First Focus


“Why are we partnering with Sabal Palm Elementary School?” is a question that I have often been asked. The answer has so many different levels, that to answer it is like peeling an onion — it comes out in layers.

Sometimes I answer that God gave me a vision several years ago to lead a ministry in a local school and in God’s timing I’ve seen that vision become a reality. Sometimes I share that we are specifically at Sabal Palm because doors were opened in ways that only God could orchestrate. Sometimes I answer that we have been able to be the hands and feet of Jesus, sharing His love and light in both tangible and intangible ways to Administration, Teachers, Staff, Children and Families. No matter which one of these responses I give, there are many other layers to each one of them — so many that I doubt that the unsuspecting person who asked the question really has the time to hear them all. I smile on the inside as I reflect on the snippets and pictures that cascade through my mind.

I decided to ask some of our volunteers to share their thoughts these are their responses:

  • “God was calling me to be a mentor and I kept telling Him, “No.” When FBCTLH began the Partnership with Sabal Palm, I knew I had to finally answer Him, “Yes, Lord.””
  • “Nothing comes easy — Good things often happen slowly and that is true at Sabal Palm.”
  • “Staff and children were skeptical when we began. Now, staff asks for help. Children recognize us and are excited to see us. My mentee asks, “Can we read another book?””
  • “It’s all about the relationships I’m building one by one. I am a part of making a difference in lives.”
  • “I’ve been helped — I have remembered that we are called to serve. I’ve also been reminded that EVERY ONE of us, young and old, need to know we are loved. We need to have a feeling of worth.”
  • “When I leave Sabal Palm, I feel like I am floating! I have a good feeling in my heart.”

Why are we partnering with Sabal Palm? Well for me, at the most inner layer, the core answer is because Jesus has graced us with His love and mercy and then invited us, dare I say, commanded us to be His Light and His Love in our world today. This is one part of our city where we have been invited to be His hands and feet, to make a difference just by walking alongside and being a part of everyday life in an elementary school. Let me share some of the ways this happens:

Reading to children; grading papers; making bulletin boards; organizing costumes, props, and sets for musicals; collecting books that are going to be discarded and making them prize possessions; helping with movie nights, Daddy/Daughter Dances, Field Day; laminating and cutting out pictures; cleaning classrooms; planting flowers; judging spelling bees, speech contests, and science projects; speaking to classes about special interests; mentoring; laughing and crying with children and those who love them; serving meals to staff; collecting box top labels; just generally being available when needed.

When these and other activities are covered with prayer and love, people’s lives are changed.

Please hear what some of the Sabal Palm family have said about the partnership:

  • A staff member at Sabal Palm told one of our volunteers, “We are a better school because of First Baptist Church.”
  • A child once told the adult she was with in Walmart, “This is my best friend at Sabal Palm” as she was giving our volunteer a big hug.
  • A mentee asked for a Bible for Christmas.

Could Jesus be inviting you to join those already involved in this ministry? If so, please prayerfully consider responding with a resounding YES! I would be happy to visit with you at any time about how you can let your hands and feet help to share His Love and Light!

~ Rhonda Smith, Minister of Pastoral Community