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.
The meal is ready. A prayer has been spoken. So what now? Well if you are one of the amazing parents who served at the Summit Students Thanksgiving dinners, you roll up your sleeves and serve. Why? That is a really good question!
A week ago, I was baptized in a Christian church.I spent nearly 15 years mocking the very faith I was brought up in. I have 15 years worth of friends who have never known me to be a Christian. I spent 15 years opining on the absurdity of a religion that denies our humanity. (There were definitely some things I misunderstood.)Yet, a week ago, I was baptized in a tin tub in the parking lot of a Christian church.
This past Saturday, our Summit family participated in our 30th niceSERVE. During these 30 events, our church has invested over 100k hours of our time into the local community and served hundreds of local nonprofits, schools, and other churches. Each hour given has been a very public testament to our belief that God has invited us into building his kingdom by tending to all of creation and loving people well.
A few weeks before a niceSERVE event, a collection of words goes into the bulletin that says “Mark your calendars! niceSERVE is [insert date here].” As the person who writes bulletins at Summit, I sure want to believe that there are real people out there who actually do excitedly mark their calendars, but I just didn’t know for sure and now I do.
The sun was shining through our windshield and I could hear the giggles coming from our backseat. I looked in the rearview mirror and caught a glimpse of his big smile and bright green T-Shirt that read “niceSERVE.” I couldn’t help but smile in that moment and release all nervousness I was carrying about not knowing what to expect.
Stepping into that neon green, loud classroom for the first time was a little overwhelming. Kids were laughing and yelling—some playing at the air hockey table, while smaller groups gathered around the foosball table or played board games on the floor. I was told that I could just observe what happened in The Lodge, and not to feel pressured to participate in discussions. So I kept my distance and watched as fourth and fifth graders danced to songs, played silly games, and learned about Jesus.
“Sometimes God asks us to break things, to put things down…in order to create space for him to create something new, something more beautiful…” As I sat and listened to my husband and Herndon Campus Pastor Garry Abbott speak these words to the students during the first large group session of Edge Goes to the Beach this weekend, I couldn’t help but smile.
At home, my plans for the end of last week included soccer practice, Connect groups, and getting the kids to school. Under the threat of a major hurricane, they were replaced with clearing the yard, shopping for storm-supplies, playing board games, and lots of jumping on inflatable mattresses while our family of seven slept in one room together. This was a beautiful, unexpected time with my family…
Last week, our community braced for the worst as Hurricane Matthew was seemingly heading straight toward us. While we are extremely fortunate and grateful that, for the most part, the hurricane caused little damage in Orlando, we recognize that it has had a great impact on several local families...
When Kathryn and her husband decided to make Summit their church home, they knew it would be all or nothing. This was going to be their community, their family, or they weren’t going to be here at all. The path to finding that was clear to Kathryn from the beginning; she wanted to serve, and she wanted to serve with students.
I was following Jesus and I knew it and the people close to me knew it and anyone who asked me could know it, too. But that gnawing feeling, the voice in the back of my head that kept getting louder, the obvious pull toward baptism… Those things didn’t go away.
Waiting on the bus for my first trip to Surge at Southwind, I had no idea what to expect. My excitement and anticipation for the weekend was shared by many of the 6th grade students I lead, some who had never spent more than one night away from home. One of those first-timers took a seat next to me, neither of us knowing how great of an impact the weekend would have on each of our lives.
This past Vision Sunday, we celebrated our 14th birthday. It was 14 years ago that we officially opened our doors in order to fully engage with God’s mission in the world through his church. One of our core values as a church is making the most of our place in history. It is this value that has always resonated deeply with me.
A commitment is an investment. It's a promise. It's a lot of really big and really beautiful words. It's saying "Hey, I know you're not perfect, but I see something really good in you, and I'm choosing to get behind that—to love it, to pursue it and to fight for it.”