News Articles

Father & son minister to congregations after Frances

BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. (BP)–Using flashlights for 52 hours and subsisting on sausage and bread until their electricity was restored after Hurricane Frances, Lielson and Veronica Penido hardly paid attention to the fact that she could deliver their child any day.

Penido, worship pastor at Iglesia Bautista Oasis de Amor, a Hispanic congregation in Boynton Beach, Fla., and his wife stayed in their fairly new apartment building, which is equipped with hurricane shutters. Veronica’s late stage pregnancy prevented her from traveling, so the couple did not evacuate before the powerful storm hit their area, felling trees, knocking out power and strewing debris across the roads.

About 35 members of the small, but growing congregation — whose name in English means “Oasis of Love” — gathered with the Penidos until the worst of the storm passed.

As soon as it was safe, Penido, whose father, Levy, leads a Brazilian congregation in Boynton Beach, said several of the men from the Hispanic church with cell phones and cars ventured out to begin collecting and distributing emergency relief items from one home to another.

On staff at the church for barely a month, Penido said he doesn’t know many of the members but enlisted the help of one member, Gladys, who knew most of the families.

“She called to see if people had anything left, so they could bring it into the church,” said. “She would call somebody and say, ‘Do you have any diapers left? I know you have a baby and someone else needs some diapers.'”

Penido told the Florida Baptist Witness Sept. 10 he was still delivering supplies to people in need after Frances and helping them make decisions as to how to prepare for the approaching Hurricane Ivan, which by Sept. 14 seemed headed more to the west.

Penido was disappointed that officials ordered the evacuation of emergency relief personnel ahead of the anticipated landing of Hurricane Ivan. A Southern Baptist Disaster Relief team from New Mexico was pulled out before it even had time to prepare one meal at a Red Cross kitchen at Westside Baptist Church in Boynton Beach. But Penido said he understood it was necessary to keep everyone safe.

“At least we have a staff of four pastors and we talk with everybody about every two or three hours to see if someone needs anything,” Penido said. “Water and ice are a major part of what people still need — and some perishable things. Some people find another store that’s open and they buy enough for others as well.”

Smiling, Penido did admit to standing in line at location to purchase four tacos. It took him an hour.

“Anything that we can find open, we check it out and see what people need,” Penido said. The tacos, however, were for his wife.

Penido’s father, Levy, who once served the Brazilian Baptists as a missionary to Ecuador and then was a church planter in New York and New Jersey, is pastor of Igrega Batista Brasilerira, a fledgling 50-member Brazilian congregation which has met at Westside Baptist Church the past two years.

When Frances roared through on Sept. 5, the senior Penido was in North Carolina for a meeting of Brazilian Baptists from all over the country.

“When I came back, everything was out,” he said. “My electricity was out and my computer was broken when the lights came back on.”

Penido said he immediately began to check on the families who attend his church. He discovered two families have homes that have been damaged, but with telephone lines and power sporadic in the area, and tree limbs making travel dangerous, he was having a difficult time discovering how to assist people.

“We don’t know what to do in the next days,” Penido said. “We have been contacting the Florida Baptist Convention by phone and we talk frequently and they have helped us a lot. But here, we don’t know where to go or what to do, really.”

Both of the Penidos were a bit uncertain about what to do with the younger man’s in-laws who were flying in from Brazil Sept. 11.

“We haven’t seen each other in five years,” Penido said of his wife’s parents who had made reservations three months ago in anticipation of their grandchild’s delivery. “They are coming tomorrow and we weren’t expecting this storm to come in.”
Joni B. Hannigan is managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.floridabaptistwitness.com.

    About the Author

  • Joni B. Hannigan