Phase-Two: An Update of Thrive Church

At the end of last month our church had its second Grand Opening at our new location here in Lake Nona. This phase-two launch served as another big push to establish Thrive Church’s presence in our community and to publicly open our new location at a local middle school. Months and months of prayer, planning, and hard work all came to fruition and we were able to welcome about 180 people to Thrive that morning! It was a beautiful sight to see this place of public education transformed into a place of spiritual learning. The band room, choir room, and regular classrooms were crafted into environments for infants all the way up through middle schoolers to learn about Jesus. Within a matter of hours the cafetorium (cafeteria + auditorium) became a worship center where we had our main service. The coolest part is that God provided ALL of this!

Before Setup
Before Thrive’s service set-up
After Setup
After Thrive’s service set-up

Kids' HallwayWe are so excited about all the new opportunities that are to come in this school! Just the fact that we have so much more space is a huge blessing, because more space means room for more people and their kids to comfortably come and be in a warm, spiritual, learning environment. We cannot thank our Jesus and the leadership and administrators at the school enough for making this space available to us.

Worship

 

Our hearts are full and we are celebrating our new space, but not for the sake of the space itself. Our celebration isn’t because we have a brand new building to meet in with shiny floors and classrooms that hadn’t been touched until a couple of months ago. Our celebration isn’t because we have an actual stage from which to lead worship with a full band and to give sermons. It isn’t because we have an entire multi-purpose room to use for our services and now we can break out our pipe-and-drape and make use of our stage lighting. Our celebration is not because we’re that much closer to meeting aesthetic expectations and living up to the modern-church culture.

Our hearts are full and we are celebrating because this larger space allows us to welcome more people to join our church family as we all pursue God together. We’re celebrating because we have more space for babies and children and middle school students to be introduced to Jesus and His love for them. We’re celebrating because we have more resources to reach people where they are at spiritually and to teach people of all ages in the way that they learn most effectively. We’re celebrating because we can welcome and provide enough space for mamas with strollers, the disabled with service dogs, and the elderly with wheelchairs into our main service. We’re celebrating because the ability to include more gives us the opportunity to serve more, and therefore the opportunity to love more.

This is not so much a defense of our new space as it is a reminder. For me. For my church. For the Church. May this remind us and encourage us to keep Jesus at our innermost core as we minister to our communities in ways that are culturally relevant. What is so beautiful about the Church is that churches will look different in the ways that they minister and teach. In fact, they must look different in some aspects in order to effectively reach the cultures and people groups of their community. What unites us all is Jesus as our center, offering the hope of salvation and extending grace so rich that it seems foolish to the human mind and love so great that we can’t even begin to measure it.

We are grateful to have been able to see how God has provided for Thrive and are so humbled that we get to be a part of His work in our community. May His name be praised through it all!

 

Will you pray for us as we continue serving and working in our church and community?

  • Pray that Thrive will continue to grow and be a gathering place for people of every generation, culture, and background to come experience Jesus.
  • Pray for the many groups within our church that will start or continue to meet on a regular basis, like our community groups and the middle/high school groups. Lauro and I are currently leading the high school group and are working on starting a college-age/young adult community group in the near future, and we’re very excited about both!
  • Pray for perseverance and rest for our family as this season of our life is definitely requiring a lot of work physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Thank you so very much for your prayers and support! Are there ways that we can be praying for you in this season of your life? If so, please let us know and we would love to pray for you as well!

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Hello, Orlando!

We made it. We made it. We made it.

As I write this I’m sitting in our sun patio, watching cars drive by on the road in front of our apartment in the cool yet humid air as a light rain falls. At 72 degrees it’s the coolest it has been in the afternoon since we arrived. When we got here we were greeted by temperatures in the high eighties and low nineties (and not to mention the Florida humidity!), and it has rained every day since. Welcome to Florida!

Florida State Line
Crossing the Florida State Line

It took us a total of two days, about 22 hours of travel time, four people, two cars, and one moving truck to get here. We left Joplin mid-morning about three weeks ago on a Monday and arrived in Lake Nona on Tuesday in the late afternoon. It seems so typical to describe the drive as “long” when people ask me how it was, but that’s truly the best way to describe it. As someone who hates driving, this trip was LONG. And I didn’t even drive the entire time like some of our driving crew did! Without a lot of things to break up the monotony of the drive, I was thankful when we got to pass through big cities that I had never been to before, like Nashville and Atlanta. When we passed through Nashville it was right as the sun was setting, and seeing the sun and sky reflect off of all the downtown buildings was absolutely beautiful. I was driving at that point, so I didn’t get to take it all in at once like I wanted to, but luckily Lauro was in the passenger seat and he got some great photos for me.

 

We finally made it to Lake Nona and our apartment complex, and after a quick check in and some final paperwork we were able to begin moving in to our new home! We were so blessed by the people who came from the church to help us unload our stuff and start unpacking. By that night we had the master and guest beds assembled and the kitchen all unpacked and put away—a big accomplishment! Especially when you’re doing all of that without air conditioning. Yes, that’ right. Our air conditioner was broken the minute we walked in the door. The filter was completely frozen over, so there wasn’t any amount of cool air being produced to relieve us from the Florida heat. It wasn’t until about a week later that it was finally fixed after two attempts by apartment maintenance and one by an outside A/C company. (There’s always got to be something that goes wrong, right? I honestly would have been worried if there wouldn’t have been any problems at all when we moved in. At that point in the moving process we just expected road bumps and inconveniences and learned to go with the flow.)

The Sotos
Pre-move photo of our little family

So here we are, starting our new life in Orlando, Florida. We had our first Sunday with Thrive Church on the 4th of this month and it made us so excited for the growth the church is experiencing now and how it will grow in the future. We’re starting to build more connections and relationships with people and deepen the relationships we had when we got here. Just thinking about how this church is going to expand and impact the community and reach people and teach and disciple and worship and love, all for the glory of God? I feel like a giddy little kid just thinking about it! Jesus is just so good, so, so good, and I want everyone to know and experience that goodness.

What is so amazing about serving our good God is that you get to be part of a body full of His people who are striving for the same thing: to live like Jesus. There is no way we would have been able to make it to Florida without the help of our friends and family, our brothers and sisters in Christ. Without them, we could have just forgotten about packing up our house in Joplin and loading up the moving truck. Driving our two cars and the truck to Florida would have been impossible. And even if we would have made it that far, I can guarantee that Lauro and I would have been absolutely MISERABLE travelling for a combined 22 hours without any help. It would’ve taken many hours to unload all of our stuff into our new apartment and get it all unpacked. Just imagining how our move would’ve gone if we had to do it all alone frightens me! I don’t think I can ever thank our people enough for how much they helped us. On both ends of the move we had so many people helping us, encouraging us, and giving us advice (and as young, married college students whose biggest move was a six-hour drive hauling our stuff in a borrowed horse trailer, we needed all the advice we could get!). People have packed, loaded, driven countless hours, unloaded, unpacked, suffered in the heat, offered us a place to stay with air conditioning, and provided household goods, food, and meals, all for us! I feel so undeserving, but that’s what following Jesus is all about, right? Giving to and loving those who don’t deserve it? That’s what Jesus did for us all, right?

I will always be so thankful for God’s people. He created us for community and to do life alongside other believers, and this move has shown me just how vital that is. By design we were made to be together, living and loving and serving others and each other. We were made to help shoulder one another’s burdens and to rejoice alongside each other’s victories. As the family of God we need each other to encourage and build one another up, not for our benefit, but so that we are able to go out and show people the love of Jesus with a full and encouraged heart sustained by the limitless love of our God and the support of our fellow believers.

Will you continue praying for us as we settle in to our new life in Orlando?

  • I am still looking for a full-time job here. Pray that I will trust in God and be patient, knowing that He will provide one at just the right time.
  • Pray for the Creative Arts ministry at Thrive Church. Lauro has started planning and organizing all the different aspects of this ministry, and soon we will be inviting people to join us in serving in those different areas. Pray that as the foundations for this are laid that Christ would remain as the center focus.
  • Please continue to pray for our financial support. We have been in absolute awe of how much God has provided for us already. We couldn’t be more grateful! As this is a three-year process, we ask that you will keep praying for the support we have to raise as we continue to trust our Provider.