ORLANDO, Fla. – As we continue to navigate this pandemic, people are finding themselves in tough spots. For many, it's for the very first time.
Pastor Ken Green knows how difficult the coronavirus pandemic has been for his congregation.
“They have shared their stories with us, you know, they’ll roll down their window and say, ‘Thank you, I’ve never had to do this before,’ and we say, ‘It’s OK,’ because we all understand that all of us are all one life event away from needing something,” Green said.
Green is the senior pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church. It's a church that's dedicated to service.
“We have everyday heroes here at Prince of Peace who simply have a servant’s heart,” Green said. “They’re here, they feel they exist to make a difference in the lives of others. Right now over in our food pantry, there are people unloading and they’re just passionate about helping people with food insecurity and to be able to make a difference in our community.”
They always provide a food pantry, but more recently, it's become a drive-through experience that's gone from serving 300 to about 400 families in the past few months.
“And the need has been more than that, but that’s about our capacity, about what we’ve been able to handle, representing some 1,700, 1,800 mouths that we’re feeding,” Green said.
But it’s not just food they’re helping people with, their love and support goes well beyond that.
“We distributed a thousand masks to people, as many as we had,” he said. “One thing that we’ve been able to do is we’ve been able to keep our preschool open. I know that the parents during this pandemic, a very unsettling disruptive time for everybody. They’ve had kind of a peace knowing this is a place where ‘they’re going to care for my kid, they’re going to love my child.’ For the children, since this is such an unsettling time and maybe they don’t understand everything that’s going on, but they can see mom and dad are tense, that they know this is a place that we help them know that everything’s OK.”
Preschool director Julianne Weigand said she knew keeping the preschool open was the right thing to do.
“I think it’s really important for them, we stayed open because they needed us, the community needed us,” Weigand said. “We have a lot of parents who are essential workers, some in the health care field, some in other agencies that are essential so we felt it was important for the parents and for their kids to be available to be a source of comfort and continuity for them. Some of the kids, especially the older ones, have kind of an awareness of what’s going on. They know that, ‘When coronavirus is over, I can do this’ or ‘You’re wearing a mask because of coronavirus.’ The biggest challenge for them is while we’re here to offer continuity for them, they have noticed a lot of their friends aren’t here. So they really miss their friends and that level of stability for them has been a challenge for them.”
The church is also known by the name Principe de Paz.
“We’re in the hotspot here and this is largely Hispanic,” said Green, referring to the area the church is located in, near Semoran Avenue and Curry Ford Road.
So one of the most important ways they’ve been able get results is by helping make sure those who don’t speak English get the information they need most during the pandemic.
“We have an incredible staff, half our staff is bilingual,” Green said. “We have a really active outreach and ministry to families that are new to America and trying to integrate. We have been doing English as a second language for years and during the pandemic, when we needed to shut down in-person operations we found ways to use Zoom in order to engage those people. We were able to push where we are in the pandemic and where we are in the processes and then continue to teach online. I think we helped get the message out about how families could continue to stay safe during this pandemic.”
They continue to offer online English workshops as well as virtual worship services in both English and Spanish.
Green said as long as the need is there, they will be there to serve.
“Sometimes I go home at night and I go, ‘There’s so much need out there.’ And I wish personally for myself or people here at Prince of Peace that they feel like we wish we could do more and yet it’s a really good feeling to go home and know you’ve made a difference, even if it’s for just one person,” Green said.
And if you're that one person who needs a little bit of extra help these days, he said you shouldn't be afraid to ask for that assistance, and if you can provide it, don't hesitate to give it.
“Every challenge, every crisis does present an opportunity. So it might be an opportunity to show love and care and support in real tangible ways that some people have never experienced,” Green said. “Perhaps that brightened their day, their week, maybe even pulled them through the pandemic.”