SPOTLIGHT POST: United Jacksonville
As part of Closer to Love’s commitment to proclaiming the gospel lived out in Jacksonville, Fl, we want to make every effort to highlight the organizations that we feature at our Monthly Sanctuary event. If you were unable to attend Sanctuary, the following post is intended to help familiarize you with the featured ministry and their work in the city.
United Jacksonville was born out of a multi-cultural, multi-generational dream to see God in the city of Jacksonville. Alan Diaz, a native New Yorker, is a part of a movement called God Belongs In My City (GBMIC), which conducts prayer walks all over the Nation. When Alan and his family moved to Jacksonville, it only made sense for them to lead the Jacksonville Chapter of GBIMC. However, this did not come as easily as Alan thought, there was a bit of a culture shock moving to the South. The city is divided across not only ethnic lines, but socio-economic and religious. Alan saw a need and knew a way to try and meet that need.
He began simply. Using Facebook and other social media sites, Alan reached out to other believers in Christ. He tagged pastors and churches in post after post, looking for some kind of interest in a city-wide prayer walk, or really some kind of interest in God-led Jacksonville. Some responded positively, and others asked Alan to kindly cut it out. Pressing on though, Alan led the first Jacksonville GBIMC prayer walk in 2011. Over 700 people from a wide variety of backgrounds came out to show their support. But that small taste wasn’t enough for most, and Alan had people asking him, “What’s next?” A spark had been lit for a United Jacksonville.
After his first successful event, Alan was asked by GBMIC leadership in NYC to help others around the country and the world replicate the event. Putting the name United Jacksonville to the ministry, he’s since coached over 80 cities to train and equip other believers about prayer walks and city outreach. Not to be limited by his own expectations, Alan didn’t just stick with the prayer walks. Instead he began an urban outreach ministry designed to meet at-risk youth where they’re at. United Jacksonville has adopted a ministry model from an organization in NYC to host basketball tournaments throughout the city of Jacksonville where the gospel is preached, kids are fed, and lives are being changed. Additionally, United Jacksonville hosts ACTS Leadership Training which is a 13 week program to train youth pastors in urban communities.
This is not a full-time gig for Alan. He doesn’t make a living out of the ministry, and in fact he still works an 8-5 job. But for Alan, “the thing is, we need prayer.” Out of that simple desire, United Jacksonville is striving for one city under the banner of one God and one church.
Does Alan’s vision stir something in you? Do you want to join next year’s prayer walk or volunteer at their outreaches? Like “United Jacksonville” on Facebook to keep up to date with all their service opportunities or contact Alan directly through the website, http://unitedjacksonville.com/