This week we chat with Tomas Pizaņa, pastor for Latin American Ministries at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon.
Though his parents are from Mexico, Pizaņa, 39, was born in Brownsville, Texas, but moved to Polk County when he was 5. He has been at his current position at Bell Shoals Baptist Church since September 2011.
Q: When did you know you wanted to become a pastor?
Answer: After graduating from Florida State University, I became highly involved with my home church. I began to work with youth, teaching classes and volunteering. I had a great career as a financial adviser, but felt like I needed to do more. Through prayer and scripture, God directed me to serve Him full time.
Q: What are some of the specific priorities of working with a Latin American ministry?
Answer: Serving the Latino congregation can be done in many capacities, such as teaching English, translating, counseling youth and marriages, and offering encouragement. Other times, it helps to be like a family, because they may be here alone from their respective countries.
Q: How has the Brandon area's Latin American population evolved since you've been at Bell Shoals?
Answer: Even though I have only been here for less than two years, I have seen three new Latino mini grocery stores open their doors. I have also noticed that many people from our congregation are new to Brandon from other countries, as well as other states.
Q: What are your goals for the ministry going forward?
Answer: First, to make sure all people know there is hope in all things through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Secondly, to encourage our Latino population that, through Christ, all things are possible. My desire is that there will be a 100 percent high school graduation rate among our Latino community, less crime, and more united families. Lastly, to simply help our Latino community know that the church is here to help in their time of need. After all, Bell Shoals is known as the fellowship of encouragement.
Q: Who is your all-time favorite Seminole?
Answer: Without a doubt, my favorite 'Nole is Bobby Bowden. For being one of the most successful coaches in college football; most importantly, for being a godly man in his profession.