Okay, so this isn’t really an ode to Orlando, but I really liked the alliteration. Honestly, I don’t really care for the city of Orlando. What I do love are the people/memories that Orlando has facilitated. In fact, this is a story of the past 5 years that I have lived in Orlando (don’t worry, I’m not doing a detailed account). In our church, this is what we would call a “real story” except that real stories are supposed to be brief. But that’s why I’m writing it rather than standing up and sharing it to so many of the people that are a part of this story.
November 8, 2008 Kyle and I were married in Melbourne, FL. We spent the following week in Costa Rica before beginning our life together in Orlando. Actually, that first year we were in Winter Springs but I promised not to bog you down with the never ending details. That first week concluded with the daunting realization that we were about to venture into the overwhelming adventure of church hunting. While Kyle had lived in Orlando for the past 2 years, he spent most weekends visiting me…not in Orlando…anyway, he had not found a church that he really liked. Our list of “desirables” wasn’t too extensive, but included good Spirit led worship (I get distracted by poor musicianship, but God is good and can overcome this flaw of mine), not too big (i.e. not a mega church), and preaches the Bible, from the Bible.
That Sunday Kyle did a Google search (no joke) for non denominational churches in Orlando. The first church that popped up was Vista Community Church. It appeared to meet the needs so we went. After attending a mega church in Melbourne for the last year, Vista was a little shock for me (not bad but not definitively good–undecided). Worship was led by the Pastor and his wife (plus for not distracting me, but I just wasn’t used to the hat juggling concept on church staffs). A solid message was given (sorry Van, I don’t remember what it was about), and the most memorable thing was that someone actually talked to me on the way out. While we were in the lobby, a woman by the name of Priscilla approached me and asked if it was my first Sunday at Vista. I have since found out that this is so far out of her norm that it had to of been the Lord’s prompting on her heart to come and talk to me.
We left the church and decided that we liked it enough to try it again the following week. What I didn’t realize until we stopped for lunch was that I had left my purse in the sanctuary. Kyle attempted to call and amazingly (again, not a norm, but God was working ahead of us in this), someone happened to answer. The staff was there late for a meeting and Deb, the pastor’s wife (she is so much more than that, but at this point, that is all we knew about her) answered, found my purse and offered to meet us halfway so I could get it back (you have to understand that I had just gotten all my information changed -name, address, SSN…-and so the idea of having to go through all of that again put me into a tizzy). Kyle met up with them in a store parking lot and they spent the next 30 minutes talking.
By the next Sunday, we knew we had found out new church. Within a month Kyle was invited to play in a flag football (or ultimate frisbee, I don’t remember) game Sunday evening. What we didn’t know was that he had actually been invited to check out the youth group. Later that month, we jumped into the deep end as volunteers.
I had the privilege of working with one particular group of girls from 8th grade through high school and an additional group of girls that set the small group/bible study bar so high that I don’t imagine anyone will ever be able to reach it. My expectations for all future groups are kinda shot. Seriously, I love all of these girls and am so honored that I still have a number of incredible conversations and friendships with them despite that they are all crazy busy with college (and some recent grads from college!).
A year after starting our adventure with the youth, we were asked to be a part of one of the interviewing committees for a new youth pastor. This was at a time when I was desperately yearning for a best friend (in the same country). He and his wife are two of our best friends.
Our closest friends developed from being a part of Vista Community Church. And they are more than friends to us; they are family. They have welcomed us into their homes for different holidays, from birthdays to their own personal family Christmas or Thanksgivings. We trust them with our daughters and know that if anything ever happened that they would be there for us.
They are the living example of what it means to being like Christ to those around you. They are the example I think of when we say that our church is all about connecting people with God. They are what I will miss in Orlando.
In a month, we will be moving to Texas and have to start a new adventure. But these people that fill the memories are what make it so challenging, despite knowing without a shadow of a doubt that we are being called to Ft. Worth. I will always cherish them and their friendships, even with the challenge of distance (let’s hear it for social media to stay connected!). I can’t begin to thank God enough for going before us, for laying the ground work that has developed into so many precious and meaningful relationships. It is proof enough that he is indeed a God of love who wants us to be in relations with him and with fellow believers. And I am eternally grateful.