Dear Hyde Park Family,
Not long ago I came across a wonderful poem titled “The Church Resides in Us” by Travis East, which you can read in its entirety here. I was particularly drawn to this last stanza:
Lord, help us to remember
We are the shadow of your cross
That we don’t just go to church
The church resides in us
Now let that last line sit with you for a minute or two.
The church, in its purest, most biblical sense, is not something you go to. It is something you become. It is not a theme park; you are God’s main attraction. It is not a shopping mall; you are the free sample. It is not a museum; you are God’s handiwork.
For the church of Jesus Christ to do what it is called to do, we need to each become what we are called to be. That means each of us taking the next step in following Jesus by observing our corporate practices of worship, small group, and service, and observing our private practices of giving financially, reading Scripture, inviting others, and prayer. In summary, our GRIP as I discussed in my Midweek Message on Oct. 24.
And when that happens, God does some truly Great Things.
GREAT THINGS GOD HAS DONE
This Sunday, we conclude our “Great Things” worship series with a service you will not want to miss. It will be filled with inspiring stories that celebrate the lives of those who have been touched by God’s love through the ministries we have supported together.
- You’ll hear a witness from someone who has experienced the joy of worship in this congregation, because we have been the church together.
- You’ll hear of story of how one person experienced a warm-hearted, open-minded welcome into God’s love in this place, because we have been the church together.
- You’ll hear a testimony about the power of service, giving one’s self for others, because we have been the church together.
- You’ll hear a person in the church remind us of what God’s grace can do, both in us and through us, because we have been the church together.
- You’ll hear a first-hand witness of how The Portico has drawn new people to Jesus, because we have been the church together.
And most importantly, you’ll have a concrete, specific way to be part of all that God wants to do in 2020, when you receive an Estimate of Giving Card during worship, which you can fill out and bring to the altar rail as we come forward for communion.
To prayerfully prepare for this Sunday, I hope you’ll take a look at the helpful documents we’ve attached to today’s Midweek Message. They will give you a clear idea of how you can increase your estimated giving by even just one percent, and how you can take the “next step up” in your contributions. And if you haven’t received or seen a sample estimate of giving card, you can find one here.
Now more than ever, it is good to be the church, which resides in each of us.
See you Sunday!
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist
SERVE DAY 2019 ON NOVEMBER 24!
Join hundreds of Hyde Park volunteers as they staff Metropolitan Ministries’ Holiday Tent on November 24 and support those in need. It’s in a new location this year: Look for the big tent at 2609 N. Rome Ave., across from Rick’s on the River. Various work shifts will be available from 9:45 a.m. – 6 p.m. Learn more or Sign Up for a shift!
Sometimes when you are the only on in the group who possesses a particular skill, you wind up on a job site by yourself. That’s what dictated Fred’s day today. On Monday, as we worked painting the house on Plantation Island, someone noticed that the floor in the kitchen wasn’t laid quite correctly. Since Fred has experience with laying vinyl plank flooring, he was tasked with returning there today to assist JP in correcting the issue. Working around the kitchen island it soon became clear that this problem could not be remedied by adjusting the current flooring. It seems that an entire new floor is required. As tomorrow is our final day here and we will be working with Habitat, this is another project that will have to be completed by some other team.
The rest of our team headed to yet another Habitat build site – Vincent Acres. The land for this new community belonged to a man named – you guessed it – Vincent and was generously donated to Habitat by his sister when he passed on. It is donations like this that continue to assist Habitat in helping families in need of affordable housing.
There will be 79 two-story homes (no, there was no room for number 80) with two baths and a garage. Many of the families who will eventually occupy these homes are currently living in just one or two rooms, so one can just imagine the joy they must feel as they anticipate moving into these spacious accommodations. It makes you really appreciate how much their “sweat equity” costs them. Imagine that you are working two jobs to support your family and just barely getting by on your paycheck. Now imagine that in addition to your job(s), you still had to find time to work on your future home. How many of us would be willing to work that hard to earn the opportunity to own a home?
Of course the first thing one must do on the construction site is get your hard hat. This alone led to a most amusing moment. Vicki, in the interest of ensuring that all of her team members were taken care of, was distracted with trying to obtain two additional hats. At the same time we were given paint pans to use for our waterproofing paint. As we lined up to get our paint, Vicki, distracted as she was, offered up her hard hat to be filled! Fortunately even she realized her error prior to the inside of a hard hat receiving an unexpected new lining! Aren’t days always better when they start with a laugh?
Almost all of the work today would contribute to sealing the house from moisture. Most of us painted the inner and outer edges of all the windows with the aforementioned waterproofing paint. Some spent their time caulking while the remaining members of the team, the duo of experienced nailers, Don and Gary, spent the morning wrapping the house in a thin, styrofoam water seal. This required nailing the sheet, top to bottom, around the entire house. While yesterday’s nailing job gave them lots of practice, there was no nail gun available today. Each nail was pounded in by hand, but there was a small complication. The nails they had were for a (non-existent!) nail gun. This meant that they were strung together and had to be cut apart before they could be used, adding one more step and just a bit of tedium to their manual labor.
As usual for the Habitat projects here, our day ended at noon – well, at a little after noon. As the rest of us gathered up and prepared to head out, the house wrappers indicated that they had just a few minutes work left so that they could work to a more logical stopping point. So as some of us sat and visited with some Habitat workers and spent some time trying to scrape paint off our hands, others policed the area to collect the many discarded water bottles around the job site waiting for the guys to finish up. Stopping at a small park area on the way back to enjoy our picnic lunch, we arrived at the church with just a few hours to kill before we head to the showers and then out to dinner.
Tonight’s dinner, our last evening here, will be at the Sunset Grill – aptly named for it’s view at sunset. The place has come recommended and we are hoping that the clouds will cooperate to allow us to see the view we have been waiting for all week.
We have been so fortunate with the weather this week. Everywhere we go they tell us of how beastly hot it was here last week so we have been immensely grateful that, even as the sun may be intense at times, the temperatures have been in the 80s and not at all unbearable. This morning, however, we woke up to a bleak looking rainy sky and cool temperatures. That didn’t deter us as we headed out earlier than the days prior, armed with rain gear in case the precipitation continued. Today we were to be on our worksites prior to 8 AM.
For half of us, we would be volunteering with Habitat for Humanity of Collier County. A division of the international organization, it has been around for 42 years ago and has built over 2200 homes. Their vision is “..a world where everyone has a decent place to live.” And their mission is “Seeking to put God’s love into action…bringing people together to build homes, community and hope.” I can’t help seeing shades of our own church’s mission here – to Make God’s Love Real. This is one place where you can see that in action.
The beneficiaries of this project, the new homeowners, must meet certain qualifications and they must agree to partner with Habitat to make the house a reality. Besides a minimal down payment, they must also contribute 500 hours of “sweat equity” – working alongside volunteers like us – to have the opportunity to carry the low monthly payment, no-interest mortgage required to make the dream of homeownership a reality.
While Habitat usually builds individual homes, today we would be working in a new townhome development called Dockside. As we approached and saw the units that have already been completed, the simple architecture with pastel colored siding gave off a definite Key West vibe – which was apparently just what they were trying to achieve. We divided ourselves into three groups – each tackling a different part of the process, either framing, siding or painting. Our choices had nothing to do with skill level for it is our willingness to work and not our particular aptitude on the job that qualified us to participate.
The three painters were assigned to apply a second coat of paint to the trim on the back porch area of the 6 units of one building. With careful application we followed the instructions we were given by Marco – ”Paint here, don’t paint here, hardware should not be painted over, and please don’t drip paint on the grey deck floor that I have already painted.” (That was the hardest part!). We were handy with the brushes, and handier with the wipe-up-our-mistakes cloths, and even discovered that a crumpled up piece of tape comes in handy as a make-shift scrubber to clean the bigger drips off the floor. (Shhh! Don’t tell Marco!)
Siding was the choice of three others of our group, and in short order they appeared to be old hands at it. The first rule of siding application that they learned is that you don’t “nail” siding, you “hang” siding. Translated, you do not drive the nails all the way in, giving the siding pieces the ability to flex a bit if necessary. Being one of the painters myself, I only had the opportunity to observe, never having realized that each strip of siding is nailed – excuse me…hung – individually. And I was impressed at what an amazing job they were doing keeping them all straight and parallel. Of course I just had to ask, “How do you keep them so level?” To which I got the answer, “We use a level!?!” (Silly me!)
The most experienced among us chose to do framing. While I understand the general concept of “framing”, explaining what they did while not having seen it proved to be beyond my abilities. But I do know that they spent the day surrounded by a tangle of cords to a number of power tools and put in hundreds of nails apiece.
The remaining members of our team continued work on Rebecca’s kitchen. While it is not completed, our part of the work is done, What remains to be done is above our pay grade. But the cabinets are installed, the walls are painted, and Rebecca is delighted with the mint green!
Tonight’s dinner was prepared for us by the ladies in the church. While certainly not necessary, we appreciated their gratitude for our willingness to spend our week here serving where we are needed. It was generous enough to give over their social hall for a week to a bunch of strangers – but then who doesn’t appreciate one more good meal that you didn’t have to prepare yourself! We were overwhelmed by their attempt to honor our individual food choices and limitations in both food and desserts. And it was all delicious.
In a final unexpected twist, most of us ended the night at the theater! The pastor’s wife told us at dinner that she had to leave by a certain time because she had a rehearsal for a play she would be performing in next week. Someone asked if we could come and watch and she arranged it. While it was not in it’s final form, it was very funny and certainly the most unique experience I have ever had on a mission trip.
Oh, and the rain stopped even before we began any work leaving behind cool temperatures and partly cloudy skies!
We awoke to yet another beautiful day here in Marco Island. In planning for today we were pleased to know that due to a required early morning run to Home Depot by our construction supervisors we would have a slightly later start to the day. While we make it a practice each day not to talk to one another until we officially gather for breakfast, the rule does no apply to, Lissa, our resident yoga instructor as, prior to breakfast each morning many of us take advantage of the opportunity to awaken our muscles with a guided stretch. On the lawn of the church right along the water with no other sounds except the birds, we listen to her cues, relax, stretch our still sleepy bodies and prepare for our day.
The second small project on our schedule this week is a home right here on Marco Island. Most of us, when we hear “Marco Island” have a preconceived notion of the demographics of the people and houses around us. This made it hard for us to imagine what a home would look like, here on the island, that would be in such a condition as to need assistance in repairs. From the street there was little you could see with so much expansive vegetation at the top of a steep curved driveway. We were met in the driveway by Rebecca, the homeowner, who welcomed us warmly. Entering the home it was clear that this house had not received the first rate kind of upkeep you would assume all houses here did. We knew our task today was to hang cabinets and paint the kitchen walls. Apparently when Hurricane Irma hit, the roof collapsed pouring water through the kitchen ceilings. The old cabinets were not able to sustain the deluge and, as Rebecca put it, they just crumbled. She and the other members of her household have been without a fully functioning kitchen for two years.
While there was some chicken-versus-egg-like discussion about which should come first, hanging the cabinets or painting the walls (hanging the cabinets won!), Rebecca shared with JP the paint chip with the mint green color she would like for her kitchen. Unfortunately, there was a communication issue prior to arriving today and JP had already gotten white paint. While she expressed some disappointment, she maintained an attitude of, “Oh, well. It’s OK.” In a lovely expression of generosity, two of our team chose to finance two more gallons of paint so Rebecca could have the mint green kitchen she had hoped for.
This house is the only house Rebecca has ever known. One of the first homes ever built on Marco Island in 1973, it belonged to her grandparents who were the ones who raised her. She was pleased to tell us of how her grandparents found Marco Island and chose this lot on a hill. I started thinking how easily we look at a community and make assumptions about who the people are in those houses. Rebecca smiled as she told us that her grandparents had named this place Dove Hill – because it is a symbol of peace and the Holy Spirit – and I know that same Spirit is working within us today. I’m sure her grandparents would be pleased that she shared that story with us.
The day progressed slowly – cabinet installation taking quite longer than anticipated – so the paint team returned to the church for lunch, after which they remained there awaiting a call from the cabinetry team as to when the painting could begin. That call was not to be made today as there were some bumps along the way, but the team will return tomorrow to finish the task.
Being a small kitchen, it had been clear from the beginning that there would not be enough work, or near enough room, for all of us. Initially we had thought that perhaps half the team would have to take the day off, but some of our team use the pastor’s house for their showers and yesterday, hearing of our dilemma of willing hands and little work, the pastor himself offered some work for the remainder of the group. It seems that the gutters at the church needed cleaning – so that is the task which the rest of our group tackled today. Teaming up in groups, with some holding ladders, some holding bags, and some doing the dirty work, the gutters were cleaned within the first hour. (That effectively meant that they did, indeed, get the rest of the day off.)
While the rest of us are heading out to our tasks every day, I would be remiss if I did not mention the one who is responsible for keeping us all fed. Leslie stays behind each day (and up late some nights) doing the planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning up for all of our meals. Yes she has had helpers, but she is the one who made it all come together and we are not only well fed, but we are very grateful for this gift she has shared with us this week.
Being within just a few miles of the beach, and having more than the initially anticipated free time, many of us took time to dip our toes in the sand and, unaware of the current red tide situation, cool off in the Gulf. It appears that our work schedules may tighten up for the remainder of our time here so we are glad to have taken advantage of the beauty that surrounds us. And we will be equally glad to buckle down together tomorrow for a whole new adventure.
No two mission trips are the same. Starting from the people with whom you work, to the places where you serve, each has its own character. This one, however, is distinctly different from many of the Hyde Park UMC’s past adult mission trips. This one is not international in some tropical country – no passport or plane ticket required. It is right here in our own state taking to our host church in Marco Island to continue assisting through UMCOR in hurricane relief recovery from the damage of Hurricane Irma in 2017. This church would be our base for the week as we traveled to our job sites.
As we arrived in staggered groups of carpools, we set up our temporary home, unpacking linens and making up our cots. We will be responsible for our own transportation to and from the job site and for preparing all of our own food. Last night was a welcome treat as one generous family in the church payed for us all to have dinner at the local Mexican restaurant. It was a great way for us to begin to bond as a group, getting to know each other and the people we will be working with this week.
One of the first things I ever learned about doing mission trips is that you need to be flexible – and in our first meeting with Steve – who coordinates the UMCOR disaster recovery work in this area – we found out just how flexible we were going to have to be. We are a group of 15 people eager to answer the call to serve, so we required either one large, or a few small projects to keep us busy all week. Unfortunately, the large project that Steve had planned for us fell though at the last minute. Apparently it turned out that the recipient of the work did not pass the vetting process, so Steve will be scrambling to find work to fill the week. We have assured him that we will do whatever is needed and travel wherever is necessary – we are here to serve, so use us.
There were two small jobs that Steve had successfully lined up for us and we attacked our first this morning. Our task was to paint the ceilings of a trailer. It had actually been painted once already (and new carpeting had been laid down), but there were inconsistencies and the homeowner requested that it be redone. Once this job was completed, this house, after two years, would be almost ready again for habitation. With 14 missioners plus Steve, and the onsite construction supervisors, JP and Steve, we had 19 able bodied individuals prepared to tackle the task. Though we pondered whether that many bodies would be tripping over each other in such a confined environment, and whether, indeed, there could possibly be enough work for all of us, we willingly loaded up and headed to Plantation Island. Amazingly, there was enough work and enough supplies to divide the work. After taping down plastic to protect the new carpeting, we divided ourselves among the tasks – edging, trimming and rolling. And for those who felt painting-challenged, there was a stack of outlet and light switch covers that needed to be matched up in the appropriate place and screwed back on. With so many hands working, laughing and singing, our work was completed just in time for lunch.
Having carried a sack lunch with us, we drove a bit up the road to Chocoloskee, FL to the Smallwood Store. This store/museum in Everglades National Park, which has been run by the same family since 1906, sits right on the water, is raised up on stilts, and had two just-the-right-size-for-our-group picnic tables underneath where we broke bread together.
With our only planned activity for the day completed, a number of us headed off to take an airboat ride. I’m a roller coaster fan, but rarely have I ever had so much fun in an amusement park. No doubt we were enveloped in amazing scenery, but in addition we had informative and entertaining captains (one of whom regaled us afterwards with tales of growing up here in the swamps). The ride was first quiet – there is that pesky Coast Guard ruled no-wake zone – and then exhilarating! Spitting up spray behind us we sped thru the mangrove tunnels making sharp turns that had us within inches of the vegetation. Oh, yes – there were also animal sightings along the way. We saw 3 different alligators (the largest of which was about 12 feet long, and all of which we got a bit too close to for my comfort!) and one raccoon who didn’t seem the least bit bothered when one of our boats pulled right up to the branch on which he was resting. Once we were back on shore we chatted for quite some time with Captain Brian who told us that he had no fear of the alligators in these waters – that he would more greatly fear a bull shark. We were a bit surprised that sharks would be in these waters. It was just moments later that he let out a holler – “Holy Cow! What was THAT!” We had our backs to the water so all we got to see was the splash – but behind us a bull shark had jumped up out of the water and flopped onto his back. We weren’t sure if maybe the shark heard our doubts and took umbrage with it (“I’ll show you!”), or perhaps he was after some prey. We did notice that the alligator who had been trolling around in that section of water seemed to have disappeared!
We made one final stop before heading back to the church for dinner. Included with the airboat ride was admission to The Boardwalk. Like any good Disney ride, it led you through a gift shop, but once on the other side there was a rustic boardwalk through the mangroves, at the end of which was the Gator Man who offered us an up-close-and-personal visit with a trio of alligators. The smallest was about 14 inches long while the largest was over 100 pounds. We (well MOST of us) held the smaller two and petted the larger one – something I thought I would NEVER do! Then we watched as he fed some larger, cage alligators their dinners (the ones he did not offer, nor did we request, to touch!). There were vultures in the cage with them scavenging for food as well so the Gator Man threw them a thigh. It was interesting to watch as one alligator held his food hanging out of his mouth – and one brave vulture tried to grab it right out of his jaws. Final score – Alligator 1, Vulture 0!
We have surely seen God all around us today – in the skies, in the parks, in the water, in the animals, and in each other. We are not sure what the rest of the week holds for us although we do know that Steve is working hard with his contacts in the area to use us while we are here. And we trust that, having followed God’s call to be here, he will find a way for us to serve.
Dear Hyde Park Family,
My daily devotional time this year has been spent following the same Scripture reading plan that we will be following next year for The Bible Project 2020, which you can learn more about here. I’m excited that in the few weeks since we opened registration, nearly 300 of you have signed up to be in a small group, with close to 50 small group facilitators. And there’s still plenty of room for you!
Last Tuesday, the reading was from Romans 3-5, and I spent most of my time that day reflecting on Romans 5:3-5:
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
It’s a fifty-word passage that we wish were much shorter. Wouldn’t it be nice if Paul instead had something like, “We know that suffering leads to hope. Period.” No, instead the lengthy chain of phrases in between suffering and hope is Paul’s way of reminding us that often, the journey from darkness to light is a process, and the length of that journey can be a significant part of the transformation.
That idea might seem hard to believe and even tougher to swallow, but it’s a consistent theme throughout the Scriptures:
- It would have been so much nicer if the Israelites had stepped immediately from Egyptian slavery to freedom in the Promised Land, but instead there were forty years and four hundred miles between the Red Sea and the Jordan River.
- It would have been so much easier if the Judeans had been quickly freed from Babylon to return from exile, but instead it took seventy years, and help from the Persians, before they could come home.
- And it would have been so much more comforting to the disciples if Jesus had come back to life minutes after he was crucified. But very often, resurrection takes time, and the time we spend waiting for Easter morning can be a Holy Saturday we didn’t know we needed.
Even the transformations that seem instantaneous in the Bible were not all that sudden after all:
- Moses’ life was changed forever in a brief encounter with a burning bush, but it was a moment that took wandering as a fugitive in the wilderness to get there.
- The blind man in John 9 was cured by Jesus with a single touch, but he had been waiting all his life for that miracle.
- Saul’s conversion to Paul on the Damascus road seemed as instantaneous as that flash of light, but he still had to travel to Jerusalem, blind and aided by his friends, in order for transformation to be completed.
It’s no secret to you and me that life can be challenging, and we share in the pain of many people in our congregation and our community, even over recent days. But I invite you to spend some time reflecting on Paul’s words to the Romans, and even turn it into a prayer. For yourself, for your loved ones, and for anyone you know who is hurting.
God of hope and love,
Make yourself known to me in my suffering, so that I can discover an endurance that will enable me to go one step at a time, one day at a time.
Accompany me in that endurance, so that I can shed the parts of my character that are keeping me from living the life you intend me to live.
As I see evidence of the character-building work of your Spirit, may I be filled with a hope that the good work you have started will be completed in me.
And may that hope remind me of your love, poured into my heart, and always available to me.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist
(Note: Perhaps a simple way to practice the personal spiritual discipline of “Inviting in a way that is natural and not intimidating,” you might forward this message to someone you know who could use a word of hope and encouragement.)
THIS SUNDAY: GREAT THINGS GOD HAS TAUGHT US!
Don’t miss worship this Sunday as we continue our “Great Things” worship series with a sermon that will remind us of many of the exciting reasons it is great to be a follower of Jesus, and why it is so important to be the church today.
WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?
Your gifts to Hyde Park provide opportunities for all ages to grow in discipleship. A gift of $100 could fund five third grade Bibles, two scholarships for kids to experience God’s love at Vacation Bible School or a Wednesday night of Nursery care, allowing young parents to grow closer to God in small group community. A gift of $500 could fund Confirmation materials to help a class of youth claim their faith for themselves or provide a scholarship for a life-changing week at Warren Willis Camp. Your generosity ensures we continue teaching each other what it means to love God and love all. To learn more about what a step up in giving could mean to our life together at Hyde Park, go here.