by Dana Amatangelo
Every pew of the Orange Cove, Florida, Church was filled with members and guests awaiting the beginning of a new journey for a couple who, only a few months before, were without a home, without direction, and consumed by broken hearts and shattered dreams. The picture was so bleak that their two children were taken from them when they lost their home.
On March 25, André Van Heerden, Orange Cove pastor and volunteer president of The Mercy Network of Clay County, was involved in a county-wide outreach to help the homeless. He met the Smith family of four who were, then, using their car as a home.
When Jerry and Bonnie asked Pastor André if he would be willing to help them, he assured them he could take on their case. They became residents of one of the group homes sponsored by The Mercy Network of which Orange Cove Church is a member. Invitations to church services and other activities were extended to the family.
Two months later, a celebration of renewal took place where Pastor André baptized Jerry and Bonnie. This day would mark two covenants. The first promise was demonstrated for all to witness as the couple were lowered into the water and brought up again, signifying their new birth and commitment to the Higher Power that had brought them so far in such a short time.
The next covenant, just a few minutes later, would be to one another in a marriage ceremony. While every person in the congregation rose to their feet, Bonnie stepped into the sanctuary as her soon-to-be husband, Jerry, stood beside the pastor and watched his waiting bride with tears in his eyes.
Two lives, changed because of kindness, are now beginning a new life together that will change their future, the future of their children, and possibly many generations to come.
Visit the Orange Cove Church web site ministries page for an update on the Smith family: http://www.orangecovesda.org/ministries