Writer – Chanel V Tillman
JACKSONVILLE, Fla – A trip to Africa, meant to explore the Mother Land, turned into a visit that sparked a purpose. Pastor Phillip Rawls and two companions traveled to Africa and while there he visited an orphanage, the Baphumelele Children’s Home. The home houses orphaned, abused, neglected and abandoned children and is run solely on donations. Pastor Rawls provided the orphanage with $500 taken in for church offerings during this trip. This was his first outreach to the orphanage but not his last and the “FREE 4 Africa” mission had begun.
Originally from Miami, Florida Pastor Rawls moved to Jacksonville to attend school at the University of North Florida. He has been ministering for 14 years, seven of which were spent youth pastoring. Rawls felt his calling when he was in high school. “My friends would always come and talk to me about their problems and issues,” he said. This is when he knew his purpose was to be an encourager and to lift up others.
Pastor Rawls founded The Freedom Church of Jacksonville in June 2010. His vision is to reach people with the life-giving message of Jesus Christ that they might experience a life of freedom and purpose that God always intended for them. “Freedom is available for any and every one,” said Rawls, “there should be no limits due to lack of resources.” This is how the “FREE 4 Africa” name was born.
The first visit in 2012 sparked a need to assist Baphumelele. “The $500 we provided is equal to $1200 in their money,” Rawls said. He wanted to give more so he returned the following year and donated $1000, which he says equates to $3000 in their currency. This donation supplied food for approximately four months. The upcoming trip Pastor Rawls wants to do more. “My goal is to take more money than last trip,” Rawls said.
The Freedom Church also has many monthly outreach ministries locally, the biggest and most recent being “Serve Day”. On this day, the Serve Team goes out into the community to complete a three task serving. The first serving, the Serve Team went to a local washing mat and paid for everyone’s clothes to be washed and dried. “A lot of times people have to choose between washing clothes and eating or getting medicine,” said Rawls, “no one should ever have to make a choice between necessities and clean clothes.”
The second serving was at Taylor Residences, a local home that provides housing and care for seniors. The Serve Team made floral arrangements and put one in every room of each resident while offering encouraging words as well.
The third serving involved Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department (JFRD). The Serve Team provided donuts for the men and women who keep our city safe. “So often no one does anything for our officers and firemen,” said Rawls, “and we wanted to show that we appreciate all they do.”
The church has a ‘GoFundMe’ account and 100 percent of the donations made will go to the Baphumelele Children’s Home. “The ultimate goal is to provide enough money to provide at least a years’ worth of food,“ said Rawls. The group will leave Jacksonville Nov. 2, 2015 and return Nov. 10, 2015. During this time they will spend time at the Baphumelele Children’s Home as well as explore the Mother Land.
Giving back is what Pastor Rawls and his church family enjoy doing. It is what Christ did and they follow closely to His works. If you would like to also join the “FREE 4 Africa” mission by making a donation please do so, no donation is too big or small. The trip is member funded and 100 percent of the donations are given to the Baphumelele Children’s Home.