First Presbyterian Church of Orlando is no new kid on the block in Orlando. Having occupied the same city block of downtown Orlando for over 100 years now, First Pres has changed with the times while also remaining steadfast in its values and core beliefs. It houses many many different outreaches and missions that feed, clothe, serve and minister to just about anyone in the city of Orlando. But there is one ministry that stands out amongst the others.
Every afternoon, when local schools dismiss for the day the halls of First Pres become home to a beautifully different type of Jesus lover. Having been known for decades as “the rich white church”, First Pres shatters that preconception and students from some of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in the city come flooding onto campus. They walk, they ride their bikes, they brave the chaos that is public transportation and a few are lucky enough to get a ride from Miss Jenny, their beloved leader and biggest fan. These special middle school and high schoolers make up a ministry of First Pres called Four12.
Taking their name from I Timothy 4:12 (Let no look down on you because you are young, but set an examples for the believers in speech, in life, in faith, in love and in purity), these kids challenge the box the world tries to put them in every day. There is a lot I could say about Four12. I could tell you about how generous First Pres is to open their home each day to these kids. Or I could tell you how faithful the leaders are and give an impassioned plea for you to give of your time to them….which you should. Or I could tell you about my experience with these kids and how world changing my summer spent with them was. Those are all great stories and anecdotes but every time I am around the students of Four12 I can’t help but be in awe of how much these kids love each other.
They have created a family and just like any family, they have their weak spots and their scuffles but push comes to shove, you try to shove any of these students around and you better believe that a pack of wrath will be reigned down upon your head. The high schoolers have been offered the opportunity to mentor the middle schoolers (a novel idea, I know) and they take that responsibility very seriously. They whole heartedly greet the middle schoolers as they come trudging up the steps and make sure that the snack is ready to be feasted upon each day. The girls play mother hen and make sure all of the chicks stay in line while the high school boys show their young charges the ropes in a way that only boys communicate. There is lots of sharing and hugging, and while they may have their bad days and their sharp edges, these students would move mountains for one another.
Some of them have rough home lives and others are just struggling to make ends meet every day but they all know that Four12 is a safe place, a refuge in the storm. They get help with their homework, someone asks how their day was and they learn even more about the Lord they have to come to love. And they love one another, deeply and from a pure heart. And while I struggle every day to love those God has placed in my life, they somehow make it look like a piece of cake.
Take a look at this video and see what Four12 is all about for yourself. And if you live in Orlando, think about spending some time with Miss Jenny and her kids. Trust me, you will learn more there than you could ever teach them. You can learn more about Four12 here.