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World changers



Outside Church

The “Outside Church” on Savona Boulevard is a “church to the nations,” with a fellowship that includes people from many nationalities. JAIME MARTINEZ

Training the next generation to impact community, nation and beyond by serving others

BY DEBRA MAGRANN

The “outside church to the nations” would be a way to express the motivation of Pastor Israel Martinez of the Casa Celestial de Adoración (CCDA) Heavenly House of Worship on Savona Boulevard. Birthed in prayer and devoted to helping others, the fellowship is comprised mainly of people of color: Spanish, South American and African descent.

With what seems like limitless energy, Martinez is passionate to share the Gospel with dignity and respect for the circumstances people face. A lifelong churchgoer, his father has been a pastor for 58 years. He came to Florida from the Bronx, New York, where he was employed at the flagship location of Tiffany & Co. on New York’s Fifth Avenue, arriving in Tradition with his family “when it was hardly a speck on the map.”

He’s been working for Tiffany since 1990, and now his ‘day job’ is in management at the store in The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens. He sees the youth he mentors at his church as raw diamonds. “Let God fix the rough edges,” he says. “In time we can shape them.”

ON THE HOMEFRONT
Celebrating five years of ministry, Martinez has a congregation that is an eclectic cultural mix of families from Mexico, Trinidad, Argentina and elsewhere. “I see individuals broken and rejected by society,” he observes. “People carry purpose — all they need is a lift and someone to believe in them, embracing them so they can impact others.”

Aside from regular worship services, baptisms, Bible study and the weekly menu of activities, his desire to impact society is shared by his wife, Glory, and son, Brandon, who is a Fort Pierce police officer. “He is now our associate pastor but also works with the youth,” Martinez says.

In high school, Brandon led fellow students en masse at the annual ‘Meet You at the Pole’ rally to offer public prayers at St. Lucie West Centennial, Treasure Coast and Fort Pierce Central high schools before classes. “We are very thankful for him. He encouraged students then to be different and set an example,” Martinez comments. “Now when he arrests someone he knows from high school, he is able to speak sensibly to them while they are handcuffed in the back seat and tell them to turn their life around.”

BE ONE. MAKE ONE
Their methods are unconventional; they have no mission statement but rather a code to live by: Church is more than being a spectator, it’s connecting. Martinez encourages younger men to personally mentor youth once a week by helping with homework and being a support.

Church services use the full force of media, incorporating music, artistic dance, lighting, themes and an occasional visual aide like donning boxing attire (think Evander Holyfield) to drive home the message that self-discipline — or the lack of it — determines life’s outcomes. To be victorious, you must get in the ring.

Locally, church leaders accompany youth on outreaches to the homeless in Fort Pierce, members pack “Blessings in a Bag” lunches for students in public schools, and volunteers brought about 100 stuffed school backpacks and uniform polo shirts to families in Indiantown for the new school year.

The urgency of the Gospel compels Martinez to motivate a generation of leaders, making the most of every opportunity. “The powerful transformation seen in the lives of our young people is evident in their dedication to walk with integrity and give back,” he states. To that end, a group that included young adult men traveled to the poverty-stricken Dominican Republic in July to minister to the people there.

Partnering with Capellan Lives Mission, the church prepared months in advance. Costs were partially covered by their mission fund; individuals raised the remainder. As donations of toys, clothing, food, medical and school supplies mounted, volunteers packed the items. A total of 200 boxes, including those given from other groups affiliated with the church, were sent in advance of the team’s arrival.

A COUNTRY OF EXTREMES
Bávaro, La Altagracia province, in the Dominican Republic is a coastal region located at the eastern end of the island of Hispaniola (Haiti on the west shares the island). It is developed as a resort area of neighboring Punta Cana where pockets of prosperity rim the coast. “All the tourists visit there, but it’s like building a Walmart in the middle of the poor area, pushing them out,” Martinez says. “Around the resorts there is a lot of poverty. We began noticing this — it brought my wife to tears seeing the malnutrition and lack of basic needs like food and shelter.”

Understanding the disparities, the Dominican Republic is not considered a “Third World” country but rather a developing country characterized by a lack of substantial levels of per-capita income, sluggish industrialization, minimal investment to spur economic growth, poor infrastructure, underdeveloped transportation, no integrated health services and low literacy levels. Tourists can exit a posh hotel in search of a trek in the Punta Cana rain forest only to pass through areas inhabited by people living among rows of corrugated metal shacks with dirt floors and nearly detached roofs.

Some on the six-day trip had previously experienced overseas mission trips to poor areas. The group had daily agendas and broke into teams to minister, regrouping in the evening. Nightly recaps left everyone in tears, sharing the experiences of the day. “They are making the best with what they have,” Martinez points out. “These people have a fraction of what we have here.” With no grocery stores, they live off the land growing produce and fruit trees. There is some communal work and food sharing. “There is no other way,” Martinez says.

A RAY OF HOPE
Edgar Perez, the church contact in Bávaro, provided his house as a base station to sort clothes, medical and hygiene supplies and first-aid kits. Donations of sporting goods, such as bats, baseballs and basketballs, were given to the local coach. Included were tank tops that served as uniforms.

There was cooperation among local churches, one that opened its doors to the group by offering the use of its building as a safe location for structured Bible reading, stories and singing. Gifts — bracelets, small toys, sunglasses and mini flashlights — were given to the children. “We now know that school supplies are very much needed in our effort to focus on immediate needs,” Martinez says. Bilingual books would be especially helpful because most know little English.

A basketball court used as a gathering place for the community was the site for a three-day evangelistic crusade in the cool of the evenings. Plans were made with churches and other pastors who came from Haiti to present a unified message to help one another. The estimated attendance was 300 on first night to 500 the final evening.

“We were in a village that was extremely poor,” Orgen Martinez (no relation to the pastor) says. “It’s very hard to believe until you actually see it in person. We went inside a sugar cane field where workers are sent by the government because many are from Haiti. One day passing out food, clothing and shoes, we were met by another mission group from Texas. We all played soccer and other games with the children.”

He continues, “Until you interact with people going through it, it gives you a different perspective. Not to take away from their struggles, but they take joy in the little things and are more grateful in life for what is given them. It changes your mindset to be more appreciative of what we have here.”

Orgen’s brother, Jaime Martinez, is the church photographer and documented the trip. Richard Innocent accompanied his brother, Bradley, on his first mission trip. Word was that his mom thanked the pastor for allowing him on the trip because she was grateful for her “new” son.

A surgeon is interested in attending the next trip to bring hands-on, first-aid instruction. In the face of extreme poverty, there are no conveniences like running water, other utilities and especially medical or dental care. Locals bathe using rainwater gathered in barrels.

“This mission trip was a success, but there is so much more work to do, especially in our own backyard,” volunteer Nelly Velasquez says. “I have seen the desperate need for the church of God to burst out of their bubble and invest in the lives of others without expecting anything in return. God is calling His people to humble themselves … and love without boundaries.”