Dozens of teenagers, yes, teenagers, recently made the trek from all over Central Florida to a small town north of Winter Haven to worship God, socialize, eat and connect.
It was the first of what is expected to be a series of similar events simply called Worship Night.
Casa Vida, a mission of St. Johns United Methodist Church in Winter Haven, is located in the tiny town of Wahneta. Pastor Rodolfo Martinez conducts worship services in Spanish, and his daughter, Jessica Martinez, often helps him out.
The two put their heads together recently and came up with the idea of Worship Night.
“I invited people from different Hispanic churches throughout Central Florida, including Kissimmee, Poinciana, Tampa, Lakeland, Sarasota and Brandon,” the pastor said.
It was an immediate hit.
“We had just done the Hispanic Conference. Me and Jonah Burkett, our youth pastor, started thinking about it. I texted some of my friends that go to different churches,” Jessica said.
And they texted some other friends.
Bands played separately and together.
“We had games and the worship going on and ate all together and shared,” Jessica said. “Marco Hernandez from On Eagle’s Wings UMC in Poinciana preached the sermon, and it was great.”
His topic: What A True Worshiper Looks Like.
She calls it a connectional activity for Hispanic youth.
“The youth come in for the celebration, and he was preaching an important message to them. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and friendship,” Jessica said.
Connectional activities like this are important because it builds strong relationships in Christ. The focus is on team building and coordinating.
“When we promote activities to bring everyone together, we are declaring that we are a unit, and we have the power of worshiping together,” Jessica said
The evening was structured around two parts.
“One part was the celebration of your country prior to coming to the United States, and one part was the preaching from Poinciana. It was a friendly time for food and entertaining,” she said.
Teens gathering to worship together is important because the gathering, in itself, is a way to show God honor.
“That is the reason we decided to get together. It is also the moment you feel closest to God. We wanted to all get together and create an atmosphere of being close to God,” Jessica said.
The group likely will gather again but in a different location. The plan is to move it around so more teens can participate.
About 50 people attended, mostly aged between 15 and 19. There were a few adults and some younger children.
“I think what I felt most proud of is that we allowed people to have space to connect with God, and we were able to get people from different places together,” Jessica said. “We held a party for the Lord.”
—Yvette C. Hammett is a freelance writer from Valrico.