Every November, the many of the churches involved with Church United come together for Love South Florida to tangibly demonstrate what unity for the sake of missions looks like to the watching world.
Running November 1 – 30, Love South Florida (more commonly known as #LoveSFL) encourages local congregations to pray, give and serve their communities in an effort to display the love of God throughout South Florida.
Meeting tangible needs
Believing that prayer unites the church like nothing else, #LoveSFL begins in prayer for friends, co-workers, neighborhood and city. “As we pray throughout the month, we ask God to reveal tangible needs and opportunities to show his love,” said Pastor Virgil Sierra, of Vertical Church. However, prayer leads to action. Participating churches encourage their congregations to give $39 per-person and 3 pounds of food to meet tangible needs in their communities.
With #LoveSFL coming in the wake of two devastating hurricanes this year, a vast amount of the money and food collected was directed to local ministries providing Irma relief efforts. That $39 and 3 pounds of food added up to something big. Real big. However this story doesn’t stop with Irma.
Helping struggling schools
Six churches in East Fort Lauderdale teamed up to raise money to provide funding for an after-school program at Northside Elementary school in partnership with Firewall Centers. “Partnering with Church United opened the doors for us to serve students at North Side Elementary School a high-need under-resourced school in Fort Lauderdale. This partnership has allowed us to build a closer relationship with the Broward County school district as they are now considering bringing the Firewall program into additional struggling schools across the county” said Andy Fernandez, Founder and Executive Director of Firewall Centers.
But God’s people weren’t done yet. Every Saturday in November #LoveSFL volunteers representing dozens of area churches partnered with Rebuilding Together Broward County, The Home Depot Foundation, and the cities of Pompano, Dania and Fort Lauderdale for “Community Rebuild Days,” serving low-income homeowners in need. When it was all said and done, 24 homes were revitalized, along with the Dania Beach police station and two American legion buildings in honor of Veterans Day. In total, over 40,000 volunteer hours were logged, doubling the amount of last year!
These community revitalization projects were, at their core, demonstrating the heart of God’s kingdom. We came together to serve a community — to restore a block back to what it was always meant to be – a safe, beautiful and thriving collective of homes and neighbors.
Each #LoveSFL Rebuild Day represented a partnership between local government, corporate partners, nonprofits and the Church coming together to serve our community.
Doug Sauder, lead pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale put it this way: “Love South Florida is an important piece of the Church United story. It not only demonstrates the unity of churches, it elevates the name and witness of Jesus Christ throughout our community.”
Pompano Beach Commissioner Rex Hardin, said, “It’s really gratifying to see churches partner with nonprofits and the city to serve these neighborhoods. We can’t make the type of impact we’ve seen with these projects alone. Without the help of the Church, local nonprofits and volunteer groups, we won’t see neighborhood transformation.”
Jesus plea for the unity of believers in John 17 makes a compelling argument that the claims of our Christian faith are rooted in the uncommon love and generosity unity brings. Tim Keller, of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, once famously said, “The honor of Jesus Christ’s name is bound up in the quality of Christian community.” Love South Florida is a unique opportunity to demonstrate the heart of God and mission of His people to our friends, neighbors and community leaders.
However, our prayers, giving and service to our cities and neighborhoods doesn’t stop now that Love South Florida is over. At Church United we believe that the local church — the Church of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world and the hope of our neighborhoods. As churches continue to unite to own the pain, the lostness and the brokenness of our community, we’ll see faith, hope and love spread throughout South Florida.
If you missed Love South Florida this year, don’t worry. We have big plans for next year. Learn more at churchunited.city/lovesfl
Edwin Copeland serves as the Director of Church United with the National Christian Foundation of South Florida where he works to unify the church through collaboration and celebration to see faith, hope and love spread throughout South Florida.