On Saturday, September 7, 2002, two vans with a handful of visionaries navigated through the trailer parks of Orlando’s inner-city picking up nine kids to bring to church. The vision they shared was to reach children living on the fringes of poverty; children who were powerless to meet their own needs. There was a message of hope and Life for these kids, and through the prayers and dedication of a few, Orlando Children’s Church began on that day.
The idea to start this citywide ministry, pioneered by Peter and Isabel O’Driscoll, originated a few months earlier during the summer of the same year. Peter was regularly witnessing to the homeless of downtown Orlando, presenting the gospel to them through a street-ministry program. A visiting evangelist friend asked about sharing the Gospel with kids in the poorest areas.
They began presenting Jesus with kids in trailer parks off of Orange Blossom Trail. This time was powerful and moving. Most of the kids were barefoot, and wore ragged clothes; the grittiness and hardship of life evident on their dirty, stained faces. Out of this experience, God drew the hearts of Peter and his wife Isabel to begin what we know as Orlando Children’s Church.
First in borrowed vans, then in buses God miraculously provided, Orlando Children’s Church was allowing these kids to be brought out from emotionally, physically, and spiritually devastating environments and offering them constant love and support. As Peter began to drive through the broken and poorest areas of Orlando, mingling with kids and telling them about Saturday church, numbers continued to increase. Kids were telling their friends about their Saturday church and volunteers were passing the word to come and serve them.
Ministry was happening…life-changing ministry.
Within six years, OCC was running more than 10 school buses each Saturday picking up 350 children on routes through the poorest, most blighted areas in Orlando. Clearly, God was moving.
Peter estimates that since He and Isabel began the ministry, they’ve welcomed more than 50,000 children on Saturday mornings at Orlando Children’s Church and more than 5,000 children, pre-teens and teenagers have been gloriously saved.
Janice Woody, an original volunteer who still serves at OCC, working with the Middle and High Schoolers, sums it up,
“Now here we are, with a fleet of buses and kids coming and giving testimony to how God is changing their lives. How they’re saying no to drugs when people stop them on the street, and how they’re giving back money when someone gives them too much change in a store. You know, those are things that nobody would ever know and yet they do because God makes a difference to them in their lives.”