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FAITH

PASSAGE Family Church in Gainesville urged to continue to let its light shine

Voleer Thomas
For The Guardian

Being the light in a dark world has been the mission of since it was founded 21 years ago.

The church was co-founded by Pastor George Dix Jr. and his wife Lady Michele Dix on March 3, 2002, at the Best Western Gateway Grand Hotel and Conference Center in northwest Gainesville.

Approximately 50 friends and family members attended the first service, and 12 people partnered with the church on that date.ֱ

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After nine months of active ministry and service to the Gainesville community, the church purchased its existing 700-seat sanctuary and education center, hired its first full-time office manager and acquired 10 acres of land at a separate location.ֱ

ֱWe are not going to allow anyone to let our light diminish,ֱ George Dix Jr. ֱWhen we started this church, we prayed to the Lord to surround us with people for the love of God and the zeal for kingdom work.ֱ

Dix thanked members of the congregation for their hard work and efforts serving people in need through the church's many outreach programs.

ֱWe thank you for what you have done behind the scenes,ֱ Dix said. ֱWe would not be here without you. It is my desire that when people walk through the doors, they walked with a changed heart. We donֱt want you to just see us, but to see Christ in us.ֱ

Minister Sherite Thomas gave the invocation prayer.

ֱThank you Father for your mercy and the sacrifices you made,ֱ Thomas said. ֱWe lift this service up to you and thank you for giving us 21 years of ministry and we pray for many more. Let your words penetrate us. Weֱre not here for another church service, weֱre here to praise you.ֱ

Pastor Sheila Baker-Bell welcomed parishioners to the celebration.

ֱOur mission is to reach people where they are and we continue to celebrate the manifestation of that vision,ֱ Baker-Bell said. ֱWeֱre excited to see where God has brought us from and where this ministry will go.ֱ

Her welcoming was followed by a candlelight ceremony to honor the late Rev. George Dix Sr., who had been a pastor for forty years in the Church of God by Faith denomination.

Cynthia Curry, Gainesville city manager, talked about the impact the church has had on her since she moved to Gainesville three years ago.

ֱI knew I needed to find a church home,ֱ Curry said. ֱIֱm blessed to be a part of this family.ֱ

Curry said she sets her alarm to 3:33 p.m. every day as a reminder to pray and thank God.

The time is in reference to Jeremiah 3:33 which reads: ֱCall to me and I will answer you and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.ֱ

ֱI know itֱs all about God,ֱ Curry said. ֱI even have colleagues who thank me for the reminder. ֱ

Superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools Shane Andrew talked about the impact the church had on him when he was the principal at Eastside High School from 2016-2020.

ֱIt is clear that God works through PASSAGE to have a direct impact on the community,ֱ Andrew said.ֱ

He commended the church for its dedication to providing early early childhood education to families.

PASSAGE Family Church acquired Cuddly Kids Academy in November 2011 at 1023 SE Fourth Ave., which is an early learning preschool for children ages 6-weeks to 5-years-old.

Then in August of 2016, the church opened the Oak Tree Early Learning Academy at 1414 NE 23rd Ave.ֱ

In September 2017, the church launched its second after-school business The Oak Tree 4 Kids for ages 6- to 11-year-olds located in the same facility.ֱ

ֱWhen we get them at pre-school, they will continue along the right path,ֱ Andrew said.

Paris and Rosemary Lee, a married coupled, talked about why they chose PASSAGE as their home church.

They said one of George Dix Jr.'s parking lot sermons during the pandemic was the reason why they stayed.

ֱI thank God for him leading us here,ֱ Rosemary Lee said.

ֱThe parking lot ministry got me hooked,ֱ Paris Lee said. ֱThis church reaches out to the community and tries to minister to the young people. I am honored to be a part of this global community.ֱ

Tiffany Durham said she is pleased with being a member of the church since July.

ֱMembers are not ashamed to call me and talk to me,ֱ Durham said.

She said she has witnessed her daughter grow as a person and in Christ as she (her daughter) began participating in the drama and dance ministries at the church.

ֱMy daughter has blossomed out of her shell,ֱ Durham said. ֱItֱs a blessing to be a part of a church that pushes you past your comfort zone. The Holy Spirit embodies freedom and I thank PASSAGE for giving me that freedom too.ֱ

The guest speaker was Bishop Ronald F. Kimble Sr. of The Life Center Church in Eatonville, and psalmist Audrea Baker gave a solo performance before Kimbleֱs sermon.

Kimble read from Matthew 5: 9-16, and preached about being the salt and the light.

Kimble said people need God as much as they need oxygen.

ֱPeople may ask, ֱIs it necessary to hear the word of God?,'ֱ Kimble said.ֱֱIs it necessary for you to breathe?ֱ Kimble answered to his own question.

Kimble said salt is a preservative and how those who believe in God are akin to salt by preserving the word of God.

ֱIf the Christian people are not the salt and the light, then we are lost,ֱ Kimble said.ֱ

Kimble urged parishioners to shine their light like a lighthouse on a hill.

ֱYou canֱt hide the light on the hill,ֱ Kimble said. ֱYour works canֱt be missed. The world ought to see it. Every believer is a house built by God. Every house will be tested. What matters is we use Godֱs gift to benefit his church.ֱ

Kimble encouraged parishioners to always keep the faith and listen to the word of God.

ֱOur motivation to come to the house of God is to be a listener,ֱ Kimble said. ֱFaith comes by hearing.ֱ

For more information about the church, visit www.passageministries.orgֱ