Number 40 is highly relevant in the Bible,” said Joel Barrios, senior pastor of the Forest City Hispanic Church in Orlando, Florida, in one of his sermons at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. He referred to several cases, among which was the recounting of Jesus fasting in the desert before the temptations. Barrios showed how spending time alone with God prepared Jesus for what was to come in his ministry. He urged the members to take quarantine pause time to have a full approach with God.
The worldwide pandemic changed many perspectives in all areas of life, es- pecially the spiritual aspect. The Forest City Hispanic Church had started a new worship structure about a month prior to the global tragedy. Attempting to go beyond form, they focused on the principles of worship. The members were working on their personal relationship with Jesus, and the ties among members were strengthened, as well as their sense of mission. Though unaware, they were in a warm-up process for what the world would experience a few weeks later.
When the pandemic began, many people lost their jobs and the churches wondered what would happen with the tithes and offerings. The pastoral team decided not to preach about the subject. They simply lifted Christ, and Christ did the work. They have a strong media ministry that reaches audiences around the world. During the pandemic, a two-month unbroken chain of prayer was organized, joined by people from many countries. It was exciting to see viewers from faraway places engaging in this experience. The worship meetings and devotionals had audiences of thousands, thirsty to hear from Jesus. People from other states who had come into contact with the church through the media ministry traveled from afar to be baptized in Forest City. The Sabbath School cells became solid building blocks of study, prayer, and help to others. This resulted in financial fidelity, and despite the possible prognosis that the situation could pronounce, the tithes and offerings were returned faithfully, reaching sums greater than before. God does amazing things when His people humble themselves, pray, and seek His face.
With a membership of 1,500, they were blessed to find property three years ago, with three buildings at an affordable price. They are located on a 40-acre lot facing a lake. In one of the buildings, there is a school that houses 200 children, the other corresponds to the temple, and the third remained empty after being damaged by three hurricanes. At the end of 2019, because of the tremendous growth the online ministry was experiencing, they decided by faith to begin restoration work in the empty building. The plan was to have an evangelism and discipleship training center, and eventually a media and broadcast center. The target was to raise $90,000. The project is led by one of the team’s pastors, Douglas Osorio, a man of great vision and commitment. They requested a special offering for this purpose. They expected to collect no more than $30,000 based on the results of previous collections. By God’s grace, they raised $60,000.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Barrios, together with the pastoral team, met to re-evaluate the project. Due to the circumstances, it was possible that they would have to stop it for the time being. However, they decided to move forward by faith. God does not depend on circumstances. “If everything progresses,” they said, “we will be happy to know that it was God and only God who carried this project forward.” With this in mind, the team gathered at the building and prayed that God manifested Himself. A few days later, the church received a donation of $40,000.
The Evangelism and Discipleship Center is now complete and ready to be used when sanitary protocols allow. In the area where they were going to locate the media center, they are evaluating the possibility of relocating the day care. “Let it be what God decides,” they said. They are sure that He is at the head of this project and that is the only thing that matters.
Jesus promised that all we ask in His name to the Father, will be granted. He also said we have to ask His will to be done. What a blessed assurance! He will do the best for us, not because we are faithful, but because He is.
Stewardship | November 2020