PORT CHARLOTTE — When The Pentecostals of Englewood outgrew its old building on the access road near Winn-Dixie, the church saw an opportunity to move a little closer to the majority of its membership.
But the new space in northern Port Charlotte, near North Port — the areas where most members live, although several come from Englewood, Punta Gorda and Venice — meant “Englewood” didn’t really fit in the name anymore.
Rebranded Hope Apostolic United Pentecostal Church, the church spent about four months renovating the building at 17353 Geddes Ave., off Toledo Blade Boulevard in northern Port Charlotte, that it purchased from the Wesleyan Church of Florida. The congregation of 115 members met in the new space during the renovation, which finished up in late December.
According to the Rev. Daniel Dagan, pastor, in addition to the sanctuary that seats 180 comfortably, there is a youth room where the Youth Alive group meets for those 12 and older; a children’s area where those ages 4 to 11 attend church and meet for the JC Troopers group; and a nursery for children 3 years old and younger.
The children’s church, run by a couple and a teen, engages the younger church members with animated Bible lessons, complete with costumes and props, as well as games.
Services are streamed live online, with people watching from as far as Germany, Jamaica and Europe, many of whom tune in thanks to the church’s missionary support.
Services are streamed in-house as well, with monitors in the lobby and nursery, as well as audio in the restrooms, so nursery workers and worshippers who need to step away for a moment don’t miss anything.
“We want people to get the service no matter where they’re at,” Dagan said.
Dagan and his family started the church from scratch nearly 16 years ago, in April 2003.
“We actually felt called of God to come to this area of Florida,” he said.
Both Dagan, 47, and his wife, DaVida, 44, graduated from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where Dagan attended on football scholarship out of high school in Plant City, Florida. He met DaVida there in Louisiana.
The couple married, launched careers (she, as a social worker at a rape crisis center; he, working with heavy equipment for Caterpillar), bought a home, had their first son, and served on the pastoral staff at a church they loved.
Despite his Sunshine State roots, Dagan had never come down to Southwest Florida. Neither he nor DaVida had any family in the area, and they’d never even been here before.
As Dagan tells it, while seeking God’s direction for his life, he attended a fateful service where the pastor mentioned how God had led him to go to a city and start a church.
That brought to mind “a woman from our church in Louisiana whose daughter just moved to … the city of Sarasota,” Dagan said, “and (she) called her mother and said, ‘Mom, there’s some great churches down here but there’s so many people. We need more churches in Southwest Florida.’ And just as random as it sounds, her mother shared that with my wife.”
Dagan and his wife had felt called to pastor, but didn’t know whether they should take over a church or start their own. But the service and memory it brought to mind clarified that call, and the family worked over the next eight months to shift their lives from Louisiana, making a “move to a city and a community that we knew absolutely nothing about and we knew nobody in, because we felt like it was a purposeful life,” he said.
Dagan stayed with Caterpillar and Kelly Tractor another 13 years before retiring about two and a half years ago to move into the ministry full time. His wife, DaVida, taught fifth grade for years at Glenallen Elementary School in North Port, and now uses her social work degree there as a home school liaison.
They and their three sons live in Gulf Cove. Their eldest, Zachary, nearly 20, is a Lemon Bay High School grad and current State College of Florida student. Their middle son, Jacob, is an eighth-grader at L.A. Ainger Middle School in Englewood. The youngest, Alexander, 7, like his brothers before him, attends his mom’s school, Glenallen, as a first-grader.
Sixteen years later, Southwest Florida has become home, and the newly minted Hope Apostolic is flourishing with programming for all ages in the community. In addition to the regular services and classes, the church offers Christian marriage counseling, and has an addiction-recovery support ministry called Psalm 51 that mirrors programs like AA, NA and Celebrate Recovery. The pastor actually implemented the program through his volunteer chaplain work at the Charlotte County Jail, and it now extends to the church as well.
“Our biggest focus is — we’re really strong on the word of God, the Bible. We put a lot of emphasis on Bible preaching and teaching, and home Bible studies, discipleship programs,” Dagan said.
A plethora of information about the church and its ministries is available on its website, www.hopeapostolicupc.org, or catch services streamed live on Facebook — just search for Hope Apostolic UPC.