Amigos Center

Posts Categorised: Church

 

        As we all get back into the norms of life, we all have time and peace of mind to look back over the past few weeks.  Before the storm there was a roller coaster of uncertainty. Early in the week, it looked like Southwest Florida was in the dead center of the dreaded “cone”.  As the week progressed, the “cone” shifted east, and we breathed a sigh of relief, but continued to prepare, just in case.  Then the realization that the storm was shifting west again, and had the potential to pass just off our coast, resulting in wind damage, but also catastrophic storm surge.  We watched with incredulous horror as this huge storm of historic proportions decimated several Caribbean islands, including St. Martin. The images coming from those islands were heartbreaking, and we worried:  would Irma do the same to OUR home?

        Like many of you, our family scrambled to prepare our home and property.  As the week progressed, we became more and more concerned, as there was NO plywood to be had anywhere, and we worried about several vulnerable windows.  We prepared as well as we could:  trimming bushes and trees and securing anything that could not be brought inside.  All the while, there was an overlying worry: how were we going to protect our windows?  However, God, in His power and goodness, was at work.  On Friday evening before the storm we still had no plywood for our windows, but around 7pm, there was a knock on the door, and there was one of our neighbors, offering several sheets of his leftover plywood.  Another neighbor had another extra sheet of plywood as well.

Thanks be to God!  On Saturday, we boarded up what we could, and tried to get everything ready to ride out the storm.  We kept a close eye on storm surge predictions, and when the worst-case scenario had our area under 6 FEET of water, we decided that it would be safer to evacuate.  That left us with a dilemma, since it was such a last-minute decision. Should we just go to Immokalee? Or north toward Orlando? Or to the east side of the state? We worried about traffic jams and lack of gasoline if we tried to go too far. Once again, God provided. After some online searching and some phone calls, we were able to locate a hotel room in Fort Lauderdale. We arrived at the hotel just as the weather was starting to turn ugly, and then learned that they had been booked for weeks. A room opened up, literally as we were looking.

      Later, someone commented that we picked a good hotel because it is a hurricane rated building.  I told them I didn’t pick it; it was the only one available.  It was a surreal experience, sitting in a hotel room with no power, and a tropical storm raging outside the window, while we streamed the live news on our phones and watched the eye of the storm pass right over our neighborhood.  We prayed, (a lot!) and took comfort in God’s promises:

        Psalm 46:1-3,  “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”

        As we left our house on Saturday afternoon, we honestly did not know what, if anything, we would be returning to.  We tried to trust in God, and at the same time be mentally prepared for the possibility of losing our house and everything in it.  When our neighbor texted us, during the eye of the storm, to let us know that our house was standing, with only minor damage, we wept with relief and thanked God for His protection.  We returned on Monday after the storm to find a big tree down in our yard, some damage to the roof, but overall, our house was fine.

 

On Tuesday, I went out to Immokalee to check on members of the church, and the Amigo Center’s staff and volunteers. Thanks be to God: no one was hurt.  Yes, they had damage their homes: to porches, siding and screen rooms but everyone was ok.  The next day, Wednesday, Harry Chapin Food Bank sent a truck to Immokalee with water and MREs.  After almost 200 families were served, Collier County workers arrived with a truck filled with water and more food.  By the end of Saturday, one week after the storm, about 1,000 families were given food or a hot meal through the Red Cross in our parking lot.  Time and time again, people told us that they had damage to their homes or yards, but invariably, they were thankful that they were safe; that their lives had been spared.

 

The next week, the volunteers worked every day, serving over 300 families per day. In addition, 1,000 hot meals were served through Friday. I received an almost constant stream of phone calls and text messages from all over the country, offering donations of food, clothing and supplies.  Once again, God was at work through many people, making His love and grace known.   On Sunday after worship, a family arrived with a van filled with clothing, food, and personal hygiene supplies. A short time later, a semi arrived from

Michigan, filled with donated water and diapers.  With the help of a forklift, (and driver), graciously loaned to us by Grass Roots Kitchen, pallet after pallet was unloaded from the semi trailer and dropped in the parking lot. Then came the work of transferring everything into the Amigos Center lobby.  In case you’re wondering, a pallet of bottled water is HEAVY, even with the help of a pallet jack!  Thanks to the help of many volunteers who were willing to do a fair amount of heavy lifting, we were able to move all of the donated goods into the Center.

 

Our volunteers have worked hard, organizing the donated supplies and helping with distribution to hundreds of people. We are continuing twice weekly food distributions throughout the month of October. However, we are also focusing on church members and community members who have had severe damage to their homes; many have been deemed uninhabitable, and others have significant damage to the structure or contents.  Some homes sustained flood damage, and others had water damage to the interior and contents because of roof leaks or broken windows.  I have been working on identifying needs and locating assistance for these families.

 

        As I look back over the past month, I am humbled and awed by the many demonstrations of God’s grace and power.  Of course, there is the obvious; the storm itself, an awesome and terrible display of God’s power in nature.  God’s providence has been shown in abundance, before, during and after the storm, in answered prayers, in neighbors helping neighbors, and in the generosity shown by so many people.  God truly is good, and His power is made perfect in weakness as He says.  We were all “weak” in the days after the storm; no electricity, limited or no cell service, no internet, wondering how we were going to ever get our lives back to normal. But time and time again, God provides.  Thanks be to God!

What a good and gracious God we have, even in the midst of the recent storms! This is the God of whom the Psalmist sang, “made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed” Ps. 107:25. Hurricane Irma is history, but her effects will be long felt.

Here is just a little insight as to the effects Irma has had on the Amigos Center and Southwest Florida.

Bonita Springs Amigos Center office damage

Sad to say, we did not fair too well at the Amigos Center in Bonita Springs. It is now wet, moldy and in need of rehab before it can open again.  We put two tarps over it to mitigate any further rain damage and packed most things up in preparation for a move to another facility.   We still need to remove the wet carpets and ceiling tiles. Thankfully, all of the electronics at this facility are still in good working order.  The building now has electricity, but no telephone/internet.

I don’t know yet where we will be able to reopen, however, Lyndsay and Evelyn have returned to work this past Monday. They expect to begin seeing clients sometime next week.  This is important as the DACA renewals must be done by October 5, so it is urgent that we reopen in some temporary place ASAP.

Our Amigos Center in Fort Myers was infested with mold, due to the recent weather. Property Restoration was working to address these problems and now we are functioning normally at this facility.

Our Amigos Center in Immokalee weathered the storm well.  Pastor Selle and his family stayed there during the hurricane.  Electricity has finally been restored and there are some new leaks in the roof.  No other damage to building itself.

Pastor Selle and his family waiting out the storm in Immokalee

However, one tree fell and broke one of our outdoor light poles and smashed the fence.  Karl and volunteers opened this past Wednesday morning to allow Harry Chapin to distribute water, ice and MREs for those in and around Immokalee who were in need.  They have opened several times in order to assist further.

We have lots of people calling and wanting to donate items and are offering to help.  We are asking them to call Karl. Starting next week we will put Tulisha, one of our key volunteers, at 20 hours a week to handle food distributions. That will allow Karl to focus on lining up work projects for Immokalee families who suffered damage to their homes.

Damage to one of our church member’s house in Bonita Springs

We will hold our regular worship services this Sunday.

Our personnel weathered the storm, but like many here in Southwest Florida, have damage in one form or another. One of our legal assistance, Evelyn, lost a portion of her trailer home in Rosemary Park. Also, our attorneys Lyndsay and Christina, experienced some water damage at their respective homes. Karl is still dealing with clearing his house from storm damage and Seth is dealing with downed trees and recently had power restored. Pastor Andre and Pastor Saint Luc suffered some damage to their homes as well, but are continuing to serve their roles at the Amigos Center.

LCMS Disaster Relief dropped off at Zion Lutheran Church Fort Myers

By the grace of God, we are receiving some significant help from LCMS Disaster Relief.  We are working on a $25K grant for relief work, as they already gave us $3,500 in VISA gift cards, which we have already begun distributing to those in need.  More financial help is available upon request.  This past Thursday, the LCMS Disaster Relief dropped off a semi-truck load of supplies at Zion Lutheran (diapers, tools, generators, tarps, etc.)  We used some of it for the Bonita Springs Amigos Center. They are stationing two point people at Zion Lutheran in Fort Myers to help coordinate needed relief supplies.

Volunteer work crews are already here with more to arrive next week.

Thanks be to God for his mercy endures forever.

Now is a great time to gather and rejoice in how our gracious God held us safely through the storm. Even if you, like so many others, had some damages from the wind and water, all of the material things can be replaced, but God alone preserves life! You may have been without electricity, but you have had power all along with Jesus by your side!

If you feel you want to give of your time, talents, or treasures for recovery efforts, please contact Karl Glander at (239) 293-1489 or follow the prompt below to donate.




I’m Diego Grisales, from Colombia. I’m married and have 2 children.  I want to give this testimony to all those people who support Amigos en Cristo.

When I came to the United States 13 years ago, I met Pastor Bob Selle in his service at the Bonita Springs church. He was like an angel for me and my family.  At that time I didn’t speak any English, I didn’t have a good job, and my legal status was confused.  I remember very well that Pastor Bob Selle invited me and my family to visit his Amigos Center office in Bonita Springs. When we went there we started receiving a lot of support; food, clothes, spiritual support, immigration support, etc.  My family and I became citizens of the United States thanks to Amigos Center because they helped us with all the immigration procedures.

I’m very grateful to Amigos Center. This organization really helps, not only people in need, but also they support all the Hispanic and Haitian communities.  I always recommend people to visit them to get information and support in many areas.

Amigos en Cristo, Inc. d/b/a Amigos  Center

Newsletter

January 2017

By Rev. Robert Selle

Since 1997 Amigos en Cristo has helped tens of thousands of immigrants to southwest Florida to a successful life here in the United States and the Kingdom of God. We want to celebrate it with you at the Amigos Center Fundraising Luncheon at noon on Wednesday, March 22 at the Southwest Florida Performing Arts Center.  Our goal for the luncheon is to raise $80,000.  Please RSVP at our webpage www.amigoscenter.org or by telephone

(239) 437-6727. Hope you can make it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017,

12:00 to 1:00 PM

Southwest Florida Performing Arts Center

(Corner of Livingston and Bonita Beach Road)

11515 Bonita Beach Road, SE

Bonita Springs, FL 34135

 

By Pastor Bob Selle

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Diego’s kind words are very gratifying. Over the 13 years since he arrived in the United States with nothing, he and his family have established three Metro PCS stores and have proven themselves as faithful servants of Jesus Christ and members of our Amigos en Cristo church.

Thank you for helping make our ministry possible. Last month I announced the launching of our 20th Anniversary Challenge Grant; any donation given in November and December of this year that exceeds the amount given in 2015 will be matched up to a maximum of $20,000.  I am pleased to report that through December 15 we have received $15,451 in qualified donations.  We still have a couple of weeks to go to meet our $20,000 goal.

Thank you for your kind support of Amigos en Cristo. You can double your gift to Amigos Center by making a special gift before December 31:

  • Send a check, just write the word “Challenge” in the memo line, make payable to AMIGOS CENTER and mail it to our administrative office: 7401 Winkler Road, Fort Myers, FL 33919, or use the enclosed remittance envelope; or

Click the DONATE NOW button on our website www.amigoscenter.org and make your contribution by credit card or by Pay Pal.  Write the word “Challenge” in the message

By Pastor Bob Selle

Next year “Amigos en Cristo” will celebrate 20 years of ministry.  For two decades we have provided immigrants to Southwest Florida with the tools to be successful and contributing members of our community and the Kingdom of God.

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To help us kick off our 20th anniversary, Judy Small, widow of longtime volunteer and board member Bob Small, has offered a $20,000 challenge grant to help us grow.

Any donation to Amigos Center that you give by December 31, 2016 that exceeds what you gave last year will be matched up to $20,000. This Challenge Grant represents a potential financial increase of $40,000!  This challenge grant together with your above-and-beyond gift will put Amigos en Cristo in a strong financial position heading into the New Year.

So far we have received $600 in qualified gifts.  Thank you all for your support and “Amistad” with Amigos Center.

You can double your gift to Amigos Center by making a special gift before December 31:

  • Send a check, just write the word “Challenge” in the memo line, make payable to AMIGOS CENTER and mail it to our administrative office: 7401 Winkler Road, Fort Myers, FL 33919, or use the enclosed remittance envelope; or

  • Click the DONATE NOW button on our website amigoscenter.org and make your contribution by credit card or by Pay Pal.  Write the word “Challenge” in the message box.

We serve remembering what Jesus said “Go and make disciples of all nations” and “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

By Pastor Bob Selle

Amigos en Cristo pastor, Pastor Andre Mezilus, was stranded in Haiti during the recent strike of Hurricane Matthew, due to the temporary suspension of airline flights out of Haiti.  He was in Haiti at the time supervising his mission congregations in Cap ‘Haitian.  He regrettably reported the death of one of his church members due to the hurricane, leaving behind a family of five (see picture).

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A blog posted by the LCMS Disaster Response reports:

“In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, LCMS Disaster Response looks to broaden aid to victims, after having seen the tragic effects of the hurricane firsthand in both Haiti and the Carolinas during Oct. 10-13 visits to the hardest-hit areas.

LCMS Disaster Response Director Rev. Ross Johnson visited Haiti, as an outbreak of cholera was complicating recovery efforts there. His visit revealed specific needs of the victims not already being addressed by various government and nongovernment agencies responding to the catastrophe.

‘We’re currently working to provide an initial 10 wells — with a goal of providing up to 50 wells — for clean water and also to provide tin roofs for some 50 area pastors and possibly 50 churches without roofs in Haiti,’ said Johnson. ’This is a focused response to the destruction and sanitation issues brought about by the storm, while other agencies are providing for medicine, food and other necessities.’”

Donations for relief work can be made directly to , LCMS Disaster Response fund or to Amigos en Cristo, Inc. to help Pastor Andre’s mission congregations.

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By Rev. Robert Selle

Immokalee, FL – Over a hundred people gathered at the Immokalee Amigos Center to participate in the ordination and installation of Karl Glander on October 16, 2016.  Accompanied by his wife, Ginny, their sons Jeff and Matt, and local LCMS clergy, Rev. Glander made his solemn vow that with the help of God he will perform the duties of the pastoral office in conformity with Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.  Rev. Jon Zehnder, Second Vice-President of the LCMS Florida-Georgia District, vested Karl with a red stole, symbol of the pastoral office.  Rev. Richard Browning, Circuit Visitor performed the rite of installation.

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Rev. Glander now joins our team of pastors working in Immokalee: Pastors Andre Mezilus and Saint Luc Charelus serve Bethlehem Haitian Church, while Pastor Bob Selle serves as missionary pastor for our Hispanic congregation.    Pastor Glander is called to serve with special emphasis on the English speaking family members of the predominantly immigrant community of Immokalee.

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By Pastor Bob Selle

Next year “Amigos en Cristo” will celebrate 20 years of ministry.  For two decades we have provided immigrants to Southwest Florida with the tools to be successful and contributing members of our community and the Kingdom of God.

To help us kick off our 20th anniversary, Judy Small, widow of longtime volunteer and board member Bob Small, has offered a $20,000 challenge grant to help us grow.

Any donation to Amigos Center that you give by December 31, 2016 that exceeds what you gave last year will be matched up to $20,000. This Challenge Grant represents a potential financial increase of $40,000!  This challenge grant together with your above-and-beyond gift will put Amigos en Cristo in a strong financial position heading into the New Year.

Because of your financial support, during the next 12 months we expect to:

  • Enroll one of our Hispanic church leaders from Immokalee with the Center for Hispanic Studies at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO. This will lead to his ordination into the pastoral ministry in four years.
  • Charter our Hispanic Lutheran Church in Immokalee as a member congregation of the Florida-Georgia District of the LCMS
  • Open an eye clinic in our Immokalee Amigos Center in partnership with another non-profit;
  • Expand our new Hispanic ministry in Lehigh Acres in partnership with one of our supporting LCMS congregations;
  • Continue to provide ESOL, emergency food and clothing to hundreds of poor in Immokalee;
  • Continue providing affordable legal immigration help for families and for victims of domestic violence.

You can double your gift to Amigos Center by making a special gift before December 31:

  • Send a check, just write the word “Challenge” in the memo line, make payable to AMIGOS CENTER and mail it to our administrative office: 7401 Winkler Road, Fort Myers, FL 33919, or use the enclosed remittance envelope; or
  • Click the DONATE NOW button on our website amigoscenter.org and make your contribution by credit card or by Pay Pal.  Write the word “Challenge” in the message box.

We serve remembering what Jesus said “Go and make disciples of all nations” and “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Sheila Morales is a full-time Parish Nurse at Hope Lutheran Church and Hope’s Hispanic ministry, Amigos en Cristo.

Sheila Morales is a full-time Parish Nurse at Hope Lutheran Church and Hope’s Hispanic ministry, Amigos en Cristo.

By Sheila Morales

BONITA SPRINGS, FL – Our mission is to “Heal our community, Mind, Body and Spirit”.  Our community is our church congregations and beyond to the cities of Bonita Springs and Estero.  This involves assessing our communities health needs, identifying community resources, health curriculum, and programs to address these needs.  This requires building community partnerships with health-providers, schools, city governments, non-profits, neighborhoods and businesses to create and provide health promotion activities and training.  The Faith Community Nurse Ministry is holistic encompassing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs.  It is bible based. Christ was and is the greatest healer who can accomplish anything.  It is leading by example, demonstrating God’s love in all that we do.  It is compassionate, giving hope to those who suffer.  It is what Christ calls us to do!  Please feel free to contact Sheila F. Morales, Faith Community Nurse @ 239-919-2295 or sheila@hopebonita.org if you have questions of want to get involved in making our community healthy!

 

Amigos en Cristo

Amigos en Cristo, connecting agencies, resources and people together. We are a 501(c)3 organization.

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