- Faith & Family
Few people ever get the call to ministry — even fewer actually respond. One example is the pastor of the Church of the Open Door, the Rev. Dr. Joaquin Willis, who began to struggle with his calling and how to respond some 36 years ago.
“I was called, but I ran from it for about 11 years,” Willis said. “I had seen so many children of ministers who were troubled by what their father did for a living and I did not want that for my children.”
Willis, like so many people who have worked to bring change to their community, was uncomfortable with assuming such a prominent role of leadership.
“I didn’t feel that I was worthy,” he said. “I didn’t think that I was the type of person God wanted.”
But the will of God won the fight. Willis has been an ordained minister for 25 years. He has no qualms with letting his congregation, or anyone for that matter, know that he is not doing what he wants to do. He is doing what he has been called to do. He is compelled by a calling and a love for God that has him bound to his 330-member congregation.
A former businessman, Willis believes in speaking on things once the job is done.
“The goal is to make a positive difference with measurable outcomes,” he said. “I believe that our church, which is centered in Liberty City, is an oasis of resources in a desert of need.”
While the pastor views his congregation as a humble-sized congregation, he describes the goals of the church and the church’s size as big in nature.
“We are a mini-church with a mega-church mentality,” he added.
Willis delegates his time between visiting sick-and-shut-in members of the church, teaching Bible study classes and assuming leadership roles within the Miami community. He sits on the Collective Empowerment Group which is responsible for holding banks accountable for the money local churches deposit every Monday morning.
He says he is particularly proud of the church youth program, “Seed to Harvest,” that requires young adults to maintain a community garden while beautifying the city.
By Ju’lia Samuels