decided to carry out services as close to normal as possible while observing the recommendations of the CDC, the governor, and local government officials. They moved the services outside, physically distanced the chairs, and took the necessary food service precautions.
The church was able to form partnerships with a number of organizations and other churches to increase the ministry's services during a time in which its recipients are particularly affected. His Mission began serving meals daily on campus through increased food donations to the church. They have even brought a portable trailer onsite to provide shower and laundry services.
The church has been pleasantly surprised by how His Missions recipients are doing their part to assist others. A woman living in her car has given cash donations twice out of gratitude for what she has been given.
“As serious and devastating as COVID-19 is, it has brought new people to church, souls who need the gospel message of hope, and has forged new partnerships in the community for serving the marginalized,” said Pastor Tom Whitesides. “Truly, God has graciously given Winter Haven Nazarene the new opportunities to minister to the ’least of these’ in His name.”