One of the highlights for me of the reGROUP calendar is our graduation ceremony. I would highly doubt that there are many people who would put “fun” next to “reGROUP” in a word association game, but that is likely because they’ve never seen graduation. I more often hear words like hard, painful, depressed, addicted, and lost when people talk about reGROUP, though talk to a reGROUP graduate and you may hear a different story—one of transformation.
Take the trauma, the loss of community and culture, the years of displacement, the culture gaps, language gaps, poverty, etc. cover it all in an invisibility cloak, and you can begin to understand the challenges a refugee faces.
On June 12, 2016, 49 beautiful lives were taken in the city of Orlando. It's a day that will remain fixed in my memory forever—one that was filled with some of the deepest sorrow and feelings of helplessness I have ever experienced. In the days and weeks that followed the Pulse tragedy, I continued to grieve with my community.
“The Church is people devoted to God, in community, on mission, for God’s glory.” This is the identity statement we have been internalizing as a church family over the last two years. Starting in January of this year, we began focusing in particular on what it means to be on mission as a church.
Uncomfortable topics and difficult conversations. I’m thankful to be part of a church that doesn’t shy away from these things. Summit engages a wide range of such topics, but in March we specifically looked at four injustices in our world. Four I-can’t-believe-this-stuff-is-happening-in-our-world-and-even-in-my-neighborhood kinds of injustices.
I’m learning to see the beauty in my plans not going the way I’d hoped and my expectations not being met. The Saturday of niceSERVE 31 fell on our son Finn’s final YMCA soccer game of the season. His coach (and Summit’s Connect Director), Dan Sherfield, had a great idea to bring niceSERVE to the soccer field in the form of a cleat exchange.
We, a group of friends from Summit and their children, stood in the airport terminal, holding balloons and flowers. A few of us displayed signs reading “Welcome!” and “We are so glad you’re here!” in Arabic. We attracted quite a few glances while we waited.
“I still can’t believe they don’t have kids that go to this school and this is how they are spending their Friday night! I don’t have friends like that…” That was what a parent told me at one of the events my Connect group hosted at the elementary school in our neighborhood.
It has been just over a month since the In Justice evening on racial reconciliation in March. As we approach niceSERVE week I want to come back to one of the main themes of the evening as well as touch on a major line of questioning that came up during the Q&A following the service. There were a number of questions that fall into the “How?” category
It started as a note on my desk a week before last Christmas, “Becky. Ramp. Ask Dan.” I walked through the office to our Connect Director, Dan, to follow up. Becky had approached him in the Summit Lobby to ask if the church knew of a trustworthy company that could help build an accessible ramp for her elderly parents. A few minutes later, I sent two emails.
A lot of people ask me how things are going in our 33rd Street Jail campus, and I enjoy sharing what church looks like on “the inside”. Most people know that we have two church services each Sunday inside the Orange County Jail—one in the men’s facility and one in the women’s facility. What most people may not know is that our entrance each Sunday is never guaranteed.
My name is Joseph Gueci. I recently began attending Summit and I was able to attend the beach baptisms yesterday.I was able to catch a ride on the bus from the Herndon Campus, and something happened that I am COMPELLED to bring to your attention so that you might reach out to the young man.
As I reflect on the last month, and specifically on the Justice/In Justice series, I am reminded of how glad I am that I get to be a part of the Summit family. It is humbling to see our church family take on the weighty, God-honoring work of seeking justice in our world.
I find green beans to be gross. You know—those mushy, over-salted blobs of green floating in some sort of mystery juice. Growing up the only way I would eat them was in green bean casserole, and even that was really only for the gravy and the fun little make-believe onions.
Refugee.It's a strange word—one I'd only ever associated with faraway, war-torn countries. I had never considered the difference between an immigrant and a refugee. I had never internalized that coming to America was more than just a physical journey.
Robin had spent four months considering joining the Base Camp team, but says that she could always find reasons to put off taking “the plunge”. But once she made the decision to volunteer, it was clear to those of us already serving that she had all the characteristics that we look for in a Base Camp leader.
Our first flight on the long journey to Malawi left the Orlando airport at 4 a.m. By the time we landed and settled in at our first stop in Washington, DC, we were already groggy and hungry. A few of us found a restaurant open for a far-too-early lunch and we crammed into a small side booth for one last American meal.
My office is generally a reflection of the level of organization (or chaos) present in the rest of my life at any given moment. When things get crazy—work is stressful, deadlines are approaching, the baby gets sick, my husband is traveling—my car is usually the first thing to experience entropy. Followed by my bedroom. Then my office. By the time the mess reaches my workspace, I know it’s time for a change.
If these people knew me—I mean, REALLY knew me—would I still be loved and accepted by them? I think that’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves at one time or another. Taking a step into community can be a scary proposition. It’s not always easy to clear our throats, raise up a hand, and say, “Hello, World… I exist!”
Two years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Malawi with Michael Weaver on one of Summit’s Africa teams partnering with Children of the Nations (COTN). Our team was tasked with constructing new roofs on homes in the village of Mgwayi. With Michael’s background in structural engineering, he was a natural fit for this kind of work. But what started out as a very task-oriented trip, quickly turned out to be something so much more.
If you find yourself with the opportunity to sit down with new Herndon Campus Minister, Jeff Bell, and hear all the things God has been up to in bringing Jeff and his family to Summit, you should absolutely take that chance. I say that up-front because I know I won’t be able to do the story justice, but, as Jeff told me, “It would be impossible to discredit the providence of God in this.”
Adults of Summit, lend me your ears. Something pretty wild is happening, and, if we’re not careful, there’s a group of teenagers that may just take the reins from us when we’re not looking and start running our church.
Fast forward to 2016, my year of yes. My husband Scott, two daughters, and I call Summit Lake Mary our church home. We’ve been at this campus for two years now and while it was comfortable for us to sit quietly in service each week, leaving with that high of a beautiful message and crazy good music, God was stirring up some new courage in my heart, a major need for more of him and to be of more service to him.
No one expected a call from O.J., the Lake Mary Campus Minister, that Saturday afternoon. No one expected that we wouldn’t be able to occupy Lake Mary’s building the next morning for services. The band wasn’t anticipating setting up in the breezeway, and Teaching Minister, Jim Keller, was prepared to preach from a stage, not a sidewalk. No one expected to have church in a parking lot that day, but that’s exactly what happened.
On Christmas Eve, Summit Church is full of family, friends, and guests all celebrating when God came down as a helpless babe to begin the greatest rescue mission ever known. Sharing the good news of great joy together as a community is one of my favorite times of year. As a member of the Local and Global Partnerships team, each of these services holds an extra bit of excitement for me because we get to share with you another story about what love—on mission—can do. Each year, we give our Christmas Eve offering to a partner organization that has a God-sized mission to alleviate suffering, build up communities, and restore all that is lost.
This has been one of the toughest decisions my wife and I have had to make—tougher than leaving a great career in banking to join Summit staff, tougher than choosing our kids’ names, tougher than spicy or regular chicken at Chick-fil-A. It’s been tough because we felt God calling us to leave a church that we love greatly. A church that, for the last seven and a half years (five of them on staff), has loved our family so well. We knew that saying yes to God was going to cost us something.
"What would it look like for us to make meaningful and long-term commitments to relationship in Africa that would—God willing— result in life transformation?" A few years ago, we set out out to answer that question. Quickly we learned that God was going to lead us through relationships and connections that he brought forward.
Yesterday was a pretty great day in the Parker Family. Eleven years ago Brandy and I arrived home with Mulunesh and Samuel. Mulu, then three and a half, wanted nothing to do with me and Samuel had spent most of the thirty some hours of travel sitting on my lap and urinating. We were exhausted, I smelled like a truck stop bathroom, and we couldn't have been happier.