OPINION 12 May 2022 www.goodnewsfl.org Good News • South Florida Edition I have always had a healthy respect and appreciation for brothers and sisters who labor in missions all over the world and those who champion the needs of others in the U.S. such as foster care organizations, shelters for men and women, feeding programs, after school programs and local inner-city programs, etc. These programs are the boots on the ground. In spite of the need for “all hands on deck,” the work is plenty, but the laborers are still few. There are so many mission fields, some right in front of us. How many of you know what your mission field looks like? For me, the greatest mission field has always been my neighbors, people right behind me in line at the grocery store, people I see as I run in the park, the young person that needs someone to talk to or the person asking for money at the stop light. Let me introduce you to a mission field that I could not see but was right in front of my eyes. The park In 2018, I began running and walking in the park near my home around 6:30am on Sunday mornings. It was my private space. A moment of peace and quietness to hear from GOD. I always had an agenda of what I wanted to happen in those moments, but sometimes God will change the conversation from what you want to talk about to what He wants. Have you ever had that experience? For me growing up, Sunday morning was always church. No options, you knew what you had to do, especially if you are a “PK” (preacher’s kid). That’s the way I was raised, which conditioned me to think like that. However, things have changed, people have changed, especially after the season of the pandemic. Often GOD will take your strongest issue and use it as a teachable moment to increase you. He teaches us from those places we have made into idols, those untouchable things we have in our hearts - things we refuse to let go of. My mentality was, “You must be in church on Sunday mornings.” This was non-negotiable. I am sure some of you may have shared this mindset also. In 2020, each Sunday morning between 6:30 - 8:30 a.m., I would go jogging at the park. There, I would observe several men gathering; for what, I did not know. At first, I did not pay any attention to it, but as time went on, I began to take notice. What did I see? By 8:15 a.m. that number increased to 25-35 men. By the time I left home headed to church, these same men were gathering to play soccer (I discovered later) instead of being in church. For almost two years I watched this same pattern over and over. I could not get it out of my head. I would say to myself, “Who is talking to these guys about going to church?” I did not know how long they stayed, but by the time I made it back home from church, they were gone. In December of 2021, one Sunday I felt the urge to wait around and be a part of the gathering of these 25-35 men. No one likes to be rejected, so there was some fear and anxiety. Thus, I began to pray about it, and after a few weeks, I felt lead to do more than just observe. Sometimes GOD will ask you to be the one to represent Him. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, AMP). An encounter An encounter will always alter your thinking in some way, and this one did. Encounters are not incidental; others will not see it or may not understand it. On Sunday, January 2, 2022, I decide to go where these men were gathering. I did not know what to say, what to do or what to expect. I knew how to play soccer, but I had not played in years. I was in shape but not in “soccer” shape. I did not come equipped to play, and I had jogging shoes on. The first person I met happened to be a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor. He was marking off the soccer field boundaries. I went over and struck up a conversation with him not knowing who he was at the time. That initial encounter led to many insightful conversations. It has been almost five months since I began going to the soccer field at 8 a.m. on Sunday mornings and fellowshipping with these 25-35 brothers. Let me introduce you to what I’ve learned, and it is no different from the fellowship that you would find in church on Sunday mornings. These are some of the brothers, most of them have a nick name. There is Mr. Lenny, known as “Administration,” and Pastor Knorr, known as “Pastor.” In addition, there’s “Stew Peas,” “Gunner,” “Kada,” “Police,” “Sprinkles,” and the list goes on. These brothers come from all walks of life, from various parts of the world, and most of them are family men with children. For them Sunday mornings is a time of fellowship and friendship, talking about what their week was like. They often offer their time, talent and treasure to help each other when a brother is down. They do a youth soccer program for kids, and their wives and girlfriends play net ball from time to time. The group motto is: “One strength makes one.” They have an open-door policy; anyone can join, and their umbrella association is called “Rockerz Sport Group.” There is one constant thing that happens every Sunday morning, before there is any playing of soccer. Administration or Pastor will say “One voice” and everyone will gather in a circle, and Pastor or his assistant will say a prayer over the group. There is much respect at that moment. Every now and then someone will ask me to pray for them on the side. For me the encounter gave me an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, and I discovered some new neighbors. This is the starting point for the Great Commission. There is so much we can learn when we get out of God’s way and join him in His mission. Is that not what the resurrection was about? Christ is bigger than the box we put Him in. John 4:4 says, “Now he had to go through Samaria.” This verse shows that Jesus had options, but He took “the road less traveled” to have an encounter with a Samaritan woman at the well, which broke barriers and boundaries. Newton Fairweather is the pastor of Faith and Joy Church and the CBMC Fort Lauderdale Board Chaplin. The Road Less Traveled - Newton Fairweather - Pastor, Faith and Joy Church and CBMC Fort Lauderdale Board Chaplin The Rockerz Sports Group gathers in a circle.