Rachel and I join in writing this post:
Martin: On this day we planned to drive from Sarasota to Homestead by going what I consider to be the more scenic route on US 27.
Rachel: We left home 10:45. As we traveled Dad told me stories. Near the entrance to Myakka State Park, he told me that Dave Kniss used to take boys from Newtown out into the country to fish near the park. Did you all know that the Florida state parks were once for “whites only?” Oh my! I didn’t!
On impulse we drove into the parking lot of Pine Creek Chapel and saw a woman getting something out of a vehicle. I drove up beside her and Dad rolled down his window to talk. When she turned around we saw it was Ruth Sharp, a woman we both recognized. (She and her husband Dennis were founding members of Pine Creek Chapel, supporters of the Anabaptist History Association and Lakewood Retreat. – mwl) We talked a while, then went into the church where there had been a women’s meeting for Bible study and chatted for a while.
Martin: Inside the church I recognized Linda. She edited the bulletins when I served as an interim of the chapel about 20 years ago. I asked if she was still doing the bulletins. She said yes, and that as a widow on social security she now gets more money than she ever had in her life. So she resigned from that job, but told the church, “don’t you dare tell me I can’t keep on doing it.” That’s the spirit that has kept Pinecreek Chapel alive and thriving.
Rachel: Then we drove on. The drive down US 27 was beautiful. It was divided highway and easy driving. At first orange trees lined both sides of the highway for quite a few miles. Then we passed fields of trees and cattle. Then we skirted Lake Okeechobee on our way south. Since we couldn’t see the lake due to the dike between the lake and the road, we followed the signs to a picnic area which got us a lot closer. We stopped to relax and see the seagulls and other water birds.
The last couple hours were filled with amazing groves of palms, bananas, mango and avocado trees interspersed with fields of young tomatoes, corn and other vegetables. We got to Homestead in time for a tasty supper in a local restaurant with long time friends, Sara Alice Zimmerly, her sister Amy, and Amy’s son John who is in a local college with a double major of environmental science and another I can’t remember. Then we drove to the church where a drop-in visit time was planned for the next couple hours. I was interested to see the people who came especially to see Dad.
To give you a snapshot view–One woman had come as a VSer and married a local guy and they have been active members over the years. Dick Hess, a local auto shop owner, also came having known and appreciated Dad. I stayed at his home and his wife Mary told that he had grown up in Honduras and when his family moved back to Lancaster, PA, he was very turned off to the church and all its traditions.
As I understood it, he came to Homestead in VS with long hair and a determination to be counter-culture if he so chose. He was not enthusiastic to hear that the bishop was coming to visit and wore shorts that Sunday and perhaps even looking forward to the confrontation with this authority figure. Instead, Dad seemed glad to get to know him and did not make an issue of his appearance. He and Mary married and have lived there ever since. The worship team was scheduled to practice and a Haitian woman was part of the group and I talked with her a few minutes.
Martin: The church council was also scheduled to meet. This brought to the church the current leaders of the church most of whom would not have come just to meet Rachel and me. And like Rachel, I was pleased with the diversity of the groups we were meeting. We also met Pastor Rick Lee and his wife, Debbie, and I stayed with them for the night. The have lived in Brazil, and met the Mennonites in the Reba Place community. They have experienced a variety of leadership roles before coming to Homestead.
Over breakfast I asked Rick about what in his view is the mission of the Homestead church. He said that he preached to enable the members to witness effectively to their neighbors. He used the cultural diversity of the congregation as evidence of the success of his mission.
Rachel: I stayed in the Hess home overnight. Thet have a 50 year old parrot from Honduras that has been in the family ever since it was a baby still wet out of the shell. This parrot was unique in its ability to mimic the laughter of Dick’s mother, and the voice of Mary. When I left in the morning, she said “bye” to me with just the right sing-song inflection. I smile thinking of that bird.
Martin: Debbie Lee loaded us with delicious tropical star fruit and avocados picked from trees in their spacious back yard. We left grateful for the hospitality shown us. I reflected over the tortured history of this church which included the burning of their building through arson and the destruction of their neighborhood through hurricane Andrew.