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Road notes: Miami church is a shelter in a time of storm … and layovers

In the hectic days between our deadline for the April print issue and my reporting trip to Ethiopia and South Sudan, I didn’t get a chance to promote our coverage of Miami’s Sunset Church of Christ, the latest congregation featured in our ongoing Churches That Work series.
I first visited the church more than 10 years ago, before I worked for The Christian Chronicle. I presented a paper at a communications conference at the University of Miami and worshiped with the Sunset congregation on Sunday before returning home — which, at the time, was Savannah, Ga. I was impressed with the congregation’s size and its worship service, offered in English and Spanish.

Erik Tryggestad tries his hand at a game of dominoes with Cuban-American members of the Sunset Church of Christ in Miami. (Photo by Alicia Pardo)

I have gone through the airports in Miami and nearby Fort Lauderdale several times since, on my way to report on churches in Guyana, Bolivia, Cuba and the Bahamas, to name a few. In December 2010, Miami was my destination — not just a stopover — for the Churches That Work profile.
I stayed at the home of Bob Perkins, one of Sunset’s elders, and his wife, Barbara. They were gracious hosts. I enjoyed fellowship meals and gatherings at the homes of other elders, including Jeff Hinson and Charles Ramsey.
Visiting the Ramseys’ home was particularly intriguing. The couple had several beautiful paintings. I asked them if they had ever heard of Rolando Diaz, a Cuban-born artist and church member who used to live in Miami.
Sure enough, the paintings in the Ramseys’ home were Diaz’s work. The artist lives in the Dallas are now. I visited him in 2008 and wrote a feature about his work. Charles Ramsey had clipped a copy from the Chronicle.

Sunset Church of Christ elder Charles Ramsey and his wife stand next to a painting in their home by Rolando Diaz. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

The Sunset church has endured a lot in the past five years — an economic meltdown and the loss of ministers for its English and Spanish services. As it has dealt with the losses, the church has found new ways to serve its bilingual, multiethnic community.
I particularly was impressed with Crissy Pace’s story — and her willingness to tell it. On the back porch of the Ramseys’ home, she described the impact of the current U.S. economy on her life and how the church has become a shelter in the financial storm:

“The people who don’t have the church … I don’t know how they’re sustaining,” said Crissy Pace, a member of the Sunset Church of Christ in Miami. In less than four years, Pace has gone from a six-figure salary to unemployment. She left a high-paying job in credit and collections in Miami and moved to New York, where she worked for Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch, a church-supported ministry. As the economy faltered, the ministry cut her job. She returned to Miami and couldn’t find work.
“In one year, I sent out 435 resumes and got five interviews — three of them in my actual field,” Pace said. She is upside-down in her home, owing more than it’s worth, and rents a room from one of the church’s elders.
Pace, who was baptized in Trumbull, Conn., also has worked in Houston and Atlanta but inevitably returns to Miami.
“Something keeps bringing me back, and it’s definitely the people,” she said. “They truly are brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Read the full story.

Jim Holway preaches in Spanish and English for the Sunset Church of Christ in Miami. (Photo by Erik Tryggestad)

Our coverage of Sunset also includes a feature on Jim Holway, the coordinator of the church’s preaching teams and coordinator of the LAMP-Miami ministry. I first heard Holway’s amazing story of transformation when he spoke at the 2009 World Mission Workshop at his alma mater, Freed-Hardeman University in Tennessee.
One month after my visit to Miami, I was there again. I had a night-long layover before traveling to Haiti to cover the one-year anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake. Bob and Barbara Perkins hosted me once again. I arrived late on a Wednesday night and left early on Thursday morning.
It was a short visit, but it felt like home.

  • Feedback
    Thanks Danny!…..beautiful couple inside and out, The Ramseys…….great church!!……I have many memories going through my mind right now from early years. Starting with the Central Church of Christ on NW 27th Ave…..even before the merger with the Sunset Church of Christ. In honor and tribute to an amazing visionary man, I still remember the beginning of the Spanish congregation there on 27th Ave. in the Fellowship Hall with Capiro. Bob Forcum an amazing kind hearted, giving man saw my brother Chris and mom, and me worshipping in that sweet congregation in 1965. Since we didn’t speak the language, we would just sit there after my father passed on and we migrated from Cuba. Bob brought a Spanish minister from New York to begin preaching in Spanish in that fellowship hall, Capiro. My mother, Chris and I would then go to the Fellowship Hall there with possibly 5 other people and worship. Mother would push me to lead the singing…..God blessed Bob Forcum’s great heart and look at that congregation now. Bob also believed in Max Lucado and his first book publication years later and look at the influence of that belief and vision. THANK YOU BOB FOR SO MUCH GIVING!!
    Rolando Diaz
    April, 10 2011

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