2012 Florida Baptist State
Convention Annual Meeting
ORLANDO (FBW)—Organizations with members who share common goals with the churches of the Florida Baptist State Convention, met Nov. 12 in Orlando on the first of the two-day FBSC annual meeting for fellowship, inspiration and training. In meetings they discussed such topics as human trafficking, arts in ministry, social media, and immorality. The Florida Baptist Church Music conference changed its name to Florida Worship Gathering.
More than 100 chaplains and spouses gathered Nov. 12 at Central Florida Parkway Baptist Church in Orlando. Joel 2:25 was the foundation of the conference theme, “Ascending Hope…Restoring Dignity” from which conference leaders spoke about human exploitation, transitioning inmates to freedom, and recognizing stress in those receiving and giving care.
Marc Johnston, team strategist with the Church and Community ministries Team of the Florida Baptist Convention that sponsors the annual conference, said the meeting was “one of the best we ever had.”
Bill Losasso, pastor of Pathways Community Church in Largo, led the breakout conference on human trafficking. He said southwest Florida, particularly Clearwater, is the most active point of entry for victims of trafficking from South America. An office of the Federal Task Force on Human Trafficking is based in the city.
With a biblical mandate to “set the captives free,” churches need to know how to recognize situations in which people are held against their will for commercial sex or for forced labor in restaurants, homes or agriculture, he said.
Victims, who generally have no means of communication or support, may be indebted to a trafficker for smuggling and living costs, a sum they can never repay. More than 27 million are enslaved worldwide, more than 80 percent female, Losasso said.
Profits of trafficking industry are estimated to be $30 billion annually, second only to drug sales in criminal profits.
“You can sell a drug or a weapon once. You can sell a girl over and over,” he said.
Losasso urged churches to assemble a team to become educated on the subject through Internet sources such as www.stophumantrafficking.org and local law enforcement, and to then inform the congregation of the problem—and the ways to recognize victims and the questions to ask.
In another break-out session, Andrea Hall, a licensed mental health counselor with First Baptist Church in Merritt Island and a Disaster Relief chaplain, led a break-out session to teach caregivers how to recognize symptoms of post traumatic stress. According to Johnston, the need for this training arose out of the long ministries of Disaster Relief volunteers and leaders following the Haiti earthquake and the tornadoes in north Alabama.
The chaplains honored two of their own during the annual meeting. Ragan Vandegriff, a staff member at First Baptist Church in Orlando, received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his 40 years of service as chaplain with the Orange County Fire Department and the Cobb County (Ga.) Fire Department.
“If a tragedy happens in Orlando, Ragan is there to minister,” Johnston said.
The conference also honored Patrick Donaldson as Career Chaplain of the Year. He will retire in June from his work with the Department of Corrections in the Central Florida Region.
Church musicians from across the state met Nov. 12 in the student center of First Baptist Church in Orlando. According to Pedro Linares, president of the conference and worship pastor of First Baptist Church in Eustis, fellowship and encouragement were the aims of the meeting that was titled “Faithful to God: an Afternoon of Peace, Hope and Inspiration.” In business session, the group voted to change its name.
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