As Church United, we firmly believe that the Church, God’s people, should be the first responders to our community’s lostness, pain and brokenness. Our words and our actions are shaped by the fundamental belief that the Church of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world — and certainly the hope of South Florida.
If we’re honest, hope has been a bit hard to grasp for many in our community this year. The events that unfolded at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year have left a lasting scar, reminding us that heaven has yet to be realized. However great the pain and hopelessness we encounter may be, God’s people are called to remain rooted in the hope-filled reality that God is making all things new. Every hug to someone who’s hurting, every meal to someone who’s hungry, every home offered to an orphan, every prayer for those who are searching, and every new tree planted, brings God’s kingdom that much closer to earth.
Putting Faith into Action
At the prayer vigil held the day after the Stoneman shooting, Church United promised to remain faithfully present to the students, teachers, administrators and families of those affected. As we prayed for those who were grieving that day, we also prayed for God to open doors and opportunities for the Church to tangibly demonstrate the beacon of hope we so deeply believe her to be.
For the churches closest to the campus, their commitment to connect and collaborate together in long-term response efforts remained unwavering. Late last month God provided an opportunity for us to meet with the administration of Stoneman Douglas, asking them what needs they’d like to see met. They answered. The Church responded.
Beginning with a series of all-staff appreciation lunches and breakfasts for the administration team, Church United is beginning to check the boxes on every need presented to us. After being informed that morale amongst the staff was understandably low, we rallied the Church to leverage their resources to provide all 155 teachers and 85 administration/support staff with back to school appreciation baskets with items requested by the school. From gift cards to Office Depot and Starbucks, to coffee and treats, each teacher will be receiving a personalized, handwritten thank you note from community church members, communicating our love and appreciation for them. But that’s only the beginning.
Leveraging our existing relationships with The Home Depot, Rebuilding Together Broward and Lifework Leadership alumni, we have committed to completely give Stoneman Douglas a much-needed facelift. From new trees, hedges and flowers, to new pavers, seating areas and a memorial pond, God’s people are leading the charge. Volunteers from four Parkland area churches will work shoulder to shoulder on Saturday, August 11th to communicate that where there was once death, new life and beauty can be found.
But wait, there’s more.
Beyond the appreciation lunches, gift baskets and beautification, we’re committed to changing the narrative and legacy of Stoneman Douglass beyond that of the shooting. There’s no doubt that pain and loss shape us, but they also do not define us. We’re committed to seeing the story of Stoneman Douglas be one that’s not defined by the pain and loss they experienced. We believe the first step in this process is prayer.
Nothing unites the church like prayer, and prayer may be what’s needed now more than ever. In partnership with First Priority, we’ve committed to pray for Stoneman Douglass along with each and every school in our region.
A.B.C. Prayer Guide
Beginning by calling each church to rally in prayer at a local school of their choosing on Saturday, August 11, and then by taking time in their services on Sunday, August 12, to specifically pray for our school administrators, buildings and children, we believe that fervent prayer is a key ingredient to seeing the narratives of all our schools begin to change.
Pray for the administration of our schools: teachers, principals, school board members, superintendents and all support staff. Thank God for the many administration officials living out their faith each and every day. Pray that godly wisdom and grace would be given to teachers, administrators and school board members. Pray that all school staff, including teacher assistants, kitchen staff, bus drivers and maintenance members, would be encouraged in their work. Pray that God would give all school staff supernatural patience, grace and genuine love for students and their families. Pray that all school educators will experience the love and care of Jesus through Christian students, parents and fellow teachers.
Pray specifically for safety this school year. Pray that God would protect our school buildings from harm and natural disasters. Pray against any and all acts of violence that may take place within the walls of each campus. Pray God’s hand of protection over every square inch of the property. Pray that God would grant grace and peace to each person who calls that campus theirs. Pray for the soul of each person that would park in each parking spot. Pray that God’s people would be mobilized to care for each school building inside and out.
Praise God for all that he is doing on campuses. Praise him for every Christian student whom God has uniquely called, gifted and placed on campus. Pray for the families who have lost children due to violence on campuses. Ask that God come close to them. Pray for each child represented in this school. Pray for their families. Ask that Christian students be strengthened in their faith and that they would be agents of grace and healing to those around them. Pray and ask God for a movement of the gospel at each campus — a tipping point of Christian students who begin to change the fabric of their schools. Pray and thank God for campus clubs that rally students for the sake of the gospel. Pray against bullying. Ask for unity, love and grace to dominate the culture of each campus through the aroma of every Christ-following student. Pray for students to be saved and discipled. Ask for boldness not just in words but also in action —for mercy and justice for each student. Pray that each child would feel protected and safe.
Becoming the first responders to our community’s lostness, pain and brokenness starts with prayer. Prayer changes everything. Prayer leads to action, action leads to change and change leads to lasting transformation. It’s our prayer that the example of how Christ’s Church is responding to the needs of Stoneman Douglas be just one chapter in the story of how God’s people are mobilized to pray, and together own the lostness, pain and brokenness of South Florida. The narrative of our community is changing. Heaven is coming closer. YOU are part of the story. Join us.
Edwin Copeland serves as the Director of Church United with the National Christian Foundation of South Florida where he works to unify the Church through collaboration and celebration to see faith, hope, and love spread throughout South Florida.
Read more articles by Edwin Copeland at: goodnewsfl.org/author/edwincopeland/