This coming week, the Edie family will celebrate our fifth-year anniversary of ministry in Naples with the First Baptist family. I actually started work on Sunday, December 1, 2013. I was here by myself, because we were at the end of the school’s fall semester and Rhonda and I felt it best for the kids to finish up in Missouri.
My starting on Sunday, December 1 was an interesting day. Coming to town a month before my family meant that all I had packed in my truck was clothing and books for my office, and yes, I did throw in a fishing pole or two. As you might imagine, it felt a little weird being in a new town, unpacking boxes into an empty office and then going to stay my first night alone without my family in a house that was not my own. Ok, I will admit, I felt just a tad bit lonely. But, I quickly discovered that the First Baptist family would quickly help fill that void. For the next few weeks, I don’t think I ate one meal alone. Certainly I missed my family back in Missouri, but my church family was here in force and I was so grateful for them helping to make that season a blessing.
Another interesting thing about that season was the Naples Christmas Celebration (NCC). It was a wonderful introduction to the church and the spirit of hospitality that emanates from the great people of First Baptist. I was struck by how much of a heartfelt connection that our people, but also all of our guests, had with this event. That connection has only intensified and accelerated with the addition of the Christmas Village. I can’t help but ask why, and maybe the answer lies in the experience of my first month in Naples. For the most part, Naples people are from somewhere else, away from family and because of our constant warm weather, the feeling of Christmas is never in the air. NCC helps people connect with the nostalgic feelings of home. What an opportunity we have as a family of God to use this season to help our neighbors feel at home! Not so much for just a warm-fuzzy feeling, but an introduction to what it feels like to be in the family of God. As I recall, a baby born in a manger 2000 years ago was all about a call to join a family and come home. Let’s make the most of this season!