For the last three years, Church United has rallied churches across our community to “Love South Florida” during the month of November. What began with a “what if we…” idea, has now blossomed into a cornerstone event that tangibly demonstrates what’s possible when God’s people pray, give and serve together.
Drawing over 60 churches this year, Love South Florida was able to partner with the cities of Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Pompano Beach, along with dozens of organizations and businesses, with one common goal in mind: to demonstrate the love and hope of Jesus Christ throughout South Florida.
Love South Florida begins and ends in prayer. Kicking off with a call to pray for our friends, neighbors, co-workers and cities throughout the month, each day of the week began a different emphasis and suggested prayer framework.
“Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God while living a life of prayer. Kingdom thinking and kingdom advancement only come through kingdom prayer. A celebrity culture within the church and the promotion of individual works will give way to true gospel unity and the exaltation of Christ as kingdom prayer increases. And when Christ is exalted He renews everything. Love South Florida is a small preview of that renewal” said Rev. Brian Brookins of Riverside Church in North Lauderdale.
However this emphasis on prayer is not only for Love South Florida, it’s foundational to the entire Church United movement – it’s the fuel that will carry the vision of seeing South Florida become known as a place of faith, hope and love over the next 30 years.
A suggested donation of three pounds of food and $39 per person adds up to something big. Real big. Participating churches partnered with exceptional ministries, nonprofits and local schools to see South Florida become a more just and merciful place. Owning the pain and brokenness of the region requires sacrifice and the giving aspect of Love South Florida is a small, tangible reminder of that. When added together, dollars were multiplied and leveraged to do things like bless needy families, provide housing for single mothers, put thanksgiving meals around hungry tables, and provide literacy and educational programs in underserved schools.
Meet Cassandra and her family. Through the generosity that was unleashed during Love South Florida, Cassandra will finally realize her dream of home ownership as she prepares to live in the “Church United House” through Habitat for Humanity. A generous donor from within a local congregation came forward to donate $40,000 of the $80,000 needed to build Cassandra a new home and a #LoveSFL church stepped up to raise the difference.
“Homeownership is important to me and my family because it makes us stronger and better as a family together,” said Cassandra. Now that she has been accepted into Habitat Broward’s homeownership program, her dream will become a reality. Stories like these are made possible, $39 at-a-time.
A challenge of serving at least three hours of time during the month of November put hands and feet to Love South Florida. From delivering turkeys to every single door of a needy neighborhood to throwing a teacher appreciation party for faculty of a local school, “we serve God by serving others,” said Rev. John Jones, of First Baptist Church Fort Lauderdale.
“Everyone has lots of thoughts and differences on a bunch of things within the Church, but there is one thing everyone agrees with: coming together, loving our community, helping people solve their problems and make the city more beautiful. We’re so excited that we get to do this alongside other churches and bless these families and be blessed by them,” said Rev. Matt Lomenick, of Rio Vista Community Church, as he and his church took part in one of three neighborhood revitalization days. Partnering alongside Rebuilding Together Broward County and the Home Depot, churches rallied to help vulnerable families and veterans stay in their homes and beautify their neighborhood.
“Love South Florida is so impactful to our neighborhoods. We have a large number of our residents who are vulnerable and elderly who do not have the income or resources to make needed repairs on their homes. What may seem like a simple project such as painting a house, landscaping a yard or fixing broken sink wouldn’t be possible without Love South Florida volunteers,” said Aretha Wimberly, Community Liaison Officer for Broward County.
As we serve together we are reminded that our identities as sons and daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords supersedes our identities as members of a local church. When we serve in Jesus’ name, we’re elevating the name and fame of Christ to the watching world. And the world is watching.
“After everything that happened at our school, Church United was a group that we could depend on and that has helped carry us through this extremely difficult time” said Sandy Davis, a teacher at Stoneman Douglas High School, as she served alongside her principal, fellow staff members, 50+ students and local church volunteers at Love South Florida serve day.
At the end of the day, prayer, giving, and service are all hallmarks of what it means to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ. Love South Florida is a small piece of a larger story that is unfolding in South Florida — an uncommon story of churches coming together to spread faith, hope and love together. Unity for the sake of mission isn’t a tagline, it’s an essential apologetic for our friends, neighbors, co-workers and city. Visit churchunited.city for more information.
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.