We had been planning this event for several weeks, and today finally happened. After hearing Dr. Owen Weston at our Florida Campmeeting this year, I became acutely aware of the need to reach out to the community more than ever before. Along with some of my leadership, we began planning a 5th of July party at our local church. We called it an “Independence Party.”
I’ve added a couple of pictures so you could see some of the day’s activities. The one on the left shows Pastor Lee Browning (Umatilla Church of God) on the right and me on the left. What a privilege it was to be part of what the Lord did; this was truly the highlight of the whole day.
The party began during the 11:00 morning service. The message was titled “A Fight for Freedom,” using Jude 1-3 as the foundational scriptures. The premise of the message was our need to fight for the faith which has been handed down to all the saints. Jude wanted to write to the people about their common salvation, but felt it more important to stir them up regarding the fight for their faith, which was under heavy attack. We celebrated Independence Day because brave men and women sought a better life for themselves and future generations. We must do the same in order to keep our faith active and alive.
There was a wonderful spirit of worship in our little church as people lifted their hands and voices heavenward, praising God with one voice. It was a powerful reminder that people have a desire to offer praise to the Lord of glory. I believe worship is a common denominator around the world – people were created to give honor to our creator, and that desire is a thread that crosses borders and language barriers across this world we live in.
After the service, we began setting up tables outside under a cover for the food and places to sit. The Umatilla Church of God and Praise Cathedral our of Eustis joined in with us for an afternoon of fellowship around the table. We used to have fellowship meals like this on a routine basis many years ago, but I think we got too busy; hopefully, there’s a change in the making. Our church provided the fried chicken and families brought cover-dish meals. We all shared what we had, and I don’t believe anyone left hungry.
We had the use of a water slide for the day, and there were plenty of people who enjoyed themselves in the heat of central Florida. In fact, this was the first time the pastor ever slid down one of those things; it was a blast and required another run down into the pool. Who said old people can’t have fun? Let me tell you, it didn’t take long to fill up the line after we opened the water slide for use; those kids ran as fast as I’ve ever seen.
The height of the day’s activities was our baptismal service. It was conducted outdoors in a large pool. Pastor Lee Browning from Umatilla and I shared in the privilege of baptizing 24 people. What an honor! Sister Connie Beck ministered to each person after baptism, speaking what the Lord had laid on her heart to share with them. I had asked her to take part in this important service, and she gladly accepted the invitation. I could sense the Spirit of God speaking words of encouragement and purpose into the lives of every one who made the choice to be baptized. You can look at some videos on Facebook if you would like.
After the baptism, it was time to begin cleaning up and putting things back in order. It didn’t take long because there were many volunteers from our churches who wanted to help. That’s the way it ought to be: cooperating together to reach a common goal. Chairs were stacked, tables were folded and utensils were washed. People working together – that was a beautiful sight.
After most everything was put back in order, my family and I made our way back to the parsonage, tired, but full of amazement at what the Lord had done today. We had some supper and I made my way to the couch to watch some TV. For some strange reason my eyelids closed pretty tight and what was on became very uninteresting. The day had finally caught up to me.
Thank you, Lord, for this great day. My heart’s desire would have been more people to enjoy it with, but we had a wonderful time with the ones who were here. (A pastor is never satisfied!) I don’t know what God has in store for us, but we will keep looking for his hand guiding us along the way.