One of the most beloved traditions we have at Summit is giving away the entirety of our Christmas Eve Offering to ministry outside the walls of Summit. Past offerings have gone to church planting, non-profit startups, global justice work, strategic initiatives with our global partners, etc. This year I am thrilled to inform you that the Christmas Eve Offering will be used to benefit vulnerable children in our own city through the very exciting work of two churches with whom Summit is forming a committed friendship.
A little over three years ago, while traveling with my oldest son Samuel to visit friends in Uganda, I was struck by the thought that not everyone in our world or even in our church has a clear sense of our core identity as a church.
The Riverside community is a small area that lies in the northern region of the Central Florida area. For years, though most of us didn’t even know exactly where it is, Summit’s staff, prayer team, and I have known it’s name. You see, one of the most consistent prayer requests I can expect to see from the Lake Mary Campus each week is, in one way or another, for Riverside.
The sun is shining, although there’s a chill in the air. The sound of hammering is thick and chaotic. There are ladders and boards, and people milling about everywhere. There’s work being done, by many different hands. A laugh echoes across the property and you see in the faces of those gathered that there’s more being built here than just a house: we’re building a home.
It feels impossible to express the joy the children of Ethiopia gifted me. It feels impossible to express the courage and strength of the women I now call sisters. It feels impossible to tell the story of how I flew across the world with 11 strangers and flew back with the only 11 people who will ever understand why I’ve got the joy down in my heart.
Over the summer, during times I was exercising, I listened to The Boys in the Boat, a very well-written book on the 1936 USA crew team that won the Olympics in Nazi Germany. It is an inspiring true tale of the quest for glory undertaken by a group of young men who rose from depression-era underdogs to icons of their sport and the American spirit.
The first time I prayed a desperate, cry-from-the-heart, kind of prayer was when I was about 8 years old and our cat went missing. I went into my bedroom, kneeled in front of a small statue of Jesus, and begged him to bring Smutty Nose back. While I was still on my knees, I heard my sister yell from the driveway, “Guys! Guys! Smutty Nose is back.”
Movies have always been really important to me. In moments of boredom, a movie is a quick and easy cure. In uncomfortable social settings, when my confidence is nothing more than a dog with its tail between its legs cowering in some dark corner of my mind, hearing someone quote a line from a movie I love is an instant bonding experience, one that gives me some ground to stand on.
“Do you know Jesus?” “What? Yeah, I know Jesus.” “No. I mean do you know him as your personal Lord and Savior? Do you know that he died for your sins on a cross and rose from the dead three days later?”
“For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” There it was. The first verse I was supposed to dedicate to memory during my summer long study on Romans. I was a little annoyed by it. I had memorized this verse when I was about 6 years old. Hello! Awana Bible drill, platinum crown holding Christian club member here! I’m gonna need a little more than a 12 word prepositional phrase to feel challenged.
David Kaplan sits in a room full of men. The mood is somber, yet welcoming. Heavy, yet free of judgement and shame. He fidgets slightly in his chair as another man shares why he showed up tonight: the struggles he can’t beat on his own, the sins he’s been fighting for ages, and his desire to be known and loved despite how messed up he is; how messed up he feels.
Have you ever been a part of something historic and experienced that moment when you think, “Wow, I am so glad that I got to be a part of that!”? I am thinking of truly historic culture defining moments like, the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin wall, the first Free Willy movie, and now Summit’s 2017 Backpack Drive.
When I showed up last summer for the first night of For Her, I expected it to be a good opportunity to hear from some of the prominent female voices in our congregation and to hangout with my girlfriends. But I did not expect to feel so deeply understood and seen in a room full of women.
I’m going to be honest... this spring the Connect group I am a part of did an in-depth study of the book of James chapter-by-chapter. It was amazing. However, when we found out that Summit was doing a summer long series on the book of James there was a little (or maybe a big) moan of “oh man…we just did that!”
My friend, Maria, is a social worker for an elementary school in a distressed neighborhood outside of Atlanta. At the end of this last school year, a third grade girl was brought to her office after having a melt down. The girl had always been a good student and never had any behavioral problems. The teacher’s aide escorting her in said that the young girl had been found crying in the bathroom clutching her backpack.
When I first accepted Jesus into my heart, I experienced a supernatural peace that defied all logic or understanding. It went to the very core of my being and I knew that there was a God who loved me and that my sins and guilt were washed clean.
I often viewed Christianity as simply one giant do-not-do list. Stay away from doing X, Y, and Z and you’ll be in favor with God. I suspect much of the outside world views Christianity in this same light as well.
At the IJM Orlando Prayer Gathering, we got to hear about the work that’s happening to end slavery and we had the opportunity to pray for some specific issues IJM is facing around the world. Whether or not you were able to make it, these are the things that were prayed for and we will continue to pray for.
James is a countercultural letter. That much is clear from the very outset: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”? I mean, come on, James, you don’t know what I’ve been through! I actually had a really good reason to not consider it pure joy.
My husband, Aaron, and I became parents in March of this year and we felt as prepared as we possibly could. My undergraduate degree is in psychology, when I was growing up my job was always as a babysitter, and I’ve spent the past ten years working in children’s and student ministries. I’ve basically had as much exposure to children and parents as a person could possibly have without being an expert in the field.
Although born near Chicago, a portion of my early childhood was spent with my mother’s family in a small village in The Philippines. By western standards, most of our village was extremely poor. Truth was, each family didn’t own very much and alone some would not have survived. Because we did life together, though, we thrived. I was never hungry nor did I feel unprotected (even with some wild animals for neighbors). Our community was living in abundance without much stuff.
Like many of you, I took the James challenge this summer and read through the book of James over the course of a week. This is not the first time I’ve spent time in James. Unlike my friend and pastor, Zach Van Dyke, I really enjoy this book of the bible! It’s practical and I am a taskmaster, so I can easily relate and understand what needs to be put into action. But mostly, I love that in different seasons of my life God speaks to me through this book in different ways.
Kaylee Vance and her Connect group gathered around a table one night, marveling at Kaylee’s delicious soup recipe as they ate from goofy bowls. They had each walked into her house that night, not only with the funniest bowl they could find to bring, but with armloads of food and household goods ready to pack up to send to Harvest Time International.
So much of my happiness in life is wrapped up in circumstances. Circumstances, more often than not, are outside of my control. When I place my happiness in circumstances, I’m taking a big chance, one that rarely ends up in my favor.
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.