Zoe Empowers Meets 
Basic Needs in Africa
Many of our Florida United Methodist Churches are involved in Zoe Empowers. It is a vital need. Zoe Empowers was founded in 2004 as a Christian response to the humanitarian crisis of orphans left in the wake of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa.

The beginning of this ministry was inspired by a 15-year-old woman who felt called by God to care for AIDS orphans Africa. She then shared her experiences with her church and whomever else would listen, inspiring others and leading to the establishment of ZOE.

Zoe Empowers has grown to a current enrollment of over 40,000 orphans and vulnerable children in the three-year empowerment program across seven countries and three continents.

When graduates are added to this group the number swells to more than 70,000.

I recently reached out to CEO Gaston Warner for an update on how Zoe Empowers is impacted by COVID-19. This was his response:

"The orphaned and once-vulnerable young people in Zoe Empowers program continually astound us. These young people in years two and three of Zoe’s three-year program, as well as graduates, continue to organize community efforts assisting the elderly and educating their communities.

“It is beautiful to see those who used to beg, now reaching out to help others. As soon as the pandemic began to affect Africa and India, Zoe began providing handwashing stations and educational materials to the Zoe participants. And the participants immediately began sharing and replicating these resources for other vulnerable people in their communities.

“However, for those young people in the first year of Zoe’s program, the shelter-in-place restrictions have been devastating. Without time to accumulate savings and experience in their businesses, they face this time lacking the resilience of participants in their 2nd year and later in Zoe’s program.

“Many have consumed their business grants and inventory just to survive this time. As soon as Zoe staff can return to the field, we are hoping to make an emergency cash infusion of $30 per child-headed household for participants who entered the program in the second half of 2019, and $50 per household for those participants starting earlier this year. This infusion will immediately allow these young people to restart business and earn income to feed their siblings.

“As with all the other aspects of Zoe program, this assistance is not just for the moment, but will have a sustainable impact on the lives of these young people. But we need your help to make this happen."

The work of Zoe Empowers has been impacted greatly by COVID-19. Even as they struggle with the pandemic, the orphaned and vulnerable children are still serving their community. If you are able to support Zoe Empowers please visit their website or contact Molly McEntire of the Florida Conference at mmcentire@flumc.org
for more information on how you can be involved.

NATIONAL, CONFERENCE, AND DISTRICT NEWS

​The Latest from the Florida Conference
As we enter this Memorial Day weekend, we continue to pray for those impacted by COVID-19 and for the regular sacrifices being made by those who are on the front lines. We previously released guidelines and continue to ask for no in-person worship through June 15th. We will give another update next week regarding the period after June 15th.

Some of you have asked helpful questions. The task force, in consultation with the Cabinet, has created a Frequently Asked Questions document. This addresses the current time and helps you prepare for the next phase.

Guidance from Hillsborough Parks and Recreation
As Hillsborough County continues to gradually turn the dial toward reopening parks and preserves, the health and well-being of residents and visitors remains the County’s top priority. At this time, the County is reopening all of its community parks, green spaces and trails, dog parks, outdoor tennis courts, pickleball and volleyball courts, and outdoor restrooms at staffed sites beginning Monday, May 18.

Though all Parks & Recreation sites will be open, the recreation center buildings and athletic fields will remain closed, as well as other portions of the parks including playgrounds, picnic areas, splash pads, and skate parks. An up-to-date list of all park openings can be found here. 

Residents will be required to follow social distancing guidelines. Large group activities, such as team sports practices, are prohibited at the sites. We urge residents to be mindful and socially responsible to ensure everyone's safety. Residents who do not abide by the social distancing requirements or follow instructions given to them by County staff will be asked to leave the property. Visitors are encouraged to wear face coverings and to bring water to hydrate and provide for pets. 

News About COVID-19 Testing
Recently, Hillsborough County significantly expanded its point-in-time testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Now, anyone who wants to be tested can pre-register to get tested for free at community sites.

Anyone can be tested—you do not have to exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Research shows that many people who have the virus may be asymptomatic, that is, showing no symptoms. Asymptomatic persons can unknowingly spread the virus to others. Public health officials say expanded testing is crucial to making decisions about reopening the County and developing policies to protect vulnerable populations and avoid a second wave of cases. Having a better idea of how many people currently have the virus will give Hillsborough County emergency leaders more information to make these important decisions.

The tests at the public testing sites are free. Insurance is NOT required, nor is a doctor’s note or prescription. There is no age limit, however minors must be accompanied by an authorized adult, such as a parent or guardian.

A reservation is necessary to ensure that time slots are available at the testing site, to increase the speed of the actual testing process, and so that you receive important instructions. When your appointment is booked, you will receive a confirmation code that you will be asked to provide upon arrival at the testing site.

The free tests available at the County’s community testing sites are intended to detect whether an individual has the virus at the moment the sample was collected. Test results are not immediate. It usually takes 7 to 10 days, and in some cases longer. In the meantime, persons who were ill at the time they took the test should self-isolate until the diagnosis is known. All residents, including those who are asymptomatic, are reminded to wear face coverings while around other people in public.

The public testing sites are located at Raymond James Stadium, and at Hillsborough County Community Resource Centers in East Tampa, Plant City, and South Shore. At-home testing may be an option for certain residents who cannot travel to a testing location. Bring a photo ID with name and date of birth for all persons being tested; this can be a Florida driver's license, a state-issued ID, or a passport. Although pedestrians can be accommodated at some sites, it is best to arrive in a personal vehicle as the majority of the testing is conducted via “drive thru”. Limit vehicle passengers to those needing a test.
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A Holy Land Prayer Journey
In February 2020, Florida Conference Resident Bishop Ken Carter led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During the trip attendees visited historic landmarks and walked where Jesus walked while reliving some of the most beloved stories of the Bible. At each site, the group gathered for prayer.

Click here for an interactive look at their journey complete with photos, videos, and links so you can explore the Holy Land through their eyes.

Lay Servant Training Available Online
Discipleship Ministries is testing a new online course for those interested in becoming lay servants. This basic course will run from May 26th (the Tuesday after Memorial Day) through June 15th. Designed for use during COVID-19 pandemic, this online course is the gateway to Lay Servant certifications.

You can go to this link to find out more. Or, you can contact Greg Uchimura, the Gulf Central District’s Director of Lay Servant Ministries at (813)394-6980 and 
gregory.s.uchimura@gbr-enterprises.com.
Summer in the Scriptures
Bishop Ken Carter invites you to join him for a Summer in the Scriptures as we journey through the Gospels! Starting June 1, we’ll read a chapter each day, beginning with the book of Matthew. Join the “Summer in the Scriptures” Facebook group to share your insights and gain inspiration with others from across the Conference. Connect with us today at facebook.com/groups/GospelSummer for video content, podcasts and daily support for deepening in the mind, heart and life of Jesus.  Click here to download the “Summer in the Scriptures” daily reading plan.