Dear Members and Friends of First Church,
Warm greetings in Christ to you from sunny Bonita Springs! As our summer is moving forward and we approach the summer solstice, I want to share your monthly pastoral update from First Church.
Our weather is nearly at full summer heat and humidity, but oddly the typical rainy season has not yet arrived. A few showers and thunderstorms have blown in from the Gulf in the past month, but the daily afternoon shower that comes from the east (as moisture in the Everglades evaporates and forms thunderclouds) hasn’t begun. Still our lakes are fairly full and we are not overly concerned about wildfires. The level of traffic and activity in stores, doctor’s offices, recreational places, etc. is much reduced. One day last week, however, traffic was a mess. A semi-truck ran into a black bear trying to cross I-75 near the Bonita Beach Road exit, and the jam lasted for several hours. (No humans were injured but the bear was a goner.) Construction continues all around us. The last three golf courses Jeanne and I played as reciprocals all had clubhouses under construction or renovation. New homes and apartments continue to rise. One encouraging development is that a coalition (including Presbyterian churches) has formed to develop and operate a complex of apartments for the farm workers in Immokalee in eastern Collier County. Their living conditions are deplorable, and the damage from Hurricane Irma two years ago only made affordable housing an even more desperate need there. Our church has been pleased to generously support this great project. Workforce housing is probably the most critical social issue in southwest Florida.
We had planned to begin our right-turn deceleration lane project by now, but have run into some governmental bureaucratic delays. It has been frustrating to have been put “on hold” for several weeks by Lee County, as they try to decide if they are going to require the road work to be done at night or can be done in daylight hours. Once we get the final permit and begin construction it should take only a month to finish the job. What is most critical is that we wrap it up before the next season begins in October. One unexpected and surprising development at our church is the addition of a new Assistant Pastor. New seminary graduate (and newly-ordained pastor) Rev. Su Kim and his wife Christina and their five children will be moving to southwest Florida in early July. Su was one of our scholarship recipients and spent January 2018 with us as part of our mentorship program. He graduated from Gordon-Conwell Seminary last month as valedictorian. Su is a second-generation Korean-American, and is a second-career pastor (he has an Electrical Engineering degree and MBA and worked for a decade in management of an electric utility in Maryland before going to seminary). Su and Christina feel a calling to become missionaries, and will be with us in what is essentially a pastoral residency for the next two years while they prepare for relocation to Thailand to begin their role as pastor to pastors and trainer of new Christian leaders. We were blessed to receive a large bequest from the estate of a former church member in May; part of that bequest will allow us to offer this great learning experience for Rev. Kim and his family.
My personal life is a bit chaotic right now, as Jeanne and I are undergoing a complete renovation of our kitchen. Cornerstone Builders are there each morning, pulling out cabinets and flooring, re-doing the electrical and plumbing, installing new cabinets and counters, etc. Anybody who’s lived through a home remodeling project knows how disruptive to our routines it can be. In addition, I have been working as a member of the search committee for our regional Presbytery, to identify a new “General Presbyter.” During the month of June Pastor Steven and Pastor Brad are doing some extended traveling, so I am staying close to home. (The only travel I have in June is a one-day trip to North Carolina to visit with Dan Oedy, the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian in Gastonia and previously on our staff in Bonita Springs.) Jeanne and I will travel in mid-July to visit my sister in eastern Ohio (who is having major surgery) and to attend my 50th high school class reunion in western Pennsylvania. It will be strange to be around all those old people, most of whom I haven’t seen for half a century! Since I was the class president, I felt it was especially important for me to be there.
FOR YOUR PERSONAL ENRICHMENT
I encourage you, if you haven’t yet done so, to pick up copies of our two Summer Reading Challenge books for this year: Rare, Medium or Done Well by Mike Huckabee and Eternity Is Now In Session by John Ortberg. We held a potluck dinner and discussion of Huckabee’s book a week ago at the church, and the general reaction of everyone who has read it was very positive. As we look ahead to our next season at First Church, I’m pleased to report that we have completed the bookings for the upcoming Bonita Christian Forum. In case you plan your calendar far in advance, here are the dates and speakers: Tuesday, November 12, FOX News anchor Shannon Bream; Monday, January 27, Olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton; Monday, February 17, Hillsdale College President Dr. Larry Arnn; and Tuesday, March 24, former Congressman Trey Gowdy. A brochure will be mailed to everyone this fall, providing an opportunity to become a “Friend of the Forum” sponsor for this season – our 15th!
I will write again next month to keep you updated on your Florida home and church. In the meantime I would love to hear from you — especially if you or your family have any personal news or any prayer requests.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Doug Pratt