Sojourn: Mount Dora Christian Academy, Mount Dora FL

“He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine.”          – 1 Samuel 17:40

We spent our last six weeks in Florida at the Sojourners workshop and then on a sojourn at Mount Dora Christian Academy.  The workshop featured a combination of good speakers, singing, a banquet, games, future mission planning/sign-ups, and all-around fellowshipping with a tremendous group of people.  Workshops are how Sojourners sharpen the saw, re-energize, and re-connect.

Lil Zip Liner
Lil Zip Liner

The first highlight of the workshop for me was a visit on my 50th birthday by our youngest son, Kyle, and his fiancé, Laci.  The visit was made possible by Dr. Bruce McLarty, the President of Harding University.  Bruce was a keynote speaker and banquet speaker at our workshop.  His parents were there with us, and he knew that we were there and were Kyle’s parents.  So he invited Kyle and Laci to fly in with him on the Harding jet and spend about 24 hours with us.  Kyle mentioned to me that he and Laci would have to miss a day of classes.  I told him that when you are flying around with the president of the university, that’s probably an excused absence!  I really appreciated Dr. McLarty’s thoughtful gesture and can’t imagine a better birthday present.  We took full advantage of Kyle and Laci’s visit to show them around the Central Florida Bible Camp campus, go zip-lining, eat German food in Mount Dora, and get updated on the various details of their upcoming wedding.  I’m biased, but I think this young Christian couple is going to have a really powerful impact on the world.  In many ways they already have.

MDCA Sojourners
MDCA Sojourners

The second highlight of the workshop involved my upcoming AT thru-hike attempt.  As previously blogged about (AT Thru-Hike #3: Julio and “Amber Alert”), I’m using my thru-hike as a way to help our friends, Julio and Amber Colon, adopt a child.  A dear sweet lady, who will remain unnamed, approached me at the workshop.  She said, “Steve, I read the blog on your friends and I want to help them adopt.”  She then handed me a $10 bill and wished me luck.  I thanked her and she walked away.  A short time later, I learned that she has had some difficult family challenges and is certainly not well-off financially.  Suddenly her $10 donation took on increasing significance to me.  Mark 12:41-44 came to mind…

“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

I’m not suggesting our sojourner friend lives in poverty.  I am suggesting her $10 was not an insignificant amount to her…she was not giving “out of abundance”.  It got me to thinking…I wonder if I should make a personal appeal to these fine people.  Asking for money is not something I enjoy doing.  I would fail working in a Development office.  When my sons were young, it even felt a little awkward watching them sell candles and cookies and things to raise funds for various causes.  Still, I felt like these folks should hear about the Colon’s adoption plan in order to decide for themselves whether they were in a position to give.  So I addressed the group and made a short appeal.  When we went on break, several sojourners made their way over to Janet to donate.  Long story short…within 10 minutes, they had pledged $1700 toward the cause!  News of their generosity spread, additional donations and pledges have come in, and our total is now at $3673.94… 68% of their $5375 balance!  I know of 3 additional pending pledges, and perhaps some others reading this will join in on this worthy cause (if so, contact Janet…703-403-8492).  Never underestimate what God can do with a couple of “small copper coins”.

Fence Removal Crew
Fence Removal Crew

Our sojourn at Mount Dora Christian Academy was a lot of fun.  The work included construction, demolition, repairs, painting, pressure washing and cleaning all over the campus and at the school’s thrift store.  Lil Jan primarily painted and pressure washed all over campus.  In fact, she may have found her sojourners calling with a pressure washer in her hand.  I helped remove a fence, replaced damaged patio tiles, painted, and helped Lil Jan with the pressure washing.  I may have also sprayed a lizard with a 2700 PSI pressure washer blast.  The MDCA team was gracious enough to provide our team breakfast and lunch every day, and we enjoyed getting the chance to interact with the students.  In fact, they were impressed with my tongue-twirling abilities and sought me out on campus so that I could show my trick to others who hadn’t seen it.

Lil Bridge Washer
Lil Bridge Washer

A final story once again showed God at work.  Tonya, one of the house parents at Mount Dora, made our team several delicious breakfasts while we were there.  Tonya has a love for God and a love for children that you might expect to find in a house parent at a children’s home.  On one occasion, we asked her what was on her wish list (because everyone has one of those).  She paused for a moment, because the thing she had in mind was, to quote her, “really big”.  I was thinking she might be thinking about a new car or perhaps a Hawaiian vacation.  Instead, she said they could really use a picnic table.  Yes, a picnic table was her big item.  I laughed, because in my mind it’s not that big of an item, quite doable, and well within the capabilities of our team.  But to her, it was a big deal, and she gets to decide that.  She didn’t have one simply because she hadn’t asked for one…perhaps because she thought it was “too big” of a request.  After initially planning to pool our resources and just buy her one, our team instead was made aware of one elsewhere on campus that wasn’t being used and just needed some TLC.  So we dried it out, planed it, sanded it, and stained it.  It looked as good as new.  In fact, it looked better and more solid than the one that was available for purchase.  So on our final day there, at our final breakfast with her, our team surprised her with the table and a new large coffee pot.  She was thrilled and touched by the gesture.  It wasn’t that big of a deal…really, it wasn’t…and yet to her it was.

After the sojourn ended and we were heading north toward South Carolina, Janet got a text from Tonya that I don’t think she’d mind me sharing:  “When Daniel (who is 10) came home yesterday and discovered the picnic table, he got all excited and shouted that his teacher had told them to go outside on a picnic table to pray and write in their journals.  He said, “Can I go sit at the picnic table and pray?”  He went out and I watched him sit down at the picnic table, fold his hands, and start praying!  He did it again today!  Already put to good use!!  Thank you all so much for blessing us!”

God works in mysterious ways.  He can turn a few fish into a feast for thousands.  He can use a small stone and a brave young man to slay a giant.  He can multiply a seemingly modest donation by touching the hearts of those who hear about it.  And he can use a simple picnic table to inspire a young man to journal and to pray.  Never under-estimated what God can do with the little and simple things in your life.  Give him a chance, and he can turn them into something big.

Big Steve

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