Today I Saw God
The Lenten study at Floris UMC this year has a focus on practicing spiritual disciplines. Today, the Haiti team members got to practice faith in action in relinquishing control, and letting the day belong to God, rather than a preconceived agenda.
The team was up and ready for their early morning departure, arriving at the church at 3:30 AM and then traveling to the aiport together, (thanks to our driver Joan Lynch!). Bags were checked and enthusiasm was high as team members boarded the plane to Miami. The plane landed 20 minutes earlier than expected; it was going to be a good day. Team members were beginning to think ahead through the day, (what arrival time would be in Haiti, what could be accomplished in the day), until they tuned into talk in the Miami airport. A fire had raged the day before. The fire was now extinguished, butsix fuel tanks had been damaged, limiting fuel available for scheduled flightThe team's connecting flight to Haiti was one of the many flights that were canceled. Suddenly the predictable plan for the day was not in effect. Team leader Dave Redding took quick action and got standby boarding passes with the hope of making an afternoon flight. The morning hours passed with general conversation and team members getting to know one another better. The day had a glitch, but one we could overcome and get "back on schedule."
With hope, but realistic expectations, the team waited out the afternoon flight standby scheduling, but realized by 2 PM that they were a few among many in the same cirucmstance, and that they would not be going to Haiti today. Thanks to Charlie's power phone and connections, overnight accommodations and transportation arrangements were made during the wait time, so the team gathered their belongings and traveled to a hotel 13 miles from the airport, where this blog is now being posted.
So what was today? A day of disappointment and frustration, or one of blessing upon blessing? Reflections shared around the dinner table and evening devotional time seem to suggest the latter. While we each left this morning with an itinerary and expectations of what they day would hold, circumstances beyond our control resulted in a very different scenario. We thought today was going to be about arrival and starting our work; God's design was different. God's day was one of preparation, of both our hearts and our team. Today was good "practice" for those of us who typcially function in a highly efficient, predictable and planned world to experience circumstances beyond our control, not close to the devastation and life changing circumstances of Haitians experienced a year ago, but an effective means to increase our empathy nonetheless. We were reminded that while we cannot choose our circumstances, we can choose how we respond. So what were the blessings of the day? To name a few:
watching inidividuals who had not neccessarily been connected prior to travel became a group, whose commonality in Christ spurred kindness, humor, and unity
witnessing people use their gifts, whether leadership, administration, or gentleness, to turn what seeminlgy was a disappointing and trying day, into a memorable and enjoyable event
creating a story together with quotable lines, "I wish I had some peanut butter," "Can I carry that for you?," "Charlie, can you call?" "Maybe it will work," "Do you have a toothbrush?" "They overbooked coach, so three people have to go first class" "Is this a day of my work for God, or God's work to be revealed in me?"
What a blessing we have in Christ, when God's spirit so dwells within us that like Paul, we can choose "to be content in all circumstances, whether in want or in need or full of plenty to learn the secret of being content in any and every situation; I can do all things through Christ who strenghtens me." Philippians 4:11-12.
Please join us in giving thanks for a glorious day where we have had blessing upon blessing, and look forward to God's day tomorrowhopefully in Haiti!
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Tonight during Floris Senior High KREW, 200 school kits and 180 snack packs were packaged for the Floris UMC spring Haiti team to take to the children of La Tremblay. Contents of packed items were a result of the generous 2010 Christmas Eve offering at Floris. Many thanks to our church family and student ministry for making it possible to share this blessing on our first visit to La Tremblay.
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The ten member Floris/New LifeUMC Haiti Mission team was commissioned this morning in preparation for their 6 AM departure this Thursday, March 24th. This will be the first United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) trip to Haiti sponsored by Floris since the devastating earthquake took place slightly over one year ago. Team leader, David Redding, was in Haiti last year when the quake happened and shares this reflection, "A year ago a terrible catastrophe fell on a place that could not have been more unprepared for a disaster of such a magnitude and a people more in need of God's grace. The result? The devastation of capitol city, the death of nearly 300,000 of God's children, maiming, hunger, thirst and much later disease. I survived where others did not, I got out when others could not, I was going out while others were coming inI choose to give thanks to God for the gift of life and the opportunity to glorify Him through how we respond to adversity (ours/others). I also give thanks to be part of a community of believers that likewise feels blessed and sees these opportunities. 'for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' (Matthew 25:35-36)." Since the quake, Dave has undergone UMVIM training and will serve as the first team leader of what Floris hopes will be many mission teams to Haiti.
Floris' first mission team has received their work assignment and will be spending their days reconstructing the church in the village of Le Tremblay. Team members anticipate mixing, pouring and smoothing cement as well as building solid relationships with their Haitian comrades during the week of March 24th April 1, 2011. A particular blessing the team is thankful for is the opportunity to transport much needed school supplies to the children of Le Tremblay. The first UMVIM team to be on site, a group from St. Paul's UMC in Helena, MT, recently returned from their trip and reported the village school was in great need of supplies. Thanks to the generosity expressed at the Floris Christmas Eve 2010 services, and the enthusiastic assistance of KREW high school students, Floris was able to immediately respond to this need. Two hundred individual school kits and snack packs have been packed, (as well as a few soccer balls!), and will be delivered to these children in need. In addition, Floris Christmas Eve funds, along with a matching grant from UMCOR will pay for the necessary materials and supplies to complete the construction assignment. While team members are eager to serve and thrilled that God has called them to this venture, each carries a great sense of appreciation and gratitude for the larger community they represent that has given so generously to make this trip possible. We thank you for joining us in prayer that in we might truly be Christ's ambassadors as we seek to be Christ's hands and feet in a country that has endured so much.
Traveling in the name of Christ and in gratitude to our churches,
Floris Haiti Mission Team #1:
Lindy BettisNew Life UMC, Midlothian, VA
Team members: David Redding Leader, Danny Cox, Steve Bracewell, Karen Berlin, Chip Hulbert, Charlie Kendall, Dan Lynch. Not pictured: Lindy Bettis, Colby Miller, Lauren Redding
If you've ever wondered what it might be like to be part of the Floris UMC ESL ministry, you are cordially invited to visit one of our Tuesday or Thursday night classes at Hutchinson Elementary School in Herndon. See first-hand the interaction between students and teachers and the satisfaction that comes from helping others. Join our teacher Prayer Circle before each class. Share the fun and refreshments at our evening break. Note how much the students appreciate being able to improve their English and enjoy the friends they've made.
For you, it may be a great way to experience what over 50 volunteer teachers, assistant teachers, substitutes, principals, and others who support the ESL ministry find a personally rewarding way to share their time and talents in serving our immigrant community. Three of those volunteers are Floris UMC teens who have brought their enthusiasm and caring concern for others as assistant teachers. Most, but not all, volunteers attend Floris. Teachers do not need to be foreign language speakers to participate and will provide training and orientation.
Floris UMC offers two 10-week sessions each yearSeptember-November and January-March. Classes are conducted on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 7:30-9:30 p.m. We conclude each session with a Recognition Dinner to honor the students and their families.
In this winter session, we have 167 registered students from 19 countries, ranging in age from 18-81. They are placed into one of nine classes plus a small writing class taught on Saturday mornings at Floris.
If you think you might be interested in participating in the future, I encourage to visit our classes for an hour or two some Tuesday or Thursday evening to get a taste of what goes on and what you are missing. If you would like to visit, please contact the ESL Ministry Coordinator, Bob Milne, at or 703-264-1928.
For those of you interested in our ESL Ministry, here is a letter from Sean, one of our assistant teachers from the fall session:
My name is Sean and I am a 16 year old sophomore at South Lakes High School which I transferred to this year and really enjoy. I currently take Spanish 3 but am still really working on the basics of the Spanish language. I love helping people through Floris United Methodist Church and their ESL (English as a Second Language) Ministry was another serve opportunity that I became interested in after hearing so many positive things about it. With my mom's encouragement and support, I began to take part in this serve opportunity this past fall as an assistant teacher.
I enjoyed this ministry tremendously and want people to understand this isn't just teaching but also about making relationships with the students in your class and your fellow teachers. I had the fortunate opportunity to meet people from several different countries such as El Salvador, Vietnam, and Ethiopia. Since this was a Level 3 class and they had some English skills they were trying to improve upon, they were able to share their traditions with us and as we taught them the English language we were able to teach them a little bit about American traditional holidays. The students' progress through the ten weeks as we worked with them was inspiring to me as an assistant teacher. Anyone that is willing to put a little time in for these wonderful people should absolutely not hesitate- you will get plenty in return for your efforts. This experience was motivating, fun and a wonderful way to serve God! I am looking forward to going back to assist with ESL for the session in January.
For more information about our ESL Ministry and how you can be involved, go here:http://www.florisumc.org/ESL.ihtml?id=593996.