Mosaic Palm Bay Church, a new church planted in an area with a high homeless rate and hungry families, didn’t have to look far to find a school in need.
Port Malabar Elementary School, a Title I school where the majority of students are eligible for free or reduced lunches, is located just down the street from the church.
Look no further than John 1 3:17 to get inspired for the type of project Mosaic Palm Bay has undertaken: “But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?”
Palm Bay is the largest city in Brevard County, with a diverse population.
About 65 percent of the population is white, and 30 percent are from the Caribbean or are Hispanic. Many people are struggling,
Bishop Ken Carter encourages churches to partner with schools in need, something that touched hearts at the Mosaic church, Pastor Sean Peters said
Pastor Sean Peters and Port Malabar Elementary School Principal Cindy Whalin.
Port Malabar Elementary is on the Space Coast south of Melbourne, where the teachers must go above and beyond. They buy many of their classroom supplies due to community poverty and a lack of adequate funding.
While the church has not yet reached a level of partnership where it is working directly with students, it is working to let the teachers know that their generosity is appreciated.
“We wanted to get into outreach mission work right away,” Peters said. “We started to do some work with the city in terms of helping with some homeless initiative, and then we started trying to find a Title 1 school nearby.”
Church volunteers began in the fall by taking food to the teachers to let them know they were appreciated.
“That kind of started the partnership with them,” Peters said.
Eva Lanier is among the church’s volunteers.
“We try to remove some of that burden for the teachers, so they are not dipping out of their own pockets quite as much,” she said. “We ask them what they need. We just try to meet those needs as best we can.”
The small church group did a supply drive for the teachers at the beginning of the year and recently held an appreciation lunch. They plan to expand the ministry in the next school year.
“Sean’s wife is an amazing cook, and we take them some of her dishes,” Lanier said. “They love it. It was funny, so many of them remembered us from when we came last year. “It was a lot of fun. It was a great day to just tell them thanks.”
Church volunteers hope to offer tutoring, among other programs.
|Church volunteers who helped prepare, transport and serve the meal to the staff at Port Malabar Elementary.|
After speaking at length with school staff members, they learned teachers needed help with their school garden.
“They have a very large garden where they teach students how to plant their own vegetables,” Peters said. “We are going to partner with them that way. The teacher who is overseeing the garden is retiring, so we are going to have a few more folks to get involved with that.”
Initially, he said, it will probably be once a week, early in the morning, teaching kids basic botanical skills.
“We do have some church volunteers particularly into gardening and food. Those are both big areas we connect with folks on,” Peters said. “We serve food every Sunday morning, so we have a kitchen; and we are teaching kids culinary skills.”
For now, the mission with the school has about 10 active church members, Peters said.
Mosaic Palm Bay Church has about 75 active members who span generations and ethnicities. Homeless folks sit next to professionals.
Peters calls it a beautiful mix.
“We all had a desire to connect with our community pretty quickly,” he said.
Instead of waiting for the needs to come to the church, this group took the church to the people.
“Mosaic, I can’t say enough about it,” Lanier said. “It has been just an amazing place. It is warm and welcoming and inviting, and people there are excited about getting into a community and making a difference. They are eager to show people God’s love and let them know they belong.”
No matter who you are or what you’ve done, Mosaic has a spot for you.
“People are excited about that. Our tables are filling up,” Lanier said. “As our little group grows, that excitement, it’s contagious.”
—Yvette C. Hammett is a freelance writer in Valrico.