TAMPA (FOX13) - A Tampa pastor is celebrating a major milestone: 54 years pastoring the same church.
Reverend Dr. H.L. Daniels' has called New Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Jackson Heights for his entire career.
"53 years, going on 54. And believe it or not, I haven't missed many days," he said.
He's rarely taken a sick day over those 54 years, and normally, is there seven days a week. It's what it took to grow New Friendship Missionary Baptist from it's humble start.
"It had about ten members. Four regular members-- my wife and son and daughter! And I think my first offering in this church was about $2.50. And I put in the dollar!" he laughed.
Since then, the congregation and it's campus have grown significantly. Back in the 60's, they moved it from West Tampa to it's current site on East Lake Avenue in Jackson Heights.
Pastor Daniels used 3 school buses to minister to the streets.
"We planted a seed. And that was our aim," he said.
Today, the hard work has blossomed into something spectacular. Several hundred people call New Friendship Missionary Baptist home. Countless baptisms have been conducted within its walls, and lives changed for the better.
"I've seen great things happen," he smiled.
Pastor Daniels says his work isn't done quite yet. Retirement isn't on his radar. As long as he's able, he'll continue his passion for service.
"My whole heart is to help the community," he said.
New Friendship Missionary Baptist is also home to a daycare center and school for young children. Pastor Daniels says mentoring the community's youth is one of their most important missions. The church is located at 3201 E. Lake Avenue in Tampa.