Northeast Ohio’s Chill and Gray Can’t Keep the Florida Guys Away

Northeast Ohio’s Chill and Gray Can’t Keep the Florida Guys Away

By Darin Avery, associational mission strategist, Cleveland Hope

Over two dozen Cleveland Hope pastors and church planters recently greeted ten Florida Baptist leaders. With SCBO Northeast Regional Catalyst Stephen Owens as guide, the Florida team visited the Summit and Steel Valley associations and concluded their April 21-23 vision trip in Cleveland. 

Buckeye and Sunshine state ministers rubbed shoulders over an evening of bowling and dinner at Pinstripes, a great venue for fun, food, and conversation. Other Clevelanders came the next morning to share about their ministries and hear from each of our new Florida friends over a delicious fellowship breakfast hosted by Mt. Calvary Baptist, Bedford. 

Encouraged by the Florida team’s Black, white, Hispanic, and Haitian makeup, I trust the Florida brothers were similarly excited to tour urban, suburban, and rural mission contexts while engaging with northeast Ohio leaders from varied backgrounds and abilities including a deaf pastor/planter! 

The final van ride to the airport included not only teeth-chattering smiles for a chilly group photo backdropped by downtown Cleveland but, more importantly, three church visits to meet and pray with Anglo, African American, and Hungarian pastors respectively, in hopes of sending our guests home with a taste of Cleveland’s incredible diversity and immense gospel need.

Since the April visit strategic conversations are underway on both ends and at every level of this budding partnership. Details will need to be hammered out, but desires expressed among Florida leaders in a post-trip Zoom huddle include:

Association-to-Association/Pastor-to-Pastor Partnering - Two Florida association leaders commit to help their churches partner with Cleveland area churches and their pastors with our pastors.

Hispanic Church Planting - Four Hispanic Florida pastors desire to help plant Spanish-speaking churches among Cleveland’s sizeable Hispanic community.

Outreach & Construction - A Miami, Florida, pastor hopes to send mission teams in 2025 to conduct minor building repairs as well as community outreach.

VBS Training & Mission Teams - In 2025 another Florida pastor plans to send not only vacation Bible school mission teams, but a training team to prep VBS leaders across northeast Ohio.

Joint  Mission Trips - One Florida pastor wants to play a lead role in coordinating joint mission trips by southeast Florida churches to northeast Ohio.

Monthly Prayer Call - One pastor looks to host a monthly prayer call with pastors in both states as a means of mutual encouragement.

Only God sees the eternal fruit to be borne of earthly gospel partnering. We in northeast Ohio are grateful for Florida brothers willing to invest beyond their 

immediate fields of ministry in kingdom opportunities where the sun shines less and they name football teams after nuts and colors! 

Their tough endurance of our colder climate for a few days was so inspiring that Gary Frost, Mark Jones, and I refuse to let sunny 70 degree temperatures keep us from taking a few leaders south to explore paths to mutual partnership this coming January! 

Connect with your AMS or SCBO regional catalyst today and be part of this exciting partnership!