At a time when the city of Pensacola is battling pushing the largely under-served portion of our population outward, Rev. LuTimothy May of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church is reaching out and drawing them in. Once the purchase of the Brownsville Baptist Church campus is finalized, May will have 50,000 square feet of space in which to carry out his vision of service—10 times greater than his current confines of 5,000 square feet.
The purchase agreement arrived from what May describes as months of praying and talking with Rev. John Pavlus of Brownsville Baptist Church. May was battling how to make use of restricted space. Meanwhile Pavlus was questioning what to do with expansive facilities he could no longer fully utilize. Both were looking for answers to their prayers.
“It’s unexplainable, other than God is so much greater and smarter than we are,” said May. “I didn’t come looking for this place. It found me.”
Pavlus worked with May to arrive at a deal that would meet the needs of both congregations and allow May to feasibly purchase his commercial real estate property situated at the corner of T and Cervantes streets. While May and his congregation gradually transition from their current location on West Blount Street, Pavlus and his congregation are set to merge with Circle Baptist Church.
Friendship is not only the name of May’s church and a recurring theme within his ministry, but is telling of the relationship among the three supportive congregations involved.
“Each church is so excited. We just know this is something that God orchestrated,” said May.
A New Home
The ground level of May’s new expansive sanctuary is equipped to hold more than 1,000 people, with two separate balconies each hosting another 200, and offers ample breathing room for the growing congregation. Outside of the sanctuary and administrative office area, the campus consists of two halls with room after room of space. North Hall is designated as the site for a Community Development Center, with a tentative August opening date.
As part of the Baptist Hospital Board of Trustees, May has spent time reviewing data related to indigent care, health literacy, rising infant mortality rate, number of uninsured, missed education opportunities, and other issues prevalent in our community, specifically in West Pensacola. The list that goes on and on.
A major gap in area health services will be met with the extension of the Health and Hope Clinic. Established by the Pensacola Bay Baptist Association, Health and Hope is driven solely by donors and volunteers. The clinic provides health care for the uninsured, with main operations on Chemstrand Road. Having a location in West Pensacola meets a need that May recognized years ago. Although intended to be housed within the new facility, May’s existing church campus on Blount Street remains up for consideration due to its neighboring proximity to Baptist Hospital.
Currently in the North Hall, computer labs and classroom space are in place. Having previously taught at middle, high school and college levels and recently appointed to the University of West Florida Board of Trustees, May has already begun conversations regarding multiple education partnerships and plans to offer GED certificate opportunities.
Next door in South Hall, the downstairs library will be expanded to include a bookstore. Upstairs will house Friendship’s bustling youth population. A Tax Preparation Center is also on the list of inclusions as are wellness areas designated for fitness classes, including Zumba and pilates.
“There are so many needs out there. You can’t save the world, but it’s great to know you can help save your own community,” said May. “The longer we’re here and identify needs of the immediate area, we’ll address them.”
As an added benefit, most of what is currently within these buildings will be left in tact, including a clothing closet, which May plans to expand upon to help ensure no one is deprived of the basic necessities for survival.
“No one should have to be hungry. Everyone should be clothed,” said May. “My dad knew what it felt like to be hungry. And he worked so hard for us to have one outfit.”
May follows in the legacy of his late father, former pastor of Friendship who stood by creating opportunity where opportunity was needed, not only for his family, but also for his entire community.
Speaking of community, in order to fully transform the campus and bring his vision to life, May plans to heavily tap into community resources and partnerships.
“When people find out there’s something credible and meaningful, they want to help out,” said May. “I don’t look at slowing down as far as challenging the community.
In our ministry the community has been such a great support.”
Closed Doors, Answered Prayers
This dream to expand Friendship’s service into a fully involved community outreach mission wasn’t born overnight. It was years in the making.
During his time at seminary school in Atlanta, May found himself embracing a greater understanding of what ministry truly encompasses. At graduation, May and his classmates were challenged to make a far-reaching impact regardless of the geographic area they served. Many of the needs he saw through his studies, May recognized in his own backyard of Escambia County.
May selected to return to serve his home area of Pensacola, working in his father’s church, Friendship. May worked diligently to maximize the current facilities of Friendship, establishing community relationships and partnerships. Still, the space couldn’t keep up with the growing needs.
Three years ago, May sought usage of the vacant Brownsville Middle School space. Despite the community’s support, due to unforeseeable pushback, he was forced to step away. He continued his mission, and didn’t give up his vision.
“We had a clear vision, and we shared it, but unfortunately at the time people didn’t see it,” said May. “A lot of people dream dreams, but very few people are visionaries. Visionaries see what no one else sees and they don’t allow the opposition of others to stop their vision.”
Today, the discouragement surrounding the Brownsville Middle School building fades into the background. What was then a door slammed, and a dream deferred is now a vision in bloom.
“It’s a testament for people not to give up,” said May. “Sometimes closed doors are answered prayers.”