Florida retreat connects Bible to today

Joining our Floridian sisters and brothers always completes my joy. Their genuine welcome, “Sister Lisa!” shouted across the parking lot, and the way they sing their faith, encourage me to follow the Lamb with yet more joy and boldness. This past February, I had the opportunity to accompany Rev. Russ May who led the annual youth retreat with the Florida congregations.

While there, we asked the question: “As God’s own modern-day prophets, what are you hearing God saying to you, or how did you catch a glimpse of God’s reign?”

“I hear God telling me that I need to continue working on being a child of his that he would be proud of, and to encourage others as well,” said Brother Amachi Anthony of Margate Moravian.

Sister Merylin Paredes of Tampa Moravian Fellowship shared, “I hear God telling me that I have a purpose in this life and I am on a mission. I do not know what my mission in this life is, but I know as I get closer and closer to God, I will find out. God has a purpose for each and everyone one of us. The more we get closer to him, we will find out what our mission is.”

You see, many of the Moravians living and serving in Florida are first or second generation immigrants. Acquainted with hardship, these youth didn’t have trouble seeing and “reclaiming the world as God intends it to be.” They were eager to dig deeper as we explored these prophetic themes:

  • Wake up your prophetic imagination, reclaiming the world as God intends it to be.
  • Re-imagine what radical sharing can do 
(Matthew 4:15-31)
  • Re-imagine abundance in empty spaces 
(1 Kings 17:8-16)
  • Re-imagine tools of violence into tools of peace (Micah 4:2-4)
  • Re-imagine a sanctuary for people who are refused care (2 Samuel 21: 9-14)

 

Brother Russ included lots of hands-on activities. Given plastic children’s war toys, the kids transformed hand grenades into perfume misters, flower pots, lighters and water bottles. Why not “transformation make-up”? Why not a whistle from a plastic gun, a wind turbine empowering an irrigation system for a garden out of a broken up army tank? Why not a spoon or a shovel instead of a knife?

Russ also gave us giant photos of empty landscapes. The participants saw abundance as they designed places of gathering and nurture. One group of older guys imagined a basketball court, but with a butterfly garden to entice their younger sisters and brothers. Another group built a community center with wi-fi access where people could gather for recreation or a place to do their homework.

And then to the questions, “How can we create a place of refuge to those who are refused care? How do we show respect and care for those whose bodies, whose lives are exposed and vulnerable?” These were not hard questions for anyone, as the representatives of each congregation got to work, taking cardboard boxes and rebuilding their churches so that they might become places of radical sharing.

Palm Beach Moravian, no strangers to hurricanes, opened up a shelter for those who need overnight accommodation, not only during a storm, but also every day. Rolling Hills Moravian offered a veteran’s gathering place where veterans could find healing and wholeness. For the broken-hearted and hungry, New Hope Moravian envisioned themselves as a people who offer hope for each new day.

We even learned about Rizpah (2 Samuel 21: 9-14), who kept vigil by her murdered sons. Day and night, “from the beginning of the harvest until the rain poured down,” she fought off predators so they could not devour their bodies. No matter how compelling, do we share these disturbing biblical texts with our children and youth? Listen to how this obscure, yet powerful story spoke to Sister Merylin:

“What empowered me the most is the story of Rizpah. She was a woman in the Bible who had lots of courage and wisdom. Her sons had died by being hanged, and she was there night and day, through good and bad weather, guarding their bodies and doing a vigil for her sons. Rizpah was a brave woman. This story empowered me a lot.”

I was amazed at how quickly, creatively and faithfully our younger sisters and brothers unpacked the scriptures.

“Your prophetic imagination is something that is uniquely tailored to you,” said Sister Danielle Roberts, Rolling Hills Moravian.“Yours might be through the gift of music and art, and mine might be through mission service, but as long as we find a way to spread God’s word and message, there is no right or wrong.”

“[We have been] learning about how the different stories of prophets are similar to situations in our daily lives,” said Brother Amachi Anthony. “Since they are alike, you can read the Bible and know how to deal with these situations.”

Our children and youth have witnessed so much. How can they process what they have seen, finding new meaning and agency? How can they respond in and through the power of Christ to a chaotic, shattered and shattering world? Scripture gives us the voices of our ancient prophets. May we join them and these new prophets to see things from different angles. This is the world of these youth, and these are their words:

“Our schools are not built for violence. No. No. No #nolockdowns #peaceandlove.”

Sister Lisa Mullen serves alongside Estamos Unidos, and SunnySeeds Garden, a joint ministry of Anthony’s Plot, Estamos Unidos and the South Branch RCC.