ORLANDO – The holidays can be an exhilarating and nostalgic time for a lot of people, as they reunite with family members, watch their kids light up with excitement as Christmas approaches, or spend the rest of the month vacationing in the region.
It can also be an agonizingly painful time for others, who feel left out of the revelry, and alone and isolated.
Lady Deborah Wiggins understands that, and also knows that families who are struggling to make ends meet in this still challenging economic environment can also feel depressed around the holidays, since they’re unable to buy their children gifts or take part in any of the activities going on throughout the region that costs money.
What she can offer them, Wiggins said, is the spiritual comfort of knowing that God cares about them during these times, and is ready to spread His love with them — and can do so at The Hope Church at 30232 Monte Carlo Trail in South Orlando. Her husband, Bishop Allen Wiggins, is the senior pastor, and the church, she added, is an extended family ready to help everyone get through the emotional highs and lows of the holiday season.
“We know that people struggle this time of year,” Lady Wiggins said.
Struggling both financially, and emotionally, she added. And Hope Church, she said, aims to address both those needs – as well as their spiritual needs.
“One of the things that we do is we partner with an organization that provides food for the community,” Lady Wiggins said. “That’s how we do it, even in difficult times – churches have to. It’s easy to say ‘God cares,’ but if people are hungry and you can’t feed them, they don’t care about that.”
Reminding parishioners and residents of the Washington Shores neighborhood that God truly does care about them at all times, she added, is part of her church’s central mission.
“That word is very powerful for us,” Wiggins said. “That word has a real big meaning to us. People come in here with all kinds of situations, and even if we don’t have the money to help them pay their bills, we can pray with them and give them encouragement, and you’d be amazed at how far that can go.”
The Hope Church congregation acquired the 23 acres of land on John Young Parkway in 1999 to accommodate the church’s growth, and broke ground on the new Prayer Chapel on July 13, 2002. The new facility was completed in 2004.
The church has remained very active in the community. As its web site notes, “The Hope Church continues to serve as a catalyst for positive transformation. Over the years, we’ve established strategic partnerships which provide attainable and affordable housing to hundreds of families and economic development initiatives in our immediate community. In the summer of 2010, The Hope and First Baptist of Orlando made a historic partnership to establish the Lydia House, a safe transitional home for women re-entering society from incarceration. In the spring of 2011, in order to better serve the Haitian demographic of both our church and community, the Hope Church launched worship services offering Christ in Creole.”
The church aims to provide the same kind of spiritual nourishment over the holiday season. The bottom line, Lady Wiggins said, is no one should feel left out at this time of year when the church is there to minister to their needs.
“We have church service on Christmas day, and all of that is to keep people from being lonely, so your mind is occupied and you don’t get depressed,” she said. “If you feel good about how you live, you’ll feel better about yourself.”
The Christmas Day Service will be at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. Then on New Year’s Eve, there will be two services, at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.
“We have a New Year’s Eve service that is a wonderful celebration,” Lady Wiggins said. “We have the first service at 7 o’clock, because a lot of the seniors don’t like being out late. Then there will be a celebration at 10 o’clock. There will be lots of music and entertainment, and of course an encouraging church message from our pastor.”
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