“The best is yet to come.” Those are the words of Bishop David Graves of the Alabama West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church as he visited the area November 5-7. Graves traded in his bishop’s crozier for a shovel, and his robe for work clothes. He was scheduled to take his staff to a leadership retreat at the beach elsewhere, but after the storm he felt compelled to change those plans. He soon made plans to visit the areas impacted by the storm—as did many United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) emergency response teams. The bishop and his staff slept on the floor of First United Methodist Church of Apalachicola and came in to Port St. Joe and Mexico Beach to work during the day. The Bishop’s team worked hard at mucking out the Children and Youth Wing at FUMC Port St. Joe. He made a visit to the Methodist Care Closet operating at the STAC house on Eighth Street to celebrate the recovery work being done there, and then he visited the Methodist Learning Center temporarily located at the Methodist Care Closet building on Fourth Street— there the children sang "Jingle Bells,” putting everyone in the holiday spirit. Geoffrey Lentz, pastor of FUMC, said, “I could have never imagined a visit by a sitting bishop like this. He led by scraping floors and cleaning walls. His faith was shown by his works. It is an honor to have Bishop Graves visit our church, he exemplifies servant-leadership and inspires us all.”
On Wednesday night, at a special church service, Graves shared words of hope and celebration over the hurricane relief work being done. He stated his belief that despite the devastating damage to the community that the “best is yet to come.”
By Dr. Geoffrey Lentz
“What are you waiting on? Christmas?” Those words describe exasperation with someone who is taking their sweet time. We are all getting a lot of experience at waiting. Waiting in fuel lines, waiting on insurance adjusters, waiting on FEMA or SBA, waiting on our community getting back to normal. I believe that there are two different types of waiting. The first is the waiting of exasperation. It is despondent and filled with dread. This type of waiting is life-draining. The second type is completely different; this is the waiting of Advent. It is hopeful and filled with expectation. This type of waiting is life-giving. In my home, we experience the waiting of Advent. We have an Advent Wreath where each week we light one more candle until Christmas Day. My children also have an Advent Calendar that yields a delicious morsel of chocolate every day until Dec. 25. With Christmas, the expectation of Christmas Day is almost as wonderful as the day itself.
Here in the Forgotten Coast and elsewhere, life has turned into a waiting game and there is nothing that we can do about it. If we have to wait we might as well try to make it the latter kind of waiting. I am trying to learn to be excited about what our community might look like in a few years with restored churches, new homes, and thriving businesses. I am learning to wait with hope instead of trepidation. Bishop David Graves shared recently in our community that he believes that “the best is yet to come.” I believe that too. The prophet Isaiah says that those “who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up on wings as eagles, run and not be weary, and walk and not be faint.” I want to learn to wait like that, where my hopes and dreams sustain me even when their fulfillment is far away. I want to learn to wait like I am waiting on Christmas.