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Church moves forward with plans to turn grocery store into outreach center

Church moves forward with plans to turn grocery store into outreach center

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Church moves forward with plans to turn grocery store into outreach center

Jan. 31, 2007    News media contact: Tita Parham* 
800-282-8011    Orlando {0614}

An e-Review Feature
By Jenna De Marco**

The Rev. Jorge Acevedo believes God is showing the way for his church to fulfill four unique needs: more property, more physical building space, more holistic ministry to the poor and marginalized, and more multi-site ministry.

A big part of that direction is the purchase of a former Winn-Dixie grocery store that will become Grace United Methodist Church’s community outreach center, a venture that will ultimately help the church achieve its goals to reach out to its Cape Coral community.
“We were going after what seemed impossible with us,” Acevedo said. “We profoundly believe that God has done the impossible.”

Providing holistic ministry

The church’s total square footage will double with the addition of the store, located a half-mile from the main Cape Coral property. The church closed on the sale of the 56,000-square foot, eight and a half acre property Jan. 4. It will be called the Grace Community Outreach Center and become the church’s third campus.

Members of Grace United Methodist Church, Cape Coral, hold placards with phrases on one side that describe what their lives were like "before meeting Jesus" through the ministry of the church and those describing what their lives are like now on the opposite side, according the church's pastor, the Rev. Jorge Acevedo. More than 1700 people gathered under a tent that Sept. 10 for a service to celebrate and announce the church's plans to turn a closed Winn-Dixie grocery store into an outreach center. Photo by Tonya Roberts. Photo #07-0509.

Acevedo says the ministries that will take place in the center have not been set in stone. He and church leaders have met with various community groups — a local soup kitchen, the department of juvenile justice, southwest Florida addictive services and others — to talk about possible ministries. Acevedo says the center will be home to third worship experience and church leadership feels “real sure God wants us to have a Christian coffee house and bookstore,” but there have also been talks about having vocational training of all types, adult day care, Christian counseling, English as a Second Language training, a youth center, renting space to a Christian radio station, expansion of the church’s popular “Celebrate Recovery” ministry and a feeding ministry.

“Our vision is six and a half days of holistic ministry, and on Sunday we’ll do worship there,” Acevedo said, adding the expansion fits with God’s call upon his church to be a “voice for the voiceless.”

“It’s all being done in the name of Jesus,” Acevedo said. “ … All being done with the express intention of winsomely and lovingly reaching people whose life circumstances have put them very far from God.”

For the past seven years the church has been providing a recovery ministry for people dealing with a host of addictions. Acevedo says God has used that “to make huge inroads” with a variety of social service agencies, groups the church leadership is talking to regarding the new outreach center.

“This is just the continuation of what we’ve been doing for 10 years now,” Acevedo said. “It’s just the natural next step.”

The Rev. Wes Olds, the church’s teaching and networking pastor, will oversee many aspects of the building project and says he looks forward to bringing people together in the name of Christ at the center.

“Jesus taught us to pray the Lord’s prayer and we pray for His will to be done and His kingdom to come, and we pray for that to happen throughout the community, and there will be some really felt needs met,” Olds said. “The community will be able to come together, and the family of God will be able to come together.”

Olds said members of the congregation with carpentry or plumbing skills will assist in the build out process.

“The big step will be the development of the center, and that’s going to involve the partnerships we already have and continuing those and expanding those,” Olds said.

More space, more ministry

Of the four needs the church’s key leadership has envisioned some arose directly from the crowded conditions the church has faced during worship. With multiple weekend worship services reaching capacity for seating, parking space at a premium and classrooms crowded with attendees, the need for more ministry room became very apparent, Acevedo said.

“We can seat 600 people, and on any given Sunday there are 1,500 to 1,800 people in worship,” Acevedo said.

Jack Dalton, a member who serves in the parking lot ministry, echoed those sentiments. “This … offers much more for Grace church as it allows the parking lot ministry to immediately acquire an additional 365 parking spaces of which we are in dire need,” Dalton said. “The lack of parking spaces at the Cape Coral campus has been a major problem for some years now during our morning services.”

Working with the church’s lead team — a group of key lay people who serve in a leadership function — Acevedo began to pray with them about where to find the space to fulfill the vision. After some assistance from a local businessman, the team learned that a nearby vacant Winn-Dixie would be available for purchase and would enable the church to fulfill all four of its needs.

Members of Grace United Methodist Church, Cape Coral, gather one evening last September to pray about the proposed plan to purchase a closed Winn-Dixie grocery store that would become an outreach center providing a host of ministries for the community, as well as additional space for worship. Photo by Tonya Roberts. Photo #07-0510.

“ ‘We want you guys to pray with us,’ ” Acevedo recalled saying to his lead team. “Our leaders had this amazing ‘Pentecost’ meeting and said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ ”

Meanwhile, Acevedo and the lead team announced the move to the entire church during one large worship service last September, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of Acevedo’s arrival as the church’s senior pastor.

“I was shaking on the inside. God had asked us to do this, and we believe we should,” Acevedo said. “Seventeen hundred people stood to their feet and cheered and screamed and wept.”

The next several weeks involved informing the congregation of the financial pledges and cash offerings needed to make the purchase final. By mid-November the congregation not only raised the necessary $500,000 in cash, but also secured the $2.3 million in pledges that would allow them to move ahead on the purchase of the $5.2 million property.

“ … We’re not a wealthy church; we’re not rich people,” Acevedo said. “Our church is filled with people in the trades, as well as teachers, nurses. We had children give out of their trust fund — children and youth raised over $10,000 together.”

Money, including a grant from the Florida Conference, was already set aside for the inside build out.

Acevedo said the whole process of raising the funds was “bathed in prayer.”

No timetables for opening have been set, but Acevedo said, “… We will as quickly as possible begin the build out.”


This article relates to Outreach.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a freelance writer based in Viera, Fla.