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Seeking Out the Hopeless

Florida multiethnic church intentionally targets the poor, homeless, and marginalized.

Struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, homeless Mike Patrick Lang found hope last year thanks to the helping hand of an Assemblies of God multiethnic church in the Orlando, Florida, area that ministers to the down and out.

Adherents of New Birth Church in Kissimmee approached Lang on a Sunday morning in February 2016 as he hung out with other homeless people. Team members gave Lang a hot meal and invited him to a church service.

From that moment forward my life was transformed, recalls Lang, 47. "That day at service I had never felt as much love and God's presence. I cried and surrendered my life to Christ.”

Since then, Lang says he no longer finds comfort in alcohol and drugs. Lang also is back living with relatives. He is one of many former indigents who have found “A Place of Hope” — the church's slogan — at New Birth.

Since New Birth launched in October 2015, over 40 homeless people have accepted Jesus as their Savior through church outreach efforts, according to Pastor Gabby Mejia. Many attendees still struggle with poverty, he says. But God called the church to be a “hope to the hopeless," according to Mejia, 46. 

Along those lines, the Hope Center — a ministry that assists the poor and the hurting through food distribution and housing assistance — opened less than a month after New Birth began. The Hope Center features areas for a food pantry, an apartment for families that find themselves with no place to live, and classrooms for New Birth's youth group. New Birth has partnered with the Florida Access Program, which opens the Hope Center's pantry to the community.

“We target the homeless, the poor, and the marginalized because we believe this is what Jesus would do,” Mejia explains. “Matthew 25:35 says; ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in.’ The homeless are anyone who doesn’t live in a home.”

The church's homeless ministry regularly hits the streets of Kissimmee — located in the shadows of Disney World. 

“We provide food and clothing, but, most importantly, we fellowship with our homeless community,” he says. “We do life with them, and our goal is to laugh and converse before we present the gospel of Jesus. People are receptive to Christ and the church when there’s a place of hope.”

Lang notes that such a ministry approach appealed to him.

“I was moved so much by God's mercy, love, and passion that I decided to be a part of New Birth,” he says. He completed membership classes required to serve in ministry and became active in the food pantry outreach, plus serving food to the homeless.

Mejia, who along with his wife, Petry, leads New Birth, says God has bestowed favor on the Hope Center.

“We have seen God open doors for us in our community,” Mejia says. Mayor-Commissioner Jose A. Alvarez asked him to sit on the Osceola County Commission on Homelessness.

Doug E. Clay, who takes over as AG general superintendent on Oct. 10, lauds Mejia for his efforts at engaging the unsaved.

“It is obvious that the ministries that he leads will have a strong emphasis on reaching the lost,” he adds. “Hope Center is a soul-saving center.”

Mejia says the greatest challenge facing the Hope Center/New Birth is a lack of resources and facilities. New Birth, which started with 38 people meeting in the Mejias' living room in September 2015, now draws an average of 650 people each Sunday. The church's youth ministry has an average attendance of 240 students on Friday nights. Additionally, New Birth Dallas began in January in Texas, and is attracting around 80 people for services. 

Eric Tiansay

Eric Tiansay has been a full-time journalist since 1993, writing articles for Christian media since 2000. He lives in central Florida, where he is an active member of an Assemblies of God church.