Dear St. Lukers,
When my girls were in color guard in high school, the team of girls was very diverse in many ways. I never knew how diverse until late one night, after a long football game, I picked up my girls who were always the last ones finished since Grace was on leadership. I watched as one of their teammates began to walk down Turkey Lake Road toward Sand Lake in the darkness of night. I pulled over and insisted on giving her a ride, and after much hesitation she finally let me. It was as I followed her instructions to an extended night hotel I realized why she had hesitated. She was homeless. She, her sister, and her parents lived together in a small hotel room and the girls walked to and from school everyday. Her father had been injured and lost his job, and her mother’s salary as a housekeeper in a local timeshare wasn’t enough to afford rent, so they moved from place to place as they could afford.
I learned later from the coach about the accommodations allowed for homeless students to be able to receive support for academics and extra curricular activities. In my work with teenagers throughout the years, I learned never to assume regarding the complexity of families, the back stories of abuse or neglect, and the affects of poverty. But that night I saw the effects of homelessness in a whole new way, because that night it became personal.
The statistics of hunger and homelessness for school-age children and youth in Central Florida are staggering. These are OUR kids, our neighbors, the friends of our children and grandchildren, going to our schools. The gravity and weight of such statistics feels almost overwhelming, however, last fall you said these were the two areas you wanted to pour out our salt and shine our light to make the greatest impact. Overwhelmingly when you voted where we would use our salt and light to build the Kingdom it was to REDUCE HUNGER AND HOMELESSNESS IN CHILDREN AND FAMILIES.
Sunday we will cast the Vision of our final Pillar: Restoring Hope: A vision for Reducing Homelessness and Hunger. Pastor Melissa and I will be preaching, inspired by two powerful personal testimonies on what it means to empower others and restore hope. St. Luker Chuck Hawthorne and ZOE Leader Epiphanie Mujawimana, who is with us from Rwanda. I can tell you that knowing these two, you will not want to miss their powerful stories.
Pastor Melissa will be joined by Chuck, one of our Circles Leaders and long time Winter Garden resident. Chuck will be sharing his testimony of his work with East Winter Garden and helping empower Circles Leaders. Pastor Melissa and Chuck will be leading worship at 9:30 a.m. in Traditional and 11:00 a.m. in Contemporary.
I will be joined by Epiphanie, the creator of the current ZOE’s methodology known simply as the “Empowerment Model,” and the Country Director of ZOE Rwanda where her three-year empowerment program empowers genocide orphans and vulnerable children in her home country of Rwanda. We will be leading worship (LIVE!) at 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. in Traditional and 9:30 a.m. in Contemporary.
This Sunday we celebrate with Christians around the world the gift of God’s blessed table of communion. Where through the sacrifice of Christ there is enough love and grace for all of us, and through this gift of grace we are called to leave the table and respond with the pouring out of our lives to restore hope in our community. You will have a chance to learn, sign up and get involved in this Restoring Hope Pillar, and learn how to support ZOE in the Santos Welcome Hall between worship services. You also have the opportunity to hear from Ephipanie and learn more about ZOE at a special lunch following worship (click here to RSVP).
Come join us as we gather at the table of God, where there is always enough for all of God’s children.