Early Voting Winding Down for Upcoming City of Orlando Election

October 29, 2021 (Orlando) – If you live in the city limits of Orlando and you are registered to vote, this should be a reminder: There are two days left of Early Voting at the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office – Saturday and Sunday. Hours on Saturday: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. and Sunday: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. If you miss early voting, don’t miss the opportunity to vote at your polling place on Election Day – Tuesday, Nov. 2. Voters will elect city commissioners for districts 1,3 and 5.

If you have a completed mail in ballot, it’s too late to actually mail it so election officials advise voters to drop off their completed and properly signed ballots to the elections office, located at 119 West Kaley Street, Orlando, FL 32806.

One great aspect of our country’s democratic process is people are able to vote and another one is people are able to qualify and run for public office.

In the city, all three incumbents of the open commission seats have at least one challenger.

In District 1, including communities such as Lake Nona and Vista Lakes, two people are on the ballot with Commissioner Jim Gray, who was first elected to the commission June 1, 2012. In District 3, including communities such as Rosemont and College Park, two people are on the ballot with Commissioner Robert F. Stuart, an Orlando native who previously served as co-chair of the Mayor’s Working Committee on Homelessness and on the taskforce for Orange County’s Council on Aging. In District 5, including communities such as Parramore, MetroWest and Mercy Drive, one person is on the ballot with Commissioner Regina I. Hill, who was first elected to the commission in 2013.

The contenders are:

Sunshine L. Grund, who has lived in the Northlake Park community since 2013 and who says she is running a campaign without donations and Bill Moore, a lifelong resident and former Orlando Police Officer, for District 1.

Samuel Chambers, Orlando native and Florida State University graduate who has worked in a legislative office, and Nicolette Fariello Springer, who has worked as assistant director of a research center, for District 3.

Shaniqua “Shan” Rose, a former City of Orlando employee and current President of Change For The Community, Inc., for District 5.

Voters will choose who will represent them on the city commission. Local races for these public offices are just as important, if not more important as state and national races because the people who serve locally make key decisions about the everyday needs and wants of residents and business owners.

With changes to elections laws being voted on and enacted throughout the country (including in Florida), voters here will have to navigate carefully to make sure their vote is counted.

In Orange County, the election officials will do a vote by mail voter certificate signature comparison on ballots received for this election. That process started Oct. 5 and will continue each business day up until election day and run continuously until the first unofficial results are obtained, according to the election office’s website.

Polls are open on election day from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

If you have any questions or concerns about voting in the upcoming City of Orlando Election, contact the elections office. Phone: (407) 836-2070 or Visit online: http://www.ocfelections.com

Orlando Community News, 2021

Posted in Community news that can help, Election Connection | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Early Voting Winding Down for Upcoming City of Orlando Election

Unapologetically You: Dr. E. Laverne Williams’ Nuggets of Wisdom for High School Graduates

REpost! For all high school graduates


Dr. E. Laverne Williams

Retired Educator, Professional Christian Counselor and American Red Cross Volunteer, Dr. E. Laverne Williams, has imparted wisdom to high school graduates from Central Florida for years. And the tradition continues: She participates in drive-by graduation celebrations sponsored by her church, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church of Eatonville, acknowledging scholarship and honorable mention recipients.

Also, in a recent interview, she shared some wisdom nuggets to hold on to during challenging times like these. The nuggets, meant for high school graduates heading off to college, military, vocational schools or the workforce, are good for anyone feeling an overwhelming amount of stress, social isolation, trauma or various social, emotional and mental health issues.

Take note of Dr. Williams’ own “Be-Attitudes” nuggets:

▪ Be unapologetically yourself: You will never influence the world by trying to be like the world.

▪ Be the source of what you want to attract in your…

View original post 815 more words

Posted in Community news that can help | Comments Off on Unapologetically You: Dr. E. Laverne Williams’ Nuggets of Wisdom for High School Graduates

Unapologetically You: Dr. E. Laverne Williams’ Nuggets of Wisdom for High School Graduates

Dr. E. Laverne Williams

Retired Educator, Professional Christian Counselor and American Red Cross Volunteer, Dr. E. Laverne Williams, has imparted wisdom to high school graduates from Central Florida for years. And the tradition continue recently when she participated in drive-by graduation celebrations sponsored by her church, Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church of Eatonville, acknowledging scholarship winners and honorable mention recipients.  

Also, in a recent interview, she shared some wisdom nuggets to hold on to during challenging times like these. The nuggets, meant for high school graduates heading off to college, military, vocational schools or the workforce, are good for anyone feeling an overwhelming amount of stress, social isolation, trauma or various social, emotional and mental health issues.

Take note of Dr. Williams’ own “Be-Attitudes” nuggets:

▪ Be unapologetically yourself: You will never influence the world by trying to be like the world.

▪ Be the source of what you want to attract in your life: Whatever you want to experience yourself, be that source within the lives of others.

▪ Be confident: Do not feel the need to conform to anyone else’s ideas and realities of who you should or should not be.

▪ Be humble: Humility is not appearing passive and weak. Your character has to be one of confidence, while respecting those around you and what they have to offer others. Set aside differences, pride and opinions to create humility.

▪ Find your niche (post COVID-19): Spend time with roommates, join clubs, play sports; meet friends, create a community or multiple communities of individuals who make you feel safe, happy, secure and supported so that you can be yourself.

Why is sharing nuggets like these each year so important to Dr. Williams? She said, “Because the idea, the thought, the energy of graduating from high school is a challenge within itself.

“Education has changed drastically during the past 10-15 years. It has transitioned from teaching and learning to coaching and tutoring to pass state tests and to boost school grades. In my professional opinion as an educator for more than 45 years, authentic education has been watered down and diluted so much that it takes the true meaning of life-long learning out of the classrooms. The majority of teachers have been stripped of their creativity, originality and innovative strategies of the teaching and disciplining the “whole” student. We owe the majority of this erosion to Common Core and legislators/educational legislations that have managed to irreparably damage the educational system.  

Our young people/students need to know that their church family has supported and encouraged them throughout their educational matriculation. They also need to know and understand that the love, prayers and support will continue.”

The past two years (2020 and 2021) have been like none other because of the effects of the COVID-9 virus on our daily lives. Many high school graduates throughout the country delayed their first semester of college, while some took classes online and others went ahead off to college (some of whom learned later on that their on-campus housing closed down because of a spike in Coronavirus cases: They had to either leave campus or stay in their dorm rooms with strict quarantine rules.)

In her role as a counseling professional, Dr. Williams has seen and heard more than any one person should. But God has given her the grace, love, authority; peace, joy, empathy and education to observe and help people through their difficult and dark crises and sometimes their hopeless-appearing challenges.

“Our students have been through so much during their 13 years in school. For instance,  social media challenges/threats (bullying), biased testing, increased peer suicides, drug  use/abuse/addictions, homelessness, sexual abuse/molestation, domestic violence;  social-economic deprivation, COVID-19 Pandemic as well as educators who are often unmotivated, inexperienced and insensitive to the needs of our children of color, minorities. The majority of minority students are not being taught or trained to become leaders or independent thinkers partly because of the misuse and abuse of technology and the lack of discipline in the homes and schools.”

She said, “Call me old-school, traditional or old-fashioned if you like. We must get a handle on parenting, educating and disciplining our children and young people. There are no real role models in many of our homes and definitely NOT in our schools. There must be leaders and role models within every entity of our children’s lives in order to facilitate the positive and independent growth that our students so critically/crucially need to become contributing members of society!”

Thank God for the church! Thank God for Macedonia’s Pastor Willie C Barnes, who has the heart for children and understands the importance of training up children in the way they should go and instilling in them the importance of having a true relationship with God.

Dr. Williams ended the interview by sharing some wisdom nuggets for parents/guardians of graduates also:

▪ Keep in touch. Don’t become a helicopter parent.

▪ Be prepared to listen and provide guidance, options and suggestions – not quick fixes. Keep this in mind parents: T.L.C. – you have TRAINED them, you LOVE them and now you must CAST them. Clip their wings and watch them soar!

▪ Don’t hit the ceiling or get irate about grades.

▪ Know when to get involved (Parents know their students better than anyone else. If you suspect a mental health condition or some type of allergic reaction that may send your student into a tailspin, respond immediately by seeking medical and/or professional mental health help.)

▪ Be open to new routines; consider large changes for the student and for the family.

Congratulations to all high school graduates! Always do your best and keep these nuggets in mind! Dr. Williams can be reached via email at elaverne77@gmail.com if you need more information.

– Trish Martin, Founder and Editor, Orlando Community News

Posted in Community news that can help, Youth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Unapologetically You: Dr. E. Laverne Williams’ Nuggets of Wisdom for High School Graduates

May is For Mothers 💕

May is for Mothers so we celebrate all mothers, all month! God bless you as you enjoy your special day – Sunday, May 9, and your special month! Even in this time of COVID-19, face masks, social distancing and vaccines, you are not forgotten: You are appreciated – for all of the great work you have done and are doing!

“Strength and honour are her clothing; And she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; And in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, And eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praiseth her.”
-Proverbs 31: 25-28, KJV, The Bible

To my Momma, Altamese J. Martin, I love you and I pray you experience a wonderful holiday – quality time with your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, even if virtually. You are blessed and I know that you know this so we celebrate with you! 

Prayer: Thank you Father God for Momma. Thank for your grace and mercy, provision and protection, strength; comfort and longevity in her life. We know this is your doing and it’s marvelous in our eyes! Thank you for turning her set backs into set ups! Hallelujah! Thank you for a praying Mother. She Loves you and is full of your wisdom. She has worked hard and is blessed. Her seed is blessed. Let all of us come to know you and follow her example as she follows Christ. In Jesus name! You have kept her in the midst of it all. Glory! Hallelujah! Thank you Father God! We can sing together: “Down through the years, the Lord’s been good to me, Oh, Down through the years, the Lord’s been good to me. I know the Lord’s been good to me!” Amen! 

Go ahead mothers – Sing! Shout! Dance! for the gift of motherhood and God’s keeping power! You are here for another Mother’s Day on purpose and your children are here to honor you and shower you with gifts and unconditional love!

For anyone who is missing their mother this holiday season because she has passed on, I pray that you reflect on the good times and feel the love and comfort of God. 

I know that God often places other mothers in people’s lives to fill the void so embrace those Grandmothers, Mother-in-Laws, Godmothers, Aunties and other women of distinction who have positively influenced your life! Reach out to them in whatever way possible. Show your love!

May God bless and keep you all!
Happy Mother’s Day! 

From Orlando Community News
Founder and Editor: Trish Martin

Posted in Community news that can help | Comments Off on May is For Mothers 💕

Student Walks The Historic Way of Civil Rights Leaders

March 21, 2021 (Orlando) – The Parramore community should be proud. In fact, all of Central Florida should be proud. Why? Because one of the community’s sons on last week achieved a goal that most people living now could only imagine: Elv Smith Charles, a.k.a. “Smith,” walked from Selma, Alabama over the Edmund Pettus Bridge to Montgomery, retracing the steps of civil rights leaders and activists who were protesting for equal voting rights in 1965.

Smith’s journey totaled 54 miles which took 28.5 hours. That’s right. What took civil rights marchers five days, took him and his mentor Brad Mason a day and several hours.

In an interview several days later, when asked if he had recuperated from the trek he said jokingly, “Yes, I’m good. My legs are still working.”

That’s the kind of enthusiasm and positivity you will get from the 18-year-old if you ever talk with him. In the Facebook Live video he took after arriving on the grounds of the Alabama state capital in Montgomery he said: “You see stuff like this in books [the scenery, historic statues]. Just being here alone feels amazing.”

In the recent interview, he said that his goal was to experience what Dr. Martin Luther King and others did, to gain equal rights to vote. Smith, a student at Jones High School, seemed to understand the significance of the walk, when people went to jail, were beaten and even died to exercise their right to vote. Even now he said, “People are dying for the wrong reasons.”

The idea for the walk stemmed from a program at the New Image Youth Center (NIYC) – in Orlando’s Parramore community – geared toward middle and high school students called The Give Team. The team is the only inner city obstacle course racing team in the country with a focus on leadership skills, persistence, hard work and community engagement.

Mason, head coach of the team and NIYC board member for more than 10 years, said when the group did a 15-mile heavy weight walk last November, they stopped by July Perry’s gravesite in the Greenwood Cemetery: The coach said he wanted to stop at Perry’s grave to talk to the students about the Ocoee Massacre. The massacre took place 100 years prior to that date, in 1920. Mr. Perry was beaten, jailed, shot and lynched by a White mob that wanted to send a signal to Black residents not to vote. Homes and businesses were burned down, many residents were killed, many fled and some were never accounted for, according to survivors’ accounts.

Shortly after the walk in November, a NIYC sponsor (GoRuck) created a challenge in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civic rights activists. The company pledged a portion of the proceeds from the challenge to NIYC, if a club member walked 54 miles in the month of March 2021.

When Smith found out about the challenge, he didn’t hesitate and responded to his coach, “Let’s do that – the actual route from Selma to Montgomery,” knowing that historic walk was 54 miles. Smith said he cleared whatever he had going on to do the walk.

They drove to Selma from Orlando on Thursday, March 11 and started their journey at noon on Friday, March 12. Along the way, Smith noticed critters, pitch darkness and friendly drivers who blew their horns in support. They had planned to go to all four campsites (rest areas) that the original marchers stopped at but were only able to stop at one.

And the rest is history, as the saying goes but the coach said what made the walk even more special was the support they got.

“Smith had conversations with people along with way who participated in the 1965 marches,” said Mason.

Also, a woman who had supported The Give Team over the past couple of years, found out about Smith’s idea and offered to trail them in her car, providing water refills, pickle juice, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a spare headlamp, etc. Again, it was a 28.5-hourlong walk. The woman, Heather Smith, said later, it was easily one of the most special moments of her life. Talk about team work!

“We wouldn’t have made it without her – that’s for sure,” Coach Mason said, adding that she even gave them a ride back to Selma.

This indeed was the biggest accomplishments for Smith, who started attending NIYC at age five.

“The walk was a challenge because we weren’t in the body shape to do it but I love a challenge. There’s no stopping me. I like to do different things. I like history. To be the change in the world. Maybe inspire the world.”

Perhaps this confidence comes from his upbringing and training at NIYC. He’s the youngest in his family, which hails from Haiti. He was born here. “My brother and sister gave me great advice. [They] basically taught me how to take care of myself. I learned how to cook at age five. I can go with the flow.”

This experience has obviously had an impact on Smith. He has plans to go to college and pursue a career having to do with art or math or both. Designing clothes, using the finest materials, like silk and leather, is something he is interested in. He said everything behind the art that he does will reflect the Black experience.

If you would like to know more about Smith, The Give Team or the New Image Youth Center (Director: Dr. Shanta Barton-Stubbs) or if you would like to make a donation to their efforts, please contact them at http://www.newimageyouth.org The program and center are both on Facebook and Instagram.

-Trish Martin, orlandocommunitynews@gmail.com

Posted in Community news that can help, Youth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Local Elections This Week, Tuesday

Orange County, March 7 – One vote can make a difference. One hundred votes can make the difference also, as well as one thousand. It has happened here before in local, state and national public office elections: Candidates have won by a remarkable one vote or a very slim margin.

So, if you live in your city limits, you most likely already know that this Tuesday, March 9, is your Election Day. This includes the City of Ocoee (Districts 2 and 4), Town of Windermere (three council member seats), City of Winter Garden (Districts 2,3 and 4) and City of Winter Park (Mayor).

Election Day hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at your polling place or location designated by your city or town clerk.

In Ocoee, voters will select Rosemary Wilsen (incumbent) or Knox Anderson for District 2 – at their assigned voting place. In the other City of Ocoee race, incumbent George Oliver will faceoff against three competitors: Lori Hart, Joel F. Keller and Keith Richardson.

Winter Park voters will vote for a new mayor. Both candidates, Phil Anderson and Sarah Sprinkel, have served on the Winter Park Commission before.

In Windermere, voters will choose up to three council members from a list of four on the ballot: Mandy David, Anthony Davit, Mike Hargreaves and Bill Martini (the only one who currently sits on the town council.)

Winter Garden voters will select Illiana Ramos Jones or Ron Mueller for District 2 and Incumbent Mark A. Maciel will vie for the District 3 seat, against Robert “Bobby O” Olszewski. For District 4, Dawn Antonis will faceoff against Incumbent Colin Sharman.

If you live in your city limits and you are registered to vote ( and you missed early voting), take advantage of the power in your vote, which is your voice: Go vote on Tuesday, Election Day. Make sure everyone in your household votes also on Tuesday and remind your neighbors!

If you have any questions or concerns, call the Orange County Supervisor of Elections Office, (407) 836-2070 or your city/town clerk’s office.

Posted in Community news that can help | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Local Elections This Week, Tuesday

Living Black History: Nouchelle Hastings, Trailblazing Community Leader and Humanitarian

February is the month we all observe Black History. All day, every day is when it is! Truth be told, we live among greatness and Nouchelle Hastings’ life is proof.

That name should sound familiar because Hastings is well known in Orlando for her community leadership and philanthropy, especially in the area of faith, child-youth development and the arts. After living in the Orlando area for more than 23 years, Hastings, in 2017, joined her husband in Davie (South Florida) where he went to manage a plating project for a governmental agency.

Although she moved and took a position with an engineering firm, her community work continued. Overseeing Business Development & Marketing for The Falcon Group’s Miami Office Southeast Region, she has been recognized for her work and honored with the company’s Humanitarian of the Year at its annual meeting in January. Hastings has also received Humanitarian and Change Agents awards over the past three years from the Town of Davie and Proclamations and Letters of Recognition from the Broward County Board of Commission, along with the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz for her historical role in bringing jazz, music and mentoring to the Town of Davie.

“Being a humanitarian is helping people who are suffering and saving lives any time any place in the world. And so humanitarian work requires being responsible, conscious of the circumstances of other people’s lives, and helping them on the basis of need, without discrimination,” she said recently.

Reflecting, Hastings admitted that she was reluctant to relocate when she did because she was afraid there would be nothing for her to do in South Florida. If you know anything about Hastings, you know she is a go-getter and full of creative ideas to help others.

In Orlando, you could always catch Hastings, a graduate of Berkeley College-New York, around town, helping to put together special events that mostly benefited young people. She worked with Darrell Butler as co-founder of the Greater Orlando CARES Mentoring Movement (an affiliate of the National CARES Mentoring Movement founded by Susan Taylor, Editor Emeritus of Essence Magazine, organizing Music and Mentoring through the GO CARES for children (in urban communities and Pine Hills), who had no extracurricular Arts activities due to school budget cuts. Their Jazz in the Hills fundraising event was one-of-kind and it showcased local talent who brought to life legendary singers and performers like Della Reese (played by Ms. B, local radio personality) along with Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald (played by Alicia Mott and Sissy Peoples, local singers who were directed by Jami Thomas in the “Just Jazz” presentation). Awards were given to some folk who, over the years, contributed to music education and mentoring programs for young people: Martel and Diana (Lady D) Taylor, Yvonne Loggins Coleman, Apostle VW Jones and Mark NeJame.

In addition, Hastings served as Chair for Guardian Care Rehabilitation Center Family Council, where her involvement and advocacy for aging people gained her a Proclamation and Black History Heritage and Legacy Award. Also to her credit: She’s served as President, Orange Technical College Foundation and Outreach Director and key organizer, He Got Up with retired NFL Hall of Famers (www.hegotup.org).

In Davie, Hastings, an ordained church Elder, on a larger scale working her passion, formed the Davie Jazz Society, the outreach sector of the Davie Jazz Festival. When needed, she serves as a volunteer chaplain for a local hospital and often performs weddings. She also serves on the Adrienne Arsht Center for Performing Arts Onyx Women board and the Miami Children’s Museum event committee. Through her position at Falcon, she recently co-founded the Women Empowering Women in Development organization. Hastings’ dual role allows her to work closely with executive staff and upper management at the company’s corporate office and work closely with property mangers, homeowner association officers, contractors and vendors – out in the community.

Her care for helping others started long before arriving in Orlando. However, it was in Orlando that the Hastings became both Beacon and Eagle Award recipients. That work earned them a Power Couple of the Year – part of an event produced by Author Pamela Reaves in the Baltimore/District of Columbia Metro area.

Today as a part of their family business, the couple formed Omega CARES and the Oatmeal Project, which serves the homeless through structured and strategic outreach. “We go out at sunrise and we bring instant oatmeal packets, sealed forks and hot water canisters; we are there to help the less fortunate embrace the day with their first hot meal and a smile.

“We believe that a life serving others is a life well-lived.”

For more information about Nouchelle Hastings, connect with her on LinkedIn.

(Pictured below: Nouchelle Hastings. Courtesy of Nouchelle Hastings/Girl What Do You Bring to the Table)

-Trish Martin, orlandocommunitynews@gmail.com

Posted in Community news that can help, Faith and Family | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Living Black History: Nouchelle Hastings, Trailblazing Community Leader and Humanitarian

2021: Moving Forward

Happy New Year! Yes, I am still sending New Year’s greetings, socially and professionally. We endured so much last year, and we are still enduring. Yet, we are moving forward, hopeful for better days ahead. It’s up to us to make it a Happy, Blessed New Year. (Hope we all take heed to lessons learned and reminders revealed during the pandemic.)

This is still a new beginning! I pray you are seeking God for wisdom, knowledge and understanding before you plan your year. (Some of you already have done that. Good for you!)

For me, my hope is in God and I trust him in and with every aspect of my life, leaning on Proverbs 3:5-6, Romans 8:28 and Philippians 3: 13-14. Join me!

Trish Martin, Founder and Editor,
Orlando Community News

I see more partnerships for Orlando Community News and opportunities to grow this online news publication! That equates to more good and great news in areas where it is rarely shared, empowering people to live better – spiritually, physically and financially. Our neighborhoods will improve, as well as the systems that were created to serve and protect them, for example.

I’m hopeful about and proud of the change in our country, effective Jan. 20, 2021: We witnessed the inauguration of a new president and vice-president, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. and Kamala D. Harris, both of whom made history just by winning the election and taking office. President Biden became the oldest person to assume the highest office in the land and oldest sitting president ever (AP). Vice President Harris became the first woman, first Black American and first person of Jamaican and South Asian descent to become Vice President! How historic, significant and hopeful is that! Their fight to restore the soul of America has officially taken flight. For the record, Biden gained points from me when he quoted a part of Psalm 30:5 in his inauguration speech, “…weeping endures for a night but joy comes in the morning.” He added: We will get through this together. Amen, Mr. President! Seasons change and it’s going to take all of us to make this a better place and time for all of us. Vice President Harris tributes her elevation to generations before her, who believed in and fought for equality especially her mother. I love this quote from her, “While I will be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.”

That brings me to my word (thought and scripture) for the New Year: MOVING FORWARD. I am marching forward – toward everything God has for me. “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own yet; but one thing (I do): forgetting what (lies) behind and reaching forward to what (lies) ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the [heavenly] prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”-Philippians 3: 13-14, AMP, Bible.

2021: MOVING FORWARD! Let’s all get to work in our perspective communities, states and nations. I solicit your continuous prayers for this organization and I will continue to pray for you, your family and your endeavors. I am speaking it: Better days are ahead. Amen, Amen!

Posted in Community news that can help, Faith and Family | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on 2021: Moving Forward

Jesus, the Light of the World

My Christmas Eve tradition over many years was thwarted somewhat by a mean old virus. I would rush from work, most times still in work clothes, and head down Interstate 4 to get to the Candlelight Service at First Baptist Church of Orlando. I enjoyed it because it was always a spirit-filled family event and often, money collected during the service went to charities in the local community.

But God! This year, I didn’t have to rush anywhere because the Candlelight Service I attended was virtual, on Zoom and my brother, Rev. Reginald B. Johnson Sr., led the service along with members of the church where serves as senior pastor.

So while Covid-19 prevented in person worship, I truly enjoyed the virtual service! We lit candles and sang along to traditional hymns such as “Away in A Manager,” “The First Noel” and “Joy to the World.”

The message was the same: Jesus Christ is the Light of the World! We celebrate Christmas to celebrate the birth of Christ. He is the manifested Love of God – born to save us! Amen. (Luke 2: 11-12)

Plus, my 85-year-old mom, one of my sisters along with an uncle and aunt were on the Zoom virtual Candlelight Service too. That was icing on the cake, sort of speak (I must have another round of Christmas dinner on my mind, LOL)! My brother told me later that the service had more people to attend than those who attended in the past at the church. That’s good news too!

It all reminded me not to despise the twists and turns in life because we can find peace and even more blessings in a new direction.

Here are some highlights from the service. Hope this blesses you as it did me.

Church members lit Advent Candles and read scriptures coinciding with what Jesus bought into the world when he was born.

HOPE: Jesus’ birth brought hope into a world that felt hopeless. The people were under Roman rule and high taxes. God had promised them a Savior, a king who would overthrow the Romans and rule like King David. Had God forgotten His promise in Isaiah 7:14? They had hoped He would be the one. They had hoped He would have come by now. They had hoped…think of some times when you have felt hopeless and know that we can have hope in Jesus. God has fulfilled His Promise. Scripture Reading: Isaiah 7:14

PEACE: When you are under the rule of someone else as the Jewish people were under Roman rule, you may not feel very peaceful. When Jesus was born he brought peace into the world. Peace is the calm even in the midst of strife or occupation. When Jesus is a part of our life we can have peace when our life may be filled with problems. Think of some times when you may not have had peace in your life. The Christ of Christmas wants you to have the peace that passes all understanding. Scripture Reading: Isaiah 9:6

JOY: When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, He brought joy into our lives and our world. Joy is the presence of God in our lives, even in the midst of conflict. May you experience the joy that the Christ Child brings this Christmas. Scripture Reading: Luke 2:10 and Matthew 2:11

LOVE: Someone has said that “Christmas is Love.” At Christmas, God demonstrated His love for us as He sent His son to be the Savior of the world. Through Jesus’ birth God said, “I Love You.” May you experience the love of God as you celebrate the birth of Jesus. Think of some times when you really felt loved. Remember that God was faithful in His demonstration of His love for us in the birth of Jesus. Scripture Reading: Luke 2: 1-20 and John 3:16

CHRIST: (Himself) We are now in Bethlehem. Can you hear the angels singing, hear the flutter of angel wings, hear the cows moo or the Baby Jesus cry? God had not forgotten His promise. Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus – God’s gift to the world. In Jesus, God gives us hope, peace, joy, love and the presence of His son Jesus. This Christmas may you celebrate and truly experience the birth of Jesus in your life and in our world.

The service ended with testimonies of God’s goodness in the lives of his people and a prayer for individuals and for our country.

Candles were lit from the Christ candle (held steady by the leader in each household) as we sang together, Silent Night.

Kudos on a job well done Pastor Johnson and members of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, DeLand, Florida.

Merry Christmas everyone! With Love, Peace, Joy and Hope!

-Trish Martin, Founder and Editor, Orlando Community News

Posted in Faith and Family | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Praying In This Season: Effective, Victorious Prayers

“And the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for an house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” – II Chronicles 7: 12-14

In this season of a pandemic, racial injustice and disasters, no doubt, people all around the world are praying. Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up or lose heart. (From Luke 18:1) Guess what? We are his modern-day disciples so he’s telling us now to do the same: always pray and don’t give up.

I had a chance to talk with two intercessors, from Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Eatonville, about reminders in prayer and some keys to effective prayer. They both started with the foundation: People must first believe in God (have a relationship with God) and use the authority he gave them to pray victoriously.

“Prayer during this time is specific and strategic when pulling down of strongholds –specifically in situations that are occurring such as the uncertainty of the longevity of COVID-19, the killing of innocent Black people, rampant police brutality, a government provoking hatred, loss of income and separation of families, all of these things where evil is entrenched and produces hard, tough, difficult problems that are not easily solved.

All we can do is pray,” said Deaconess Jami Thomas, who served as the church’s Intercessory Prayer Ministry leader for more than 10 years.

“As believers, we are to hold fast to our faith. We’re in a spiritual battle. We can’t predict what’s going to happen. But we can prevail regardless of what happens. If you want a victory, you have to pray victoriously. This pandemic has no power over our prayer nor our praise.”

Amen, we know there is absolutely nothing too hard for GOD so we trust in HIM. (Ephesians 3:20, Luke 18:27)

Sis. Lorene Johnson, who was appointed leader of the prayer ministry last year by Pastor Willie C Barnes, shared some keys to effective prayer:

Do your best to live a life that’s pleasing to God – righteously. Confess your sin and repent. Reference: I Peter 3:12

Give yourself to God. No longer sit on the throne of your own heart, making decisions according to your flesh and asking God to agree with you in your mess.  Reference: Romans 12:1-2

Be honest with God when you pray. As the scripture tells us, before we were formed in the womb, God knew us. If we are saved, he set us apart for his service. We may or may not be a prophet to the nations (like Jeremiah) but each life in Jesus Christ is purposeful. Reference: Jeremiah 1:5

Forgiveness is most vital. We must forgive others in order to be forgiven by God and in order to be heard by God. We tend to justify our position of not forgiving because of what another person said or did, how we were treated or how we were wronged. We have no right to do this. Jesus paid it all up on the cross. He bore our sin and shame. He set us free. Let’s walk in that freedom!  Reference: Matthew 6:14-15

Some reminders going through these turbulent times: Make sure you’re anchored steadfast in Jesus. Seek him for answers, Johnson said.

“The word says – cry loud and spare not. Pray,” she said. “You have to use your voice. God wants to hear us cry out for one another – for our country, for our government and economies around the world. Pray for our pastors, leaders, authorities. God has allowed the entire world to have the same experience together.

“We have been selfish and self-serving for much too long. If all you can manage to get out is ‘Lord God, Help Me,’ do that. The Holy Spirit will interpret the rest.”

She added: “God cannot fail. He has forced us to look at the man in the mirror – not the face of the man that he quickly forgets but, the heart of the man that causes us to repent and turn wholly and solely back to God. Our position of power is on our knees.”

Amen, Amen!

Jami Thomas
Lorene Johnson
Orlando Community News, 2020
Posted in Community news that can help, Faith and Family | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Praying In This Season: Effective, Victorious Prayers