Florida Baptist Disaster Relief specialist now leads Miami area church
Mar 25, 2014
Florida Baptist Witness

MIAMI (FBW)—Terry Ryan, former contract worker for the Florida Baptist Convention Disaster Relief and Recovery Ministries Team, has served several months in his first pastorate at First Baptist Church of Cutler Ridge in Miami. The church campus was a hub of Disaster Relief ministries after Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

The new pastor’s first contact with the church was through Dan Chandler, a DR volunteer who asked him to come preach. As pastor, Ryan now hopes to highlight the work of Disaster Relief at First Baptist Church by hosting a DR training event in 2015.

“This church has been involved in Disaster Relief all along, but having the mobile kitchen set up here will remind the community of the role the church played after Andrew,” Ryan said. “We want them to remember that this is a church that helps.”

Ryan was finishing a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy when Hurricane Andrew swept across southern Florida. He began working with Florida Baptist Disaster Relief as a “Blue Hat” in Black Creek Baptist Association in 2008, and he was hired as an associate with the Convention DR Team in 2009. 

Ryan values “the privilege of helping others at their point of greatest need.”

“When people are in need, when they see no hope—that situation is a natural fit for Christians. What better time to show the love of Christ?” he said. “In my experience, after I have met their physical need, I have never been turned down when I asked to pray or share Christ.”

The 51-year-old Georgia native said living in Greece as a child and his career in the Navy prepared him for his work in Disaster Relief and as a pastor. He worked in logistics at Navy facilities in Florida, Maine, Texas, Spain, Portugal and Iceland. Ryan made a profession of faith through the witness of Louis Demer, a missionary of another denomination, in France in 1987.

“He was teaching his church how to witness on the street when he heard my American accent. He talked to me then about Jesus and invited me to church. I didn’t want to go, but I did. We hung out there for three days. He showed me and told me I needed Christ,” Ryan recalled.

Ryan’s international experiences have helped prepare him for church work in Miami, he said. First Baptist Church in Cutler Ridge, with 158 in attendance at the end of last year, is a “wonderful mixture of cultures.”  

“The church facility is located in the middle of urban sprawl, and we start at the doors of the church to do the Great Commission,” he said.

In his Convention DR work, Ryan lived and worked at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center in Leesburg. He and his wife, Sybil, were about two hours away from their two sons and three grandchildren in the Jacksonville area. Travel time to family has now tripled, and his environment has changed dramatically.

“It’s not as quiet here as it was at Lake Yale. We are closer to Wal-Mart and the grocery store, but it takes the same amount of time to get there because of ‘crazy traffic,’ he said.

Currently a student at The Baptist College of Florida in Graceville, Ryan plans to continue the preparation for ministry that began when he was younger.

“I felt the call to the pastorate a long time ago, but it just took time for God to train me sufficiently for it,” he said.

Ryan sees a greater need of ministry in south Florida, because 60 percent of Florida’s population lives in South Florida, he said.

“I want First Baptist to be a mission­al church, because we have to keep reaching people. I want us to keep stretching,” he said.

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