The following comes from CBF partner Touching Miami with Love.
As we celebrate 20 years of Touching Miami with Love’s impact it’s only fitting that we share stories from the leaders who have carried this work over our many years. The idea of a central ministry reaching those in the downtown corridor began as a dream of members of the former Central Baptist Church in downtown Miami. To better meet the needs of its surrounding community, it contacted the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship to ask for a team to be established in downtown Miami.
In 1994 Butch and Nell Green answered the call. Having served in West Africa for eight years, they began a survey to assess the needs of the area and it was also through this process the name Touching Miami with Love was chosen. The Greens began work in the areas which the surveys had shown to be most need: English as a Second Language, Homeless Persons, International Students, Persons living with AIDS, Prayer Ministry, Prison Outreach, and ESL Classes.
“Each week Laquita Wynn and I went to a day care for children living with HIV to do a music class. We loved the children, but always wondered if simple things like this really make a difference. One day the day care director called. One of the children had but a short time to live and he really wanted was for his music teachers to come see him and sing with him. I will always treasure that moment of sharing that part of his too short journey here.”
The growing and expanding ministries of TML began to tax the space allocated by Central Baptist in its first two years. Butch and Nell Green reported at the time, “It was like a message from God when we saw the ‘For Sale’ sign on the Builder’s Exchange Building.” The location was immediately adjacent to the church and a bold decision was made by leaders within CBF Florida—they would take on the challenge to own the building, raise the funds to pay for it, and maintain the costs of it. Carolyn Anderson, one of the founders of CBF Florida, reminds us, “We owe a debt to the volunteer team led by Isabel Saint Gaudens who called everyone on the (CBF FL) mailing list inviting them to be a contributor to the campaign, A Covenant to Serve that raised the funds for the purchase of the Touching Miami with Love building.” Indeed we do!
After three years in leadership, the Greens sensed their time at TML to be coming to a close. Nell says, “We shared with our friends, Larry and Laquita Wynn what was before us. Little did we know that God was preparing them to take over leadership.”
Larry and Laquita Wynn answered the call. Before Larry began his career in ministry, he served for 21 years in the corporate world most recently as an editor at the Miami Herald. After graduating from Candler School of Theology, he and Laquita returned to Miami to lead Touching Miami with Love as Executive Director of TML in 1996. It became evident over their years to have a deeper impact in the community children, youth and adults in the Overtown community and the homeless population in the downtown corridor. Laquita fondly recalls God’s provision in their outreach to the homeless during those years.
“One Friday night each month we offered a free “Movie Night” for our homeless friends. Volunteers would join us making popcorn and lemonade to serve the folks who were enjoying a movie. After the death of our second microwave, I started researching the cost of a commercial popcorn maker. The amount of $485.00 was definitely not in our budget. I didn’t say anything to anyone because I knew it just wasn’t possible.
One of the members of a partner churches that joined us was having a birthday party and requested that no one bring gifts for her but give cash instead so she could donate it to TML for the movie nights. The next week I was amazed to open an envelope with their check in the amount of $485.00.”
Larry not only build relationships necessary for the growth of TML during his time, he also served on the advisory council for our sister ministry, Open House Ministries. During that time, Steven Porter served as Assistant Director. In 1998, Larry stepped down and Steven assumed the role as Executive Director. During Steven’s leadership at Touching Miami with Love, he focused the organization on its core strengths — ministry to the homeless community and families at risk in the Overtown neighborhood. After working closely the City of Miami neighborhood parks for many years with the children and youth of Overtown, the time had come to make those relationships more permanent. With the help of CBF FL supporters once again, Touching Miami with Love relocated from downtown to a new ministry center in the heart of Overtown in 2002.
When Steven decided to pursue his PhD, he turned to the founders at Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and CBF Florida for direction for new leadership and Jason and Angel Pittman were asked to join the team. Under their direction since 2005, Touching Miami with Love has grown building on the rich history of serving the community in a holistic way. Jason and Angel brought with them extensive experience in urban communities serving previously in Texas and Detroit and adopting a model of living in the community and are homeowners in Overtown raising their two sons.
Over their ten years in leadership, they’ve developed several programs and projects to serve the Overtown community including year-round programs for children Kindergarten through 12th grade, parenting programs, while continuing and even expanding outreach services to the community.
With Touching Miami with Love’s continued growth came exciting change early in 2015 as Open House Ministries joined the Touching Miami with Love family as the Homestead Site. Jason continues as Executive Director with Angel serving as Assistant Director. Wanda Ashworth has transitioned to the role of Homestead Site Director. The team is working to sync the programs and services of the two sister ministries to better serve the communities of Homestead and Overtown.
We wish there was more space to share the amazing stories of faith from the many have who have poured their hearts and souls into the organization. We hope that you will join us at our BIG Dreamers 20th Anniversary Awards Dinner on Saturday, October 3rd as celebrate 20 years of sharing the love of Christ sharing hope, opportunities, and resources to the communities we serve. To God be the glory!