submitted by Pr. Jhon Correa, Faith Lutheran, Lehigh Acres on 9/21/2017. This is part one of a multi-part series on this story.
The impact of Hurricane Irma to Lehigh is devastating. Hit by the strongest winds and rain that Irma produced, thousands are still 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 Hurricane Irma.
Amid our own suffering, God’s Grace has given this congregation 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 church are known in the community as a congregation that rolls up their sleeves and gets to Work! Amazingly, with little or no cell service, his call got through to me on Saturday morning, Sept. 16th. We discussed our vision of God’s Work: Involving others, grilling some hot dogs, giving out water and sandwiches to bring people together to talk, listen to each other and learn over a lunch on Sunday–which was 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, some kids’ meals, 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 congregational leaders at Faith, and invited them to enter into God’s world of abundance. We let our community know through all media available. Lutheran churches in the area got involved and offered to help in a variety of ways. More than 30 leaders showed up ready to get “God’s Work” done with “Our hands!”
We met early and got things ready in 45 minutes! We centered ourselves to worship and we started serving. Car after car lined up. The look of relief on peoples’ faces as they felt the cool air in our hall and the cold ice in their hands is indescribable. As we watched and reflected, we heard, “This is the ICE-ing of the five thousand!” 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 Church in Juno Beach was coming to Gateway Trinity Lutheran Church. They had gathered supplies as well and were ready to bring them to Faith on Tuesday! On Monday, we learned that God was sending more than 12 pallets of Ice to distribute on Tuesday. On Tuesday morning we started with 6,001 bottles of water, lots of food, personal and household supplies. We opened at 8:30 a.m. expecting that the supplies would only last until 11 am. As the cars kept coming and the supplies distributed, more and more supplies kept coming from places we never imagined. We were still working at 2:30 pm. God is definitely doing something new!
God is not done! On Tuesday night (9/19), God gave us the opportunity to share 1,000 BBQ meals with our community on Thursday night (9/21). Now we know that God is not done!
The offers for help continue to come in.
By now I imagine you also 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 church together! God is good ALL the TIME… all the time GOD IS… amazing!
Stay tuned for further updates on the amazing abundance of God’s work through the community in Lehigh Acres.