Here's a photo Slideshow and video recap of our first week of Sports Camp where we were able to proclaim the gospel to 400 kids!
Here's a photo Slideshow and video recap of our first week of Sports Camp where we were able to proclaim the gospel to 400 kids!
Throughout scripture we see story after story reminding us of God’s faithfulness. In our series, Steadfast Love, we will be studying the Psalms and discovering how, through all of life’s circumstances, the love of God is unfailing, unrelenting, and steadfast.
Join us this summer, beginning June 3rd and 4th as we study select chapters in the book of Psalms.
In case you missed it, here are the stories we shared this past weekend on Easter. We're so encouraged by God's grace and love that calls people to himself and dramatically changes their lives.
We hope you're strengthened and encouraged as well.
We recently released a record entitled Gather: Live in the Living Room. The goal of this record was to capture the worship of the community who have been meeting regularly in our living room for the past three years. More than just the songs, we wanted to record every part of a worship night in the living room setting—everything from how the worship leaders led the group, to how those present engaged. As you can imagine, capturing every moment (down to the raw, unfiltered, even sometimes awkward moments) in a living room setting was quite the undertaking. At times in the process we weren’t even sure going in how the project was going to turn out!
At Summit, we’re convinced that whatever God wants to do in the world today, He wants to do through all of His people, not just through a select few leaders. We’re convinced that every believer is called to minister to the Lord, utilize their gifts in ministry to others, and to intercede for the lost, broken and those that need healing in our city, nation and world. We believe that as leaders, it’s our highest call to train, equip, and empower every believer to do those very things.
As we think of applying this to worship and the gathering, a passage of Scripture we often come back to is found in 1 Corinthians 14:26:
“What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”
Paul in this passage is stating that when we gather as the church, each person brings something of merit to the table. Some would teach, some would bring a prophetic word, some would speak in tongues—others would interpret, and some would lead singing and prayer. All of this would be done in love and for the encouragement and building up of the body.
At the same time, Paul certainly has a high view of the role of leadership and order in the gathering (see 1 Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2 for example). He viewed leadership in the same way Jesus did—not as a means for domineering and commanding, but as the role of a servant.
When we set out to record Gather, we had all these things in mind. During the night we had a time where some folks shared testimonies of how the Lord was moving in their lives (which led to an unplanned song of thanksgiving in response), we had a moment where we all broke into groups and interceded for cities that were hurting around the world, and we had a time where we prayed for healing and relief from anxiety for those present. We believe all these elements are valuable when we gather. If all we do is sing together, then we’ve missed out on so much of the beauty of what it is for believers to commune with the Lord and with each other.
We hope that as we present these elements in a raw, honest living room setting that other communities, small groups and families might have an example they could try for themselves. We hope and pray that wherever you and your community gathers, you would experience the presence of God alive and at work in your midst.
You can listen to/purchase the record in all the normal places, but you can also go to our website to find out how you can download free copy!
Finally, we’d love to serve you in any way we can. If we can come and serve your community in your home, do email us and let us know if we can help lead a night of worship in your living room.
Andy & Mathis
March 16, 2017
Well it’s been a two weeks since I was able to sit with my computer and lay out those things that have been impacting us since that time and what they mean for us and for our future. Some significant and dramatic changes have occurred since then and some things have remained the same, but only more so.
First, what has changed in these past few days? I no longer have a spleen; I no longer have the lower 1/3 of my pancreas; and, most significantly, I no longer have the golf ball size tumor that has been growing on my pancreas for some time. As we approached surgery, the medical experts believed that this tumor was in fact malignant but hopefully could be removed successfully. What they found was dramatically different than what was expected. There, sitting on the tail of my pancreas, was a type of cystic tumor that was totally benign. I asked the surgeon, a man approaching his 80’s who has probably done more pancreatic surgeries than most surgeons in the world, if this type of tumor was even in the running as to a possibility. He indicated that it was not and how pleasantly “surprised” he was to find it as opposed to what had been expected. So from a physical perspective, and my prognosis, I am absolutely fine with no restrictions as to living my life going forward once the healing process is complete. Diane and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity that the Lord has given us to continue to follow the plan He has set before us.
Second, however, and more dramatic, is what has not changed, but rather has been so brazened into my soul as to have created a new and greater resolve in the truth of who God is.
As I lay in my hospital bed watching patient after patient slowly shuffle though the halls following their surgeries, knowing that most did not have the surprise result that I had had but rather the result that was expected; one that provided very little future and hope for them, I pondered the question of the Faithfulness of God, and continued to ask myself the question of what I really believed about who He is.
A dear sister in Christ, whose son has experienced the ravaging of cancer that appears to have no good end, visited me in the hospital and was rejoicing with us in our great news. I was about to proclaim to her how Faithful God is and then I found my tongue cemented to the roof of my mouth as I realized that I was about to proclaim something that would be a fallacy because I was ascribing the Faithfulness of God to a desired result rather than to His character. I was guilty of ascribing a nature of God to His activity rather than to who He is. Was God Faithful to me because I was free of cancer and could live but unfaithful to her and her son because he may not? And so in those moments of a short visitation in my hospital room, something happened to burrow deep into my soul a truth that I have known, and taught, and preached and yet maybe never really understood. That no matter what, God Is Faithful, not because of what He does or does not do, but because that is who He is.
We so deeply appreciate how you have lifted us before the Lord in prayer during these tumultuous times and know that your prayers have indeed accomplished much in this process. Please pray for Ellen and her son Chris as they navigate through this difficult time and continue to pray that we would have an ever increasing resolve to be about all He has called us to do and to be so that, in so doing, we may bring honor and glory to Him.
With great joy and thankfulness in the Lord for who He is,
Jack & Diane
The sun has just come up over the Inner Harbor here in Baltimore, Maryland where Diane and I await my upcoming surgery the day after tomorrow. It is with a great sense of peace that we are here, not that we know what the medical outcome will be, but in the knowledge that our Sovereign God knows the plans that He has for us, and that they are plans for our welfare, to give us a future and a hope. The specifics of His plan, well, those are not necessarily for us to know. If we did, we would likely do everything we could to take control and move it along in our timeframe to produce the result we think best. But that is not how God would have it. There was a song that we used to sing in church many years ago: “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey”. Simple, often forgotten words and a simple recipe, and yet how enormously difficult to do, especially when we are forced to step out into the uncertain and the unknown.
God has brought us along on an amazing journey with Him these last few years. Our move to Rome was in response to what we unquestionably sensed God calling us to do. He developed in us a passion to see Italians come to a real saving faith in Jesus Christ and He gave us a heart to stand alongside those who had sacrificed so much to minister the Gospel to a people who had no desire to even hear it, much less live it. And although we did experience those whose lives were changed as we ministered to them, the real change; the most dramatic change, occurred in us. To live in an unfamiliar culture, alone and far away from the security of friends, family and what is comfortably reassuring, etches something in a person that indelibly remains, for the good or for the bad. James 1 reveals that the trials and testing of life can produce something good, if we allow them to; that the testing of our faith produces an endurance and if we let that endurance have its perfect result, then we will be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”. So whether the result is good or bad all depends upon the choices we make in the midst of the trials. For us, many trials came from this almost daily battle between what life is like in this almost surreal environment, versus what life had been like before venturing out, untethered to anything that had been certain. Choices that are forced upon us by the circumstances we are confronted with; by the trials and tests that befall us along the way. And on that journey that little simple song begins to reveal such a complex truth that as we trust Him in the trial; as we obey Him in the trial, we become more and more as He would have us be and happiness and joy are the byproduct.
The trials and tests that we have encountered after making our move into the Italian culture should have been expected, in one form or another, but most, if not all, took us by surprise. After all, weren’t we trying to do something good that God had directed? First, Diane’s diagnosis of breast cancer and following bi lateral mastectomy. Then to return to Rome after her recovery only to find that our apartment had been burglarized and the majority of tangible wealth lost. Then Diane’s bout with chest pains and resulting heart catherization and stenting. Then my diagnosis of a tumor that necessitates the removal of the tail of my pancreas and my spleen. Then Diane’s torn meniscus in her knee confining her to a wheel chair in the midst of our physical move from Rome back to the U.S. None of these are noted as complaints but rather as exercises in our training of endurance. Each have given us opportunity after opportunity to make a choice; to trust and obey, or not; to allow them to produce something good, or not. I wish that I could say that through these trials we have always and immediately embraced the right choice; in many instances it took some time for us to get around to allowing endurance to have its perfect result. But when we did, and do, then the joy of knowing that God is doing His work in us is, and can be, like no other.
We face this upcoming surgery with a resolve that its result will be for our good and that it is all part of the plan that God has for us.
We want to encourage you to run the race that He has set before you, trusting Him, the author and the finisher of faith. We would covet your prayers for us that we do the same; that we finish the course that He has set before us in a way that not only positions us for becoming who He wants us to be, but gives Him the Glory He so definitely deserves.
Thank you and may He richly bless you and cause His grace to overshadow you.
Jack & Diane
Our college ministry FGCU Ignite spent this past weekend serving our community in a variety of ways. Motivated by the love of Christ, they served several of our Every Child Initiative families and helped out a ministry partner of ours in Downtown Fort Myers.
Here are a few photos of the weekend. We're excited to see how God continues to use these students to impact our community and the campus of FGCU for the gospel.
We were encouraged to have so many of our church and community participate in our forum on Human Trafficking this past Sunday. We wanted to take a moment to share some of the tangible action steps we can take to combat this travesty.
1.) Visit our Xpansion partners who are on the front lines of this battle. Support them in the fight.
2.) Sign your name to the petition to fund the 'End Modern Slavery Initiative'. Doing so will alert your congress person and the president that you desire action to be taken on behalf of the vulnerable.
3.) Store the phone number of the National Human Trafficking Resource Center in your mobile device and call anytime you see something suspicious. 1 (888) 373-7888 (also send SMS messages)
4.) Pray. We know that the Father cares for the vulnerable. Pray that he would intervene and that the gospel of Jesus Christ would go forward through his church and bring light into the darkest of places.
Last week Jim Hines and I had the privilege of visiting with our covenant members, and now 'sent missionaries', Al and Sarah Gomez.
Last August, our church commissioned and sent Al and Sarah to the city of Estelli, Nicaragua. We traveled with Jordan Stinziano from Saturation Church Planting (SCP) who envisions, equips and empowers local, indigenous leaders for what it looks like to reach their nation with the good news of the gospel of Jesus.
The goal of this trip was to meet with some of the pastors Al has made contact with and to invite them into the process of accomplishing God’s preferred vision for both their country, and for all Central America. At Summit, we believe that vision is for every man, woman, and child to have repeated opportunities to hear, see, and respond to the gospel lived out through the lives of the church in the places they live, work, and play.
I also had the joy of training a number of worship leaders, among whom there is the heart and potential to see the culture of Nicaragua changed. Worship catalogs and gives voice to God’s current activity, but it also catalyzes and envisions the church for God’s preferred future in our lives and in our world.
As I sat in the Gomez's home with these young women and men, I couldn’t help but dream of what God desires to do through their lives in that nation and in all of Central America; the injustice that they would contend against, the spiritual strongholds that would be shaken, and the church that would be mobilized.
Be praying for Al and Sarah, be praying for the young women and men they are gathering around their table and discipling. Be praying for the church leaders in Estelli as Al and Sarah engage them with the conversation of how to see a nation transformed by the good news of King Jesus.
This weekend will be the first ever IGNITE Spring Weekend! During this semester, we have been focusing on being intentional as individuals and intentional with individuals. One of the ways we can do that is by serving others with the love of Christ. In John 13, Jesus says, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” We strive to be a ministry and a people that are known by our love.
This weekend we will love through serving our college campus, our church, and our community. Please pray for us as we engage students at the FGCU Basketball Game, serve our Every Child Initiative Families, partner with CityGate ministries to reach out to our community in Downtown Ft. Myers, and love our local church. When not serving, we will be fellowshipping, worshipping, and studying God’s Word from John 13.
We believe that God will move in real and mighty way this weekend, both in us and through us! Pray with us and watch God work!
-Adam Alexander, College Pastor
This is too good not to share. From our Every Child Initiative blog.
Over the past 13 years we’ve been blown away to see the Lord’s activity in bringing the right people at the right time to join his work at Summit Church. As he has done before, he is doing again, and we’re excited to let you know about it. Many of you will remember Dave and Kimm Harvey from the marriage conference we did at Summit last year. Over the past few years Dave has become a dear friend of mine and of our team, and in God’s grace and goodness to us, he has seen fit to open the door for Dave to join us at Summit. Dave is the Executive Director of the Sojourn Network (SojournNetwork.com) as well as the founder of Am I Called (AmICalled.com). He is the author of books such as When Sinners Say I Do, Rescuing Ambition, and Letting Go, and he has been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years.
Dave and his wife, Kimm, will be a huge addition to the work the Lord is doing in our midst, and we trust you will be blessed by their ministry. While Dave will continue his work with the Sojourn Network, he will be joining our teaching team and will be involved in a variety of other areas. You’ll be hearing more about this in the coming months, but until then we figured Dave would best be able to describe how they have come to this point. So take a few moments to read his words below, and then we encourage you to spend some time praying for the Harveys and thanking the Lord for his kindness to us.
- Jamin Stinziano
The Harveys are leaving Tallahassee. We’re saying goodbye to the incredible folks at Four Oaks Church and our dear friends there—including those on the pastoral team. We’re moving further south. I’ve accepted a part-time position as a teaching pastor at Summit Church in Naples. If you have a minute, I’d love to tell you about how all of this happened so you can share in our excitement and pray for our upcoming transition.
Why Leave Four Oaks?
In July of 2013, I was called by Four Oaks Church as the Pastor of Preaching. I was hired, because the church had recently been through a significant lead pastor transition and needed some pulpit help. The arrangement was that 75% of my time would be dedicated to Four Oaks with the remainder available for writing, travel, and work with other organizations I regularly serve. We agreed to a three-year commitment. So, from the first day, my role had an inevitable shelf-life.
One year later, a friend named Daniel Montgomery from Sojourn Network asked if I could lend a hand to that organization. As you may know, Sojourn Network aims to help pastors lead their churches by providing strategic counsel, training, and support. With the support of our local elders, I began to serve Sojourn Network as a member of the board and through leadership consulting. Many months later, the Network board asked me to serve as their Executive Director. This invitation came as Paul Gilbert was becoming more situated in his role as lead pastor at Four Oaks. The parallel developments made it possible for me to dial back my church work and split my time between Sojourn Network and Four Oaks. By the grace of God, both ministries seemed to prosper as we made these shifts.
I’ve been at Four Oaks for three and a half years now. Over that time, God has led us to spend more and more time serving Sojourn Network. As I’ve begun to travel more for Network responsibilities, I’ve made an unfortunate discovery. Travel from the Tallahassee airport is difficult and expensive. As the delays, canceled flights, and trip costs have multiplied, I’ve been forced to consider whether I should be in a location more conducive to travel. Last Spring, after seeking support from our local leaders and a multitude of counselors, we began a search for a new church home.
Summit Church, a Sojourn Network affiliate, was started in 2003 by a team of leaders that includes two dear friends: Jamin Stinziano and Orlando Cabrera. Summit is a multi-site church of two thousand folks spread over several campuses in southwest Florida. Summit is also a church that gets mission. They have raised up scores of leaders, planted many other churches, and, a few years back, were instrumental in starting a church planting network. Church planting and community outreach are embedded in their DNA.
I met Jamin two years ago when he happened to be in Tallahassee and invited me to coffee. That’s Jamin. He’s traveling to another city, so he takes the time to reach out to a local pastor and hear about what Jesus is doing in the city. That day, I made a new friend. We sat down and began to talk about family, friends, leadership and church planting. We synced—like that inexplicable connection that happens when my laptop finds Wi-Fi. We connected, swapped the essential information, and then our conversation just started to flow. It was the first of what would become many memorable conversations.
When it seemed like God was moving us from Tallahassee, Summit emerged as an exciting and suitable location. The only problem was that Summit is stacked with competent staff. God seemed to be telling us to wait. Then, one afternoon, I received an unexpected call from Jamin; the pastor of their Naples congregation was leaving to plant a church. A door flung wide to open a role on the Summit elder team. Soon they asked me to join their team and lead Sojourn Network with Summit Church as my new home base. I’ve found that the culture of Southwest Florida, with many transplants from the north, seems fitting for Kimm and I. And as for their airport, well, let’s just say it was love at first sight.
We are moving to Naples because…
When I called a friend up north to tell him about our move, he asked me a funny question: “Why is a church situated below sea level (with the closest hill in the next state) called ‘Summit Church’?” I get it. We’re making our way south to a pancake-flat landscape, to join a church called Summit, that’s filled with folks from the north!
It is confusing, isn’t it. It sometimes feels like chaos, but the God who brings order out of chaos has always been a part of our story. We see His providence in this transition. We covet your prayers as we go.
- Dave and Kimm
Thank you so much for your generosity in 2016! It's no exaggeration to say that we have seen God do great and mighty things that only He can do as He has advanced His kingdom through us! And you have a huge part in that.
If you would like to help us finish 2016 strong so we can continue to press into the mission to make disciples that represent the gospel to every man, woman and child, you can do so by mailing a check or by giving online.
Thank you for your continued partnership in the gospel of Jesus Christ!
9210 Estero Park Commons Blvd
Suite 9, Estero, FL 33928
It was in February of 2014 that Summit Church Español started as a life group.
As a couple we knew God had called us to plant a Church with the mission of Summit, where the glory would be given to God, not to us, and where every man, woman, and child would hear the gospel in its purity, learn to be disciples of Jesus and become disciple-makers. A Hispanic Church with such impact and influence in the community that if it were to disappear, it would be missed.
We started with a few families and we have grown in number and knowledge of the word of God and in boldness to be witness of the good news to others.
We have had difficulties on the way and sometimes we have even felt discouraged, but the call is greater and the God who has called us is greater than any difficulty or challenge. We have seen hunger for the word of God in the people, a desire to serve and to grow in knowledge of God’s word, and we have seen spiritual growth in many families as well as our own. It has been very encouraging to see people asking questions about the word of God. They want to grow, they want to learn, and they want to be equipped to make disciples.
We meet once a week on Friday evenings for Bible Study and fellowship, but also pray at home every Monday night at 10pm. We also fast the first Monday of every month. And we have seen answers to prayers and hearts changed. We are growing in our fellowship by sharing each other’s burdens and praying for one another.
As it is said in 1 Samuel 7:12, “…until now the Lord has helped us” and He will continue to help us, to guide us, because it’s His Church, His heart.
We invite all of Summit Church to be part of this movement and to support us in prayer, so we can glorify God by making disciples that represent the gospel to every man, woman and child.
- Claudio and Ana Paredes
2016 has been a great year for the Summit family! We've experienced God do what only He can do by drawing men, women, and children into a personal relationship with Himself. Families have been restored, people have experienced transformation in their lives, and a significant number of individuals have followed the Lord in believer’s baptism.
On top of that, people have responded to Jesus' call to go to the nations, new church expressions in Southwest Florida and in our nation have begun, and our Xpansion partners throughout the world are flourishing.
And these things are just a part of the wondrous works the Lord is doing in and through the people of Summit Church. We truly have much to be grateful for!
As we look back at all that God has accomplished, we also look forward to that glorious day when Jesus will return. And until then, we have the privilege of moving forward with Him on His mission, seeing His kingdom advance in Southwest Florida, our nation, and our world.
Because of this, it is necessary that we look and see where the Lord is leading us. He is breathing fresh vision and stirring in the hearts of many to trust Him with the lives He’s given to them. He is a good Father with good plans for His children! And we believe that as He has been faithful in the past, He will be faithful in the future.
We are believing God for immeasurably more in 2017. A new Summit campus in Bonita Springs, the healthy growth of our newly formed Spanish-speaking congregation, more gospel influence in our communities and schools, and an increase of disciple-makers and church planters. We’re also prayerfully considering possible opportunities for a permanent facility in Naples and we're rejoicing at the expansion of our Gateway campus into a new location this fall.
We pray you’ve been encouraged looking back at 2016 and we hope you’re excited for what God will do in and through us this coming year! Moving forward, would you help us finish this year in a financially strong position, poised to faithfully go after all the God puts before us in 2017?
We pray that you are encouraged and stirred to run with the Lord into 2017, confident that He who has begun the work in you, your family, and in Summit Church will bring it to completion for His glory.
-The Elders of Summit Church
Even though I had been raised in a very Christian home, I had been living a lukewarm life with absolutely no desire to pursue the kingdom of God and no discipline to fight against the sin that the world had to offer. I had built my identity in my athletic achievements through tennis and arrogantly claimed these talents and accomplishments as my own. While struggling with this identity crisis, I was also engaging in an extreme party lifestyle and not surrounding myself with the right people. In the midst of my sin, I occasionally attended church or read my Bible simply to “check it off the list.”
But God intervened in a huge way. I tore my shoulder labrum in the first week of the fall tennis season at FGCU. Instead of competing my sophomore year, I ended up having surgery. This injury completely took me away from the sport of tennis for quite some time. While I was away, God wrecked me of my identity crisis and showed me my need for Him. He showed me that I was pursuing a lukewarm/cold life with no real freedom in the grace that He freely offers and was not living on mission for him.
God worked in my life through the rest of that 2015 Fall semester in to bring on massive internal change. But He didn’t stop there! Moving into the spring and summer semesters, He continued to transform my heart by teaching me that I must live on mission by displaying my internal change to those I come into contact with each day. To name a few changes, He has grown my patience, given me more self-control over my tongue, and changed the desires of my heart to no longer want to live a party lifestyle. Apart from Jesus, I realized that everything else leaves me empty.
Through all of this change, the Lord has also used the unique places that He has placed me in, especially through athletics at FGCU. About halfway through the spring of 2016, I was approached by some of the leaders of Ignite to create a bible study and small group exclusively for all of the athletes at Florida Gulf Coast. Other Christian athletes involved in Ignite came alongside me and helped begin to mold the vision for this group. With much prayer and planning throughout the rest of the 2016 Spring semester and Summer, we were able to kick off our first official meeting of “A.B.S.” (Athlete Bible Study) during the second week of the 2016 Fall semester. Since then, we have been meeting once a week to not only build community and play games between the athletics teams, but also dive into God’s word and saturate athletes in the Gospel (some of whom may have never even been exposed before). We usually have anywhere between 30-60 athletes that attend on any given week.
I have never really been the type to have a huge panic attack before or during public speaking, but if someone had asked me to share the Gospel or my faith a year or even 6 months ago, I would have not only looked like a deer in the headlights, but would most likely have not been able to confidently lay out the good news of Jesus Christ to a large group people, much less a nonbeliever. God has used A.B.S. to consistently put me out of my comfort zone and live on mission for Him and it has also opened up many unique, individual conversations that I probably would not been able to have if I hadn’t taken this step of faith.
Looking forward, I am excited for the cool ways that the Lord will continue to use my story to work for His glory not only with the athletes at FGCU but also in all the other areas of my life!
For years, before surrendering my life to the Lord, I wandered in what I considered to be my safe place. In the darkness.
Many people, my family and my friends, told me that I needed help. I was told to 'try this' or 'try that' or 'go meet with this counselor'.
But I was stuck in my own selfish ways thinking. I thought I could save myself.
Not long ago, I met some friends who told me that there was a saving grace and there was real hope. It was in talking to them that I finally felt I could open up and be honest with someone who would genuinely want to help me.
They invited me to Summit’s Gateway Campus but I still had my doubts. How could I be saved? How could I be drawn out of my darkness?
It was Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016 when I walked into Summit Church. In that moment I felt something come over me that I couldn't explain. I felt at ease and experienced relief from the darkness I was in.
After listening to the Gospel preached and hearing others testify to the great works of our God, I knew I could be saved. I knew there was hope.
After the service, I met with Pastor Jamin and opened up to him. I heard and believed that God does love us all, even the broken sinners like me. Since that day I have been freed from my sins. I am now a child of God.
And now, even in times of darkness, I am able to see the light of Christ. I am able to resist the darkness that I once thought was my only hope. And I can turn my back on the enemy knowing that there is a power in me much stronger than him.
What a great weekend we had to serve our community! After our shortened services, you all drove to your neighborhood Publix and purchased $43,000 worth of groceries for families in need!
Our Community Partners are so thankful for your generosity and we are excited to see how God will take this food and use it demonstrate his love to those in need.
This past week I had the joy of serving the people of Haiti with other team members from our church. To say the experience was eye-opening and life-changing would be an understatement. God allowed us to plant 50 fruit trees, assemble and present 10 water filtration systems, and give 3 pairs of goats to families in need. He gave us the opportunity to pray with people, encourage them, and share the Gospel.
Our team stayed at the main campus of our Xpansion Partner, Mission of Hope, which is essentially a compound of buildings located in a small village known Titanyen. The accommodations were Spartan, the days and nights were hot, and the landscape was dusty. Having been there once before, I made the veteran move of bringing along my hammock so that I could hang up on a roof top pavilion and catch any breeze that would blow off the ocean. I spent the evenings after dinner laying in that hammock, reading, reflecting and praying to God about what I would/should say when people asked about this trip. Forgive me for these meanderings, but here are some of those thoughts:
1. God’s Plan is always better than my plan (Proverbs 19:21) – When we arrived in country, the original plan (according to man) was for our team to serve the villages of Leveque and Bercy, which were located about 20 minutes north of the MOH main campus. Through a series of circumstances, in God’s sovereignty, that no longer was an option when we began our service projects. Those projects moved to Source Matelas. God arranged a divine appointment at the first house in Source Matelas where we met Diego. Diego was educated by a local mission and was able to speak English. He was also struggling with the Lordship of Jesus. After a half hour of working together (we were planting a tree in his cousin’s yard) and talking with him, the Lord called Diego to re-dedicate his life to Christ. Diego served alongside of us for the remainder of the day planting trees and talking to people. That very afternoon, God used Diego to translate His message to bring another sister into the Kingdom.
2. Serving the Lord by serving others is a blessing (Isaiah 58:10-12) – The people of Haiti are joy-filled, welcoming, and sweet people. They’ve never met a stranger. After being welcomed in and planting a tree or painting a home, I could linger in front of their home for hours sharing my experiences, my life, and my God. I was consistently encouraged by the interactions with locals who place value on relationships above all else. Those Haitians who were Christian had a deeper faith and love than I typically experience here at home. While the majority of the Haitians might be seen as impoverished from a worldly perspective, God used many Haitian believers to show me the riches of faith and love and revealed to me my own spiritual poverty. I would leave those interactions even more grateful for the grace given to me and blessed by their example. I remember visiting with a Christian woman who was grieving the recent loss of her adult daughter. That loss required her to sell her home and take in her daughter’s children. This woman continued to proclaim Christ and showed us her nearly perfect church attendance card. She asked us to join her to kneel and pray in front of her modest home (leaky roof and all). God revealed to me in that moment that this woman truly knew what it was like to rely daily on the Lord. It was such an encouragement to see her faith.
3. God calls those He has chosen into His Kingdom (Romans 9) – Sometimes people hear the truth and do not choose to submit to it because they are not called. I still vividly remember an interaction with a gentleman on our last day of service in Source Matelas. We planted our last tree at his home and began a long discussion about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He asked insightful questions. He in many aspects was a mirror of my former self. While this man wasn’t called to a profession of faith, I asked if we could pray that God would reveal Himself to this man and draw this man to a relationship. He responded with a greater request. He asked me to pray that prayer for his country. I felt an overwhelming burden for him and Haiti in that moment. We circled around him for at least five minutes, the Lord giving me the words to say in prayer calling out for God to reveal Himself and be glorified. I felt God’s presence so deeply and so did the other team members in that circle. Surely this man did as well. When I opened my eyes, I realized that he had only heard the words and didn’t seem to have felt this encounter. As I left, I wept, knowing that he had to be hard-hearted at that moment not to have recognized the Spirit that was moving and working all around us. While he certainly may be called later, that circumstance was a reminder that God does the work, we just carry the message.
4. We go on mission trips, but He is at work on mission everywhere (Acts 1:8) – Some of the most impactful people at MOH were the local men which MOH describes as village champions. The village champions of Source Matelas were two humble men of God named Herlo and Kino. These men have taken on the responsibility to represent the Gospel and be the hands and feet to every man, woman and child in their village. God used their example as a reminder for me to seek out and serve those in my community for God’s glory. In the few days since I have returned from Haiti, God has: used me to encourage a friend who is struggling in his marriage, used my testimony to encourage someone in a life-changing circumstance, provided encouragement through a friend who raised nearly $400.00 for Haiti disaster relief, and prompted me to use the mission trip as a platform to talk about Him with a non-believer. He continues to remind me that He doesn’t want me to only share His message when I am out of the country, but whenever he prompts.
In short, our trip to Haiti was far from average. God’s power, sovereignty, and love were constantly on display and He was glorified. I was humbled upon my return to hear how God moved within our church to give so generously (over $85,000) to the ongoing relief efforts. Thank you for the encouragement of your generosity. I cannot adequately express what the Lord can do with those resources for a time such as this.
Your Brother in Christ,