Luz y Vida (Light and Life) Mennonite Church was started as a church plant in 2009 in the College Hill neighborhood of Tampa, FL. The new church was a project started by Pastor Tomas Ramírez and his family, funded by the Southeast Mennonite Conference and the College Hill Mennonite Church. The College Hill congregation offered the use of their church building and support by providing health insurance.
The congregation flourished and after a year moved to the Orlando area. Currently the congregation is renting space with another congregation, but they hope to have their own building in the future.
The church has a multicultural Hispanic ministry including many Brazilians. A strength of the church ministry is combining the message of the Good News with involvement in the social needs of the community. The congregation offers many social services to the community, notably in the areas of food, mental health, optometry, and eyewear.
The church program, “See Better to Learn Better,” has the goal of providing 100 eyeglasses to 100 low-income young students. Many students are taking classes online and rely on their computers and tablets to study and need proper eyewear. Pastor Tomas is an optician. The church has professional equipment to make formulated eyeglasses. The entire pastor’s family is active in the church programs.
There are many more ministries and programs within the church. The congregation has a large emphasis on youth ministry. The youth are organized and have an annual retreat at a camp and invite participants from other churches in the area. The church also has a men’s program called “Men of Courage.” Its mission is to offer help to the church community as handymen.
The Luz y Vida congregation has a leadership training program, which trains persons to be sent to different parts of the city to start new Mennonite communities.