Gathering for worship at Oceanview, a group home in Daytona, was a very special experience. Many different people with drastically different stories gathered in one place singing in unity. It gave us a glimpse of heaven. A place where people are together and joyful beyond measure. Members of Oceanview even began to join in our music playing drumsticks on the table and clapping. Love was so tangible and overwhelming in every moment. It is something our team will never forget. – Jake
Charlie is an older man who has lived in Oceanview for years. He is mentally ill, but that does not stop our team from loving him in his mental state. He often leaves the group to take a walk, and talks to himself in the process. Yesterday, I [Natalie] asked if I could join him on his walks. He would stop and stare blankly in the middle of the beach, and start waving his hands. People on the beach often stared… some laughed. I’ve learned that grabbing his hand or touching his shoulder usually gets him back into reality. Through my interactions with Charlie, I’ve grown to love him deeply. How much more does God love Charlie? Many people would notice Charlie and run away, God chooses to SEE him. I pray that our team and I would continue to search, love, and SEE who the world would say are “social outcasts.” – Natalie
My heart feels full in this place. I also sit with this awareness that we can take what Daytona is – walking down a beach, around a city, amidst differences and barriers and darkness with the intention of listening and learning and loving – back to wherever we go. It’s the last morning and we’re currently all gathered in the conference room. There’s big windows on the far wall that we see the ocean through, always crashing on the shore, and there are blue skies today. Everyone’s quiet journaling and Steve and Emily are packing lunches for the homeless park. I guess I don’t want to lose this full hearted feeling – the Lord has filled me this week. I’m full of this idea that taking attention off of myself and onto the many walks of life around me leaves me feeling much more alive. I’m grateful for Daytona right now because it stands as an example of the heart of the Father and what is possible. I think of all the people I have met this week and can only be amazed that we serve a God who crashes through barriers and loves us. – Tali
Something about this place makes me feel alive. Daytona is a place full of hurt and pain. Through this week we have been able to meet people in their brokenness, as well as share our own. There is something beautiful about sitting with someone who is homeless on the boardwalk at 11 pm, tears welling up in your eyes with Vicky, this beautiful human being who is loved by Christ more than she could ever know, is sitting in front of you, sharing everything that she has lost in this life and losing hope for any redemption. This trip always reminds me of how broken I am, how imperfect I am, but that God still loves me even though he has no reason to. It is such a beautiful story, and through this week the Lord has used all of us here to bring him glory on the shores of Daytona. This being my final year as a senior, today I feel kind of numb. I look around this room as we worship and honestly I just want to cry. I cannot imagine not coming back next year. This place and these beautiful people have changed my life, and all that I can do is be thankful for the countless memories that the Lord has given me through my time here on the Daytona shores. – Mort
Here are some pictures from our past couple days of our time in Daytona.
Hey y’all, Peter here.
After Daytona last year, I left with a lot of negative views about the homeless. It always felt like I was being manipulated and told lies to try and get something out of me. Quite frankly, I came back this year wanting to avoid talking to the homeless for the most part because of bitter taste left in my mouth from last year. However, God clearly has other plans.
Throughout these past two days in Daytona I have had multiple conversations with the homeless that have completely wrecked my previous judgments about them. During a conversation with a man named Tim, I was amazed by how genuine and honest he was with me about everything. He wanted nothing from us but to just sit, talk, and laugh. He was incredibly grateful to simply have our company and talk about faith. I walked away from him feeling honored and blessed to share that time with him.
On a different note, I found three guys that I talked to throughout the week last year on the beach. Their names are Micah, Brendan, and Amelio. Please pray for their hearts to be softened and receptive to God’s Truth as I plan on going back to talk with them throughout this week. It was incredibly encouraging to see them again, our God is at work here!
Today we went out to the beach excited and energized prepared to see old friends at Oceanview and meet new friends on the beach. Much to our disappointment, though, clouds were covering the beach and rain was streaming down. While sitting under a pavilion waiting for the rain to stop, a friend from Oceanview named Charlie told us that one of our good friends named James Lewis (pictured below) had passed away from a stroke. This was not easy for many returning team members, as James Lewis has been considered family for many years to them. Why God? Why is this how we are starting out the week?
As the rain continued in and out, we played volleyball, went on walks and handed out sodas to those who came by our spot on the beach. Finally we decided to call it quits on the beach and return to the hotel to regroup. From there, different groups went to the boardwalk, Starbucks, and the beach in front of our hotel.
Starbucks is a place that is very familiar to me [Natalie]. Thinking about evangelizing in such a familiar place made me nervous. Izzy, Ethan and I knew that it would be a place where people had a routine, structure, and things to do. Outside on the porch, Izzy started talking to this family of three. Conversation grew and over an hour went by. We touched on the topic that we were Christians and from a school that has many limitations on partying, and we have to make our own fun. This propelled the conversation down why we are not partying down here in Daytona. Meanwhile, a homeless man named Robert interrupted us. He asked if we would like to pray with him. “Hey are you guys praying? Cause it looks like your group was praying, and I want to be a prayer warrior. I don’t normally do this. I think God told me to come pray with you.” He asked us for prayer requests and we joined hands… all 7 of us at a Starbucks! After he prayed, I asked to pray for him. He made it clear that he did not want prayer for himself, but tearfully asked for his sister. He left with tears in his eyes, but he was clearly overjoyed by the spirit (and a fresh cup of coffee ;)). My teammates and I were overcome with such encouragement. Robert seemed sincere in his desire to pray for us. Little did we know that the wife of the family we first started talking to was a Jehovah’s Witness. She told us she was encouraged in her own faith and wanted to pray for us.
Overall, it was a long day but the Lord still used the most unexpected change of events for His good. Looking forward to what the rest of the week entails!
(Our Prayer Wall) (Our friend, James)
So far, so good. We arrived to Daytona Beach safely on Saturday in the late morning. We shed our winter layers and said hello to the sunshine. A few people have even gotten a bit of sunburn already, so we’re all trying to liberally apply on a regular basis. We have to try to learn from others, right?
Anyways, after a day of rest, preparation, and more team building, some of us went out on the boardwalk to get a start at the week. It was a Sunday evening so not too many people were out, but we were able to talk with those who were around. Talking to people and actually jumping in to initiate conversations with my group has built some more confidence in me to step out in courage more and I’m grateful for that.
This morning, we gathered on the beach with another group that is here for some morning worship. I felt like being by the ocean made the iconic water references in Christian worship songs stick out all the more. But they also felt so more surreal once I thought about them for longer. God’s character is so beautifully revealed through nature and I really appreciate this morning’s experience with the ocean.
After worship, we headed up to some breakfast and we will start our team devotions pretty soon. I’m so excited for today and our start to this awesome week. If you could, please pray that our hearts are expectant for God’s miracles and that we may know on a deeper level that anything that happens is only by God’s doing.
Thanks so much for your prayers!
Love, Emily Wallace
Meet the Daytona Team!
Back row: Luke Gray, Peter Linn, Nathan Mortensen
4th row: Jake Vriezelaar, Danny Magallanes, Ethan McNeil, Jack McNeil, Thad VanOverberghe, Weston Poling, Josiah Peterson
3rd row: Kylie Gerber, Sarah Wenger, Izzy Spitz, Heidi Krauss, Emily Wallace, Alyssa Henrikson, Steve Mortland
2nd row: Jesslyn Ridge, Payton Scott, Grace Todd, Micah Hardesty, Victoria Lawson, Erika Mortland
Front: Danielle Straits, Natalie Rupp, Madeja Sims
Not pictured: Tali Valentine
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
Team Prayer Requests:
Pray that we would be able to speak the truth to people in need with NO fear.
Pray that we would have radical boldness!
Pray that we can see others as Jesus sees them.
Pray that we could dive deeper into what it means to live with a kingdom mindset so that sharing is not a formula, but an overflow from our own lives, and who Jesus is to us personally.
Pray we can love each other and those we meet well as a team.