Pastoral Bonds Pay Dividends In The Wake of Surfside Tragedy

Darren Bennett Pastor, Calvary Chapel North Miami
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Just a little over three years ago I had the privilege of starting a relationship with a seasoned, kind, loving and selfless pastor. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I reached out to him via Facebook messenger, and he was quick to reply back with his cell phone number. We set up a lunch date at Grand Lux Café in Aventura Miami. After we sat and talked for four hours, what started next would be the beginning of a beautiful Spiritual father and son relationship.

Over the course of the next few years, my family and I would go on to launch Calvary Chapel North Miami, and Pastor Robert Fountain would play an instrumental role in the process as he continued to take moments out of his life and ministry to pour into me for several hours every time we sat down for lunch. The wisdom and the knowledge as well as the shepherd heart pastor Robert lent me during my season of planting was invaluable and immensely helpful. He would often share many crazy stories recounting his 30+ years of ministry experience in Miami. You see, Miami is often considered a “church planting graveyard” because so many church plants have tried and failed in the unique postmodern context. Yet for the past 30 years Calvary Chapel Miami Beach has been thriving because of the simplicity of teaching God’s word simply by way of a very simple man who simply loves Jesus.


Tragedy strikes in Surfside

Fast forward now three years to Thursday, June 24th. Tragedy would strike Miami Beach’s Surfside community. Calvary Chapel Miami Beach just so happens to be minutes away from where the Champlain Building collapsed. I can remember hearing about this sad occurrence after coming out of a counseling session that morning. My phone would not stop ringing and text messages continued buzzing in my pocket. Several pastors and church leaders were calling to find out how they could help.

By the grace of God, through the relationship that has been established over three years by way of two churches uniting together through a spiritual father and a spiritual son relationship, I was able to tap into that relational equity with our sister church, Calvary Chapel Miami Beach, which is a separate standalone church, independent of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. In other words, I knew the Churches of our community needed to respond in some way or another, but I personally didn’t know what to do as I was still in shock.

Pastor Robert Fountain just so happened to be on summer vacation out of the country, so I called his administrative assistant Erica. Erica had already sprang into action with her Calvary Chapel Miami Beach family by coordinating ways of putting boots on the ground to serve the first responders that were working tirelessly on the tragic site. With the absence of pastor Robert and after talking with his staff, I then realized exactly where my little church Calvary Chapel North Miami could lend assistance. We’d have an opportunity to provide more pastoral and chaplaincy presence on the ground as well as help coordinate ongoing prayer efforts and vigils – and that’s exactly what we did. 


Churches collaborate to serve 

Tania Andre, Brenda, and Sergio Leguisamo, from Calvary Chapel North Miami, pray in surfside following the collapse.

Over the course of the past several days Our church (CCNM) has been able to unite and collaborate with Calvary Chapel Miami Beach (CCMB) to mobilize our church members, show love, support, prayerful and pastoral presence at a time they (CCMB) needed it most.

So, what’s the hook here you might be asking…I’ll answer that by asking my own question. What would the broader Church look like if more wise and seasoned pastors were as responsive to younger, less experienced leaders like me as pastor Robert Fountain was? What type of wisdom can be gained if younger, up-and-coming pastors were actually willing to reach out to the more seasoned pastors? Perhaps what might come of it is the unity and beauty of a deep, God glorifying “spiritual father” to “spiritual son” relationship. Or in other words, collaboration that’s built on wisdom, trust and mutual friendship.


Building relationship pays dividends

The relationship pastor Robert and I formed would pay dividends on both sides as Pastor Robert was a key component of shepherding me in a season of personal crisis, the tragic and sudden death of my brother in 2020 to COVID-19. That was undoubtedly the hardest season of my life, yet pastor Robert was there for me in more ways than he may ever realize.  

Perhaps those relational dividends would then spill into a catastrophic occurrence on Surfside just moments away from Pastor Robert’s church. God would providentially put me in position to reciprocate the love I was given in my crisis by showing that same love to my spiritual father and his church who are currently, as I type this, navigating their community through crisis. 

Do you see where I am getting at? Two churches that were united by genuine relationship were able to tap into that bond of relational unity in two different moments of crisis when they both needed it the most. How was that possible? We didn’t view each other as competition or as a threat to one another. We viewed the region’s lostness, pain and brokenness as a mission that was beyond any single church or leader. It was our shared mission – a mission that requires a collaboration that’s rooted in relationship. That dear friends is what Church United looks like.


If you or your church are interested in learning more about how to respond to the Surfside disaster, please visit

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