The impact of Hurricane Irma on Lehigh Acres, Fla., has been devastating. Hit by the strongest winds and rain that Irma produced, thousands went without power, water, food or shelter. Located in the northeast quadrant of the hurricane’s path, the people of Lehigh are suffering from the damage left behind by Irma.
Amid our own suffering, God’s grace has given our congregation, Faith Lutheran in Lehigh Acres, the strength to ask ourselves, “How can we be people of faith?” What can we do as a church for God’s people?”
We are a redeveloping congregation with a new Latino mission still struggling to do ministry and pay our bills. We don’t have a fund to buy supplies. So we asked God over and over in prayer: “How can we be your church?” God answered our prayers through a gentleman from out of town with a couple of hundred dollars and a desire to help. He was referred to me because we at Faith Lutheran are known in the community as a congregation that rolls up our sleeves and gets to work! Amazingly, with little or no cell service, his call to me got through on Saturday morning, Sept. 16. We discussed our vision of God’s work: Involving others, grilling hot dogs, giving out water and sandwiches to bring people together to talk, listen to each other and learn over a lunch on Sunday—the next morning!
He texted later that afternoon saying, “I got more money and more people involved. We have over 500 hot dogs, 350 sandwiches, snacks, kids’ meals and 1,000 bottles of water!” Without knowing what to say I replied, “Let us keep working! God is doing something great!” We learned that afternoon that we were getting 10 pallets of ice as well.
We spread the word through texts to Faith leaders and invited them to enter into God’s world of abundance. We let our community know through all media available. More than 30 leaders showed up ready to get God’s work done with our hands.
As we theologized and reflected we heard, “This is the iceing of the 5,000!” The ice lasted forever. Everyone who came from the wider community was fed, filled by God’s grace and sent home with hope and faith.
We met early to get things ready, centered with worship, and started serving. Car after car lined up. The look of relief on people’s faces as they felt the cool air in our hall and the cold ice in their hands is indescribable. As we theologized and reflected we heard, “This is the iceing of the 5,000!” The ice lasted forever. Everyone who came from the wider community was fed, filled by God’s grace and sent home with hope and faith.
God is not done with us! God declared through our pastor that God is making something new. We don’t know yet what it will be. We do know that we are going to keep working as we continue to discover God’s abundant love. That Sunday afternoon we learned that a shipment from Holy Spirit Lutheran in Juno Beach, Fla., was coming to Gateway Trinity Lutheran in Fort Myers, Fla. They had gathered supplies as well and were ready to bring them to Faith on that coming Tuesday!
On Monday, we learned that God was sending more than 12 pallets of ice to distribute the next day. On Tuesday morning, we started with 6,000 bottles of water, lots of food and personal and household supplies. We opened at 8:30, expecting that the supplies would only last until 11 a.m.. As the cars kept coming and the supplies were distributed, more and more supplies kept coming from places we never imagined. We were still working at 2:30. God is definitely doing something new.
That night, God gave us the opportunity to share 1,000 barbecue meals with our community on Sept. 21. Then a local Mexican restaurant said that they would offer a meal for 200 people the following week. Now we know that God is not done!
God is doing something new through you as well. Partner with us in our journey to continue God’s mission. It is time be a church together! God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good.