Pastor Josh Sarmiento is looking for some help. He has, so to speak, the Master Carpenter that he is depending on to help lay the cornerstone, but others are needed to help build Destiny Community Fellowship.
Josh and Bobbi Jo Sarmiento founded Mount Olive Destiny on June 22, 2008, out of Mount Olive East.
After the church was organized, the current name was adopted. For almost four years, the small congregation met at the Boys & Girls Clubs. It then moved in April to the Salvation Army on Inman Street for about a month, but its occupancy rate is about 100 people.
Sarmiento, 40, is of Puerto Rican and Ecuadoran descent and Bobbi is a Caucasian from Virginia, which he said is part of the couple’s appeal.
“They want to know how two people from different worlds make it work, but when you have God in the center of the relationship, it works out. We complement each other and that’s how a marriage should be. But, we are like anyone else. We don’t always have it all together.”
Their congregation is just about evenly divided between Caucasian, African-American and Hispanic, which is part of their vision to minister to all nationalities. The church began with six members and grew to 150, but has settled in at about 100 people attending Sunday morning services.
“We had to make a move. We were looking at property and everybody was telling us ‘no’ as far as purchasing or renting. It wasn’t working out for us. We had our plan and the Lord had something else in mind. This became available after the pastor resigned after 14 years here,” he said. “Here” is the former Blue Springs Church of God at 2611 Blue Springs Road.
Sarmiento said the church needs volunteers to help paint, clean and do some carpentry work on stairs, windows and roofing in the rear of the building where classrooms are located.
“We have about eight to 10 classrooms we plan on opening up to the community for money management, anger awareness, divorce care, English as a Second Language and other things as the need arises. We want to open it up to the community. The new Blue Springs Elementary School is going to be right down the road and we want to be part of that,” he said.
“We want to have an Internet portal so parents who do not have computers can access their kids’ progress at school.
“But, we’re still having church in here,” he said. Sarmiento works full time as a family therapist. His specialty is adolescence though he works a lot with gangs and violent juvenile offenders at Youth Counseling Services directed by Dr. John Vining and Solution Point Health in Chattanooga.
“I do that to provide for my family, but we always want to pursue our calling and this is it,” he said. Because of his secular work, it is probably natural that some juvenile offenders are attracted to Destiny Church where they are being disciples in God’s Word, and trained to write resumés and how to apply for a job.
“Love, hope and heal is all part of the vision of Destiny,” he said. “We can’t love if we don’t have God’s love and we can’t give hope if we don’t know how to love and we can’t be whole if we don’t have that hope.
It was all of those — God’s love, hope and healing — that delivered him from the gangs of New York. Growing up, he was torn between his minister father and two uncles who were Original Gangsters. “We (he and his brother, Abraham) were involved pretty heavily. We did some things involved with the Latin Kings. We know how the gang lifestyle works,” he said. “As a former gang member, I know God called me to preach and I thank the Lord he has given me a vocation. I think we have to be relevant to what is going on.”
His experiences are part of his testimony. He loves and respects his father, but as a kid, Sarmiento believed his father put the church before the family and home.
“We I played sports where a father should be cheering on their children, he was off doing church work, plus he was working a full-time job. The church became his family, so the acceptance I was looking for came from my uncles,” he said. “If you are not getting acceptance at home then those negative, worldly influences can take the place of friends, family, church and God.”