“It became somehow obvious the term ‘Sligo’ did not necessary have a positive or spiritual connotation within the community,” said Paolo Esposito, who is considered the ‘father’ of Sligo church’s (Takoma Park, Md.) initiative Hope For Today. “Being that ‘hope’ is such a popular term, and is a term held dearly by our church, we rebranded our evangelism efforts with that as our theme.” Esposito shares that a neutral name was also picked with the goal it could one day be shared as an initiative with other churches.
This fall, Esposito was joined by other Potomac pastors and associates in leading sessions and seminars at the first Potomac Conference sponsored “Hope for Today – Prepare and Engage” training program. More than 70 representatives from nine Potomac churches were taught the basic principles, which included how to make friends in the community, share one’s faith cross-culturally and recognize the role of the Holy Spirit in all forms of outreach.
“We’ll never look at our own neighborhood quite the same,” commented Elisabeth Wear, Sligo’s Home of Hope coordinator. “We learned to engage in witness through everything from backyard BBQs to active Bible study groups and examined the easy-to-use Homes of Hope Discussion Guides. So simple, yet so effective.”
As mentioned by Wear, a major component of the initiative is Hope for Today Centers or Homes of Hope. She and her husband, Doug, have been deeply involved since the initial stages and opened their house as one of the first pilot homes. This is how it works: church members invite neighbors, family, friends and coworkers to their homes for a Bible study or discussions on health, prayer, ect. Attendees choose the series they would like to follow, allowing each home group to develop its own personality, but retain the mission. Currently, there are 15 active centers around the Washington Metro area.
“These are effective small groups in which participants are supported and encouraged,” said Don McFarlene, Sligo’s administrative pastor. “They explore faith through scripture and address practical life situations with biblical principles.” He reports that over ten people have been baptized so far at Sligo as a result and many more have become acquainted with Adventism and, more importantly, God’s claim on their lives.
Marjorie Sleeman, Sligo member, hosted an eight-week health discussion and shares that afterward two from her group requested Bible studies. Now she’s working through a Gospel of John discussion and has neighbors joining.
“I am thrilled to see how this initiative is changing people’s lives and outlook on evangelism,” said Esposito. “I’m most happy to have the opportunity to meet people from other churches, who share the same passion and are ready to prepare and engage in leading people to Jesus.”
Sligo church, located at 7700 Carroll Ave, Takoma Park, Md., will be holding another training seminar on January 24, from 3:30-6:30pm. For more information visit www.hopefortodayacademy.com