Today I Saw God
We are sitting at Camp Canaan watching the sun rise, the roosters are crowing and the air is cool. We traveled about 4 hours by bus yesterday. Manuel, our driver, took us south and east into the interior of the island. We were greeted at the camp by the bishop and his wife in addition to a few other pastors who were just finishing a meeting of pastors. As one by one, the pastors and their spouses caught a glimpse of Aldo and Susan, their eyes lit up and the would come running with outstretched arms to enfold the in a hug. Aldo and Susan showed us the camp. It is unbelievable. In 199? when Aldo and Susan first started coming to Cuba they asked the bishop what was the number one priority for the United Methodist Church. The bishop shared that the government had taken away their previous camp so they had no place to gather as the Church. So, over the next several years they found land (a story to follow) and began to send teams and materials to an area near Santa Clara. Over 65 teams participated in the creating of this beautiful camp that can hold over 800 people. The altar has a depiction of the Holy City with it's streets of gold, the tree of life and the light that shines forever. It is a magnificent focus for worship, reminding the people of the hope of a new creation.
We ate well, slept nicely and we are now ready to go eat breakfast and get on the road to Cabeza.
Buenas Dias! The day is muy bueno here in Cuba. We are sitting in the courtyard of the United Methodist building awaiting breakfast. Last night the team shared in devotions. As we sat together we marveled at the fact that we were actually sitting in Cuba, on a rooftop in Havana, singing praises to God! We talked together about how God speaks to us; what is God saying? What tone of voice is God using? How are we hearing God? It is our hope that while we are here we are able to open our hearts to the fresh wind of the spirit that seems to be blowing through the United Methodists in Cuba. We have already witnessed God's spirit in so many ways.
– the nice young man in customs who was so helpful in moving ALL of our bags and us through the process
– the welcome we received from Alba and Manuel
– the wonderful food prepared for us by Magda (especially the chocolate flan!)
– the beautiful Cuban music Jorge Luis shared with us as we ate dinner last night
-the smiles on the faces of all the United Methodists who welcomed us 'home' yesterday afternoon
– the laughter and the tears we have already shared as a team
We are feeling blessed and are anticipating all that God has in store for us today.
Dios se Bendigan!
This week concludes our third annual Big Serve. The opportunities to learn, give and serve have been diverse and it's been amazing to see how people have responded to the different ministries and activities that have been available. This past week, we enjoyed a great banquet to hear about the past and future of Mercy Hospital and the Child Rescue Centre. A number of people signed up to get involved in these ministries as a result. Floris also hosted a United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) leader training event, in which 28 people participated including Floris members.These participants will lead teams at Floris and in churches across Virginia.
This weekend there are two opportunities that I would like to share with you. The first is the Connections for Hope Walk for Hope which I mentioned last week. The walk is this Saturday morning, and you can still register online. The second opportunity will be on Sunday, when partners from Connections for Hopewill be in the Fellowship Hall to share information about their work in the community. Organizations that will be present include Jeanie Schmidt Free Clinic, Reston Interfaith, Vecinos Unidos, Just Neighbors, Helping Children Worldwide and the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. Please stop in the Fellowship Hall and learn more about what Floris is doing to bless people in the community through our partnership with these great organizations. I was at the Free Medical Clinic on Monday and was so pleased to see that it is touching so many individuals and families who otherwise would have no access to medical care except the emergency room of a hospital. Take a few moments this Sunday to learn more about all these organizations and ways you can become a blessing at Connections for Hope.
Camp Hutchison Volunteers
In Fellowship Hall on Sunday, you will also have an opportunity to volunteer for Camp Hutchison. This is part of our partnership with Hutchinson Elementary. This summer we will be helping kids prepare for the next school level by focusing on reading and math. Camp Hutchisonis a four-week camp for up to 100 students, July 18 to August 12. Floris and Hutchison staff and volunteer leaders have been working diligently to begin preparations for the camp. We are just now able to offer more specific volunteer opportunities to you. This is an opportunity for anyone interested to stop by and find out how to make a difference in the lives of the children at Hutchison. I want to especially encourage college students who have a vocational interest in teaching to consider this as a way to sample their field. There is a need for certified teachers in every classroom but we also need all sorts of aides and other help.
College Small Group
It is exciting to see so many students home from college for the summer. Summer is a great time to connect with other students who have been away at school, reconnect with old friends and to consider ways to grow deeper in Christ. I want to encourage you to attend the College Small Group beginning Monday, May 23 at 7 PM. Current high school seniors are invited to be part of this group as well. For more information contact Jill Maier or just join them Monday night.
Blood Pressure Measurement Training
The Jeanie Schmidt Free Clinicis offering blood pressure measurement training for all health care professionals on June 11. I list this in the eNote because the Clinic needs three more people to hold the course. They contacted me and asked if we might have 3 – 7 persons who would like to learn the latest about taking blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends systematic training and periodic recertification. Classes and all materials are provided free of charge by the Virginia Department of Health's Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Project.If you are a health care professional who might benefit from this training, contact Tricia Mussante at the clinic. It is such a blessing that the clinic not only serves clients in need, but the medical community as well.
Stone's Cove Sow-A-Seed Sundays Continue
I had dinner at Stone's Cove Sunday with my brother who I picked up at Dulles. We talked to the owner, B.J. Stone, who is excited about the benefit these meals are creating for Connections for Hope. There are just two Sundays left in May to visit Stone's Cove where 10% of your total bill will go to support Connections for Hope. Be sure to tell your server that you are there to "sow-a-seed." Coupons are also available at the Connections Desk.
This Week in Worship
We continue our series "Is God Enough?" as we find God answering Job's lament and complaint, but not in the way we might anticipate. I have begun my study of these chapters at the end of Job and I am fascinated by God's response to the questions Job raises. Join us as we consider "Embracing the Mystery of God."Scripture: Job 40:1-14.
On the last day of April, 50 members of Floris enjoyed the beautiful sunshine to help a needy person in Reston during our annual Rebuilding Together ministry. Rebuilding Together is a nationwide home "revitalization" organization that fixed up the homes of more than 4000 families across the country.
With excellent teamwork, we were able to accomplish/install the following: stair-lift, 3 comfort height toilets, 5 grab bars, kitchen faucet, kitchen light replacement, outside light switch, electrical plug, storm door handle, front door stain/sealing, front walkway "leveled", garage door opener adjustment, fence latch, deck railings (2), deck steps attached, deck board replaced, deck lattice installed, deck power-washed/sealed, holes patched, indoor paint 2 bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, hallways(2), stairwell & family room; outdoor window trim replacement, garage door molding replacements (4 bottom pieces), front exterior trim painted, gutters cleaned, landscaping bushes/trees pruned (many), yard mowed, yard junk/debris removed, 4 truckloads of junk/yard waste taken to landfill, hospitality (snacks/drinks/ home baked sweet rolls), flowers planted, truck rented, everything cleaned up and 1 stubborn stump removed.
It was very rewarding to hear the heartfelt thank you's from the elderly homeowner and her daughter. They were delighted at all we were able to finish. Many of these changes will help them stay in the house despite their disabilities. Helping a member of our community was extremely rewarding for everyone that participated in the kickoff event for Floris' Big Serve.
If you've been reading previous entries you know the details and type of work we were engaged in. I remarked several times each day since Monday 3/28, that I would not have accepted the difficulty of our task had I been told beforehand. We are blessed with members of our team that would have faced the full knowledge of this work with a smile and reply of "Let's Do It!" I would have thanked God for these stout members of the team and plunged ahead. But the Lord is gracious and kind, our challenges and even our blessings are metered at a rate which we as mortals can absorb and accept. So looking back on a week of hard physical, hot, sweaty, dusty work on a site with jagged bits of old rusty steel rebar ready to snag or impale, and jagged pieces of concrete, rock and rubble strewn underfoot, how is it that we were able to dig until the Haitian foreman said stop, there's no more digging to do and do this with joy in our hearts, smiles on our faces and laughter in the air? It's simple, we did not do these difficult things in this fashion, or at least we didn't do it alone, God was with us, in our hearts working through us revealing his plan at a mortal rate and bonding us together as reunited brothers and sisters. It's the only answer I have for accomplishing what seems to be impossible with such an impossibly joyful attitude.
So who is this "us", who are "we"? It may have started as the Floris Mission team, but that's not how it felt Wednesday night. "We" are The Boys Brigade of La Tremblay, the Floris mission team, our two interpreters Carine and Tootoo, the cook Lulu and her team, and the children and workers at the construction site. An impromptu party began and came to a head when Nixon, the gifted charismatic natural leader of The Boys came by in the evening to converse with the Floris team and translate sentiments from the rest of the boys. Nixon spoke and expressed his thanks for our hard work, fellowship and coming to Haiti. All of the boys expressed similar words of gratitude, many of the exact words escape me now, but the theme of fellowship, thanks, love and unity with God was clear. One of Nixon's opening statements was about how God would repay us for our hard work in Haiti, I just chuckled inside, as I know Dave did and probably others too. When the boys were done expressing their thanks it was Floris' turn. We returned words of thanks for their hard work, their hospitality and friendship, their strength of faith and their beautiful singing at Sunday's service. Regarding God's gratitude, Dave and I both explained that any payment for our work in Haiti has already been paid, the opportunity to work with The Boys and people of Haiti, the fellowship, laughter and joy we were blessed with seem excessive for the task accomplished and beyond what we could have imagined God's further gratitude in this life or the next is just gravy (really good gravy).
We spent the rest of the evening sitting together on the balcony sharing music and joking with each other in broken bits of our combined vocabularies. Apparently I am "big as bear" and I "mang beaucoup", I made sure these traits were ascribed to other deserving fellows where appropriate. The boys on my right and left leaned in next to me as we hung out enjoying the night breeze and joking around, I felt like just another "puppy in the box", life was good. Later Cellistine, an administrator at the school, was enticed into a comparison of bicep muscles with me, this deteriorated into an arm wrestling contest it was exciting for the boys and a bit nerve racking for the Floris team, I think they were worried about me "the bear" but all was good Floris was not embarrassed or broken from the contest. As it got later and we wondered how late these youngsters would want to stay up, Madame Lulu blessed us by giving the boys the boot so she and her cooks (exhausted after serving two mission teams back to back) could get to bed. Morning comes early for us, and even early for cooks reduced to cooking meals on charcoal.
As I went to bed, the squeaky cots, roosters crowing, horns blaring from traffic barreling down the road are like background colors and textures on a painting that would have seemed alien to me a week ago, but now seems like a home away form home I'm very excited about coming back.