I am writing today from my beautiful church in the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
Wow! This April 16, I will have been in Florida for five years. In some ways it seems like I moved here yesterday and in other ways it seems like a long time. Here are some things I have learned here in Florida over the last five years.
We don’t have elections every day here in Tampa. At first I thought we did. Then one night I understood what the weatherman was really saying, “For all you BOATERS out there.” Okay boaters not voters. Now I get it. At first I was wondering what we were voting about all the time.
God has wonderful people everywhere. I used to think all the wonderful people were in Texas and Oklahoma, but then I moved to Florida and found all kinds of wonderful people here in Florida. Then I went on a mission trip to Peru and found even more wonderful people. Actually they were good friends I just hadn’t met yet. Turns out even in this sin-darkened world, Christ is still lighting the earth with His glory.
I could write all day about how everyone in my church from young to old has touched my heart. Over the years I have mentioned many things either in my sermons or writings, so I want to mention one thing I have never mentioned that really touched my heart. Ever since I met the Ogaus family their mother was sick. I studied with them and became friends with them and watched them watch their mother die. Mano was around 14, Javens around 13 and Jonise 7. At the same time my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I have never lost anyone in my immediate family before and I was at amazed at how bravely these kids went through what they did when their mother died. I was amazed how faithful they were to their family and their God. I was amazed at their faith. While they thought I was teaching them I was actually desperately learning from them how to face life’s fiercest trials. One night after their mother died I got a call from Javens. He needed a personal favor and I explained I could not help him right then because my mother who was visiting had become ill and was in the hospital here. Javens cheerfully accepted my excuse but then just before he hung up he said, “Oh William, I will be praying for your mother that she gets better.” As I hung up it hit me that a child was praying that I would not have to experience as an adult what he had already tasted as a child. That has always touched my heart.
During an evangelistic campaign I called and asked the Ogaus family if they could help me stuff and stamp some envelopes. They told me I did not need to call and ask just bring things by for them and they would always take care of them for me. Javens also offered several times to clean my car whenever it needed it to show his appreciation for my ministry to his family. Either he was very thankful or thought I had a dirty car. The Ogaus family has moved on to New Jersey but I will always remember Mano and Javens as a wonderful young woman and young man and not as kids. I still keep in touch with them. No matter where they go or where I go I will always be their friend. They taught me so much.
Well if I kept writing about how this family and all the other families have touched my heart here I would be writing for the next five years!
Another thing I have learned in my five years in Florida is that Tex-Mex is not the only real food there is. I have to admit it was quite a culture shock when I moved here and found out that not all Spanish food is Mexican food. Don’t know what I was thinking though. I knew not all English speaking people drink hot tea just because they do in England. While I have met a lot of new friends my stomach has met a lot of new foods. Just like God has good people all over the world He also has some good foods all over the world. Yellow rice and black beans is one of my new favorites.
Actually the diversity in cultures here in Tampa has inspired my ambition to learn more about the rest of the world. In 2006 I was blessed to be a part of a mission team in Peru. I long to go back and also go on missions to other parts of the world too.
While I love Oklahoma and Texas, Florida is the first state that made me buy a digital camera! So much beauty here and I had to capture it and share it. Now when I drive across the Howard Franklin Bridge from Tampa into St.Petersburg and look out on the beautiful bay I just think to myself, and when I drove from Fort Worth to Dallas all those years all I saw was concrete. Let me take the time now to apologize for sending so many pictures of the same Florida scenes over and over. I realize you all know what a sunset looks like and have probably seen alligators at the zoo. I know too you could Google Florida and find pictures of the exact same things I send you. Still there is so much beauty here in Florida that just makes me grab my camera over and over again.
One thing I can honestly say about myself is that I work hard and I play hard. I can put in a 60 hour week at work, play a round of golf, keep up with my personal Bible study and prayer life as well, and still have time to sit on a park bench every now and then and watch the sun set as I sip on my lemonade. I guess being single does have its advantages. Notice I said single but did not say not having a family because I do have family, a huge family! Come to think of it I bet renting instead of owning helps keep my life simple too. Not only has my ministry blossomed (if you will allow me to modestly say that) here in Florida over the last five years but my personal life has too. So many new friends and adventures kayaking the bay, biking the trails and golfing on the most beautiful courses in the world.
What is more beautiful than anything else in Florida are the people who have come to accept and know Jesus as their personal Savior. Many were older and many have been younger. Many have stayed right here and blossomed and grown so much that I forget there was a day when they were just beginning their walk with Christ. Others have moved to different parts of the state and even world and are now leading others to Christ. While I can honestly say without any hesitation that the last five years here in Tampa have been the best five years of my life, I also know our God does not live in the past. I believe as we all draw closer to Jesus the best is yet to come!
Please enjoy more Bible studies and devotionals at my personal website http://www.InLightOfTheCross.com