Gary and Renee Isabelle

Dear church family.

We are humbled today by your outpouring of love in response to our house fire this morning. I can’t thank you enough and tell you how overwhelmed we are by the number of people who contacted us with offers, love, and support. Let me give you a brief update to let you know that it is not a complete loss. We are extremely lucky that the fire was seen and put out in time to save the house. Our old floor furnace malfunctioned and somehow caused a fire under the floorboards of the house. The Eustis FD was incredible and extinguished and contained it in time to save the house. The furnace of course is destroyed and most of the downstairs floors were ripped open in order to extinguish the fire underneath. That means we can’t live there until the furnace is replaced - or the cold snap ends! But we’ve got lodging for the weekend and numerous offers for long-term rooms if needed during reconstruction. We will meet with insurance adjuster and contractor Monday to see exactly what it will take to make it livable again.

The cat is housed for now, but if anyone who does not have pets would like to take her for the next 2 weeks and give her some loving, she would love it. A good friend has opened up a room for her, but is keeping her separate from their cats and dog since she is old and fragile. She is deaf and skinny but just likes to cuddle in a warm lap and sleep, so if you’d like to cuddle with her, it would relieve me to know she is not stressed.

In the meantime, may I just share how blessed we were with guardian angels today? If this fire had blossomed during the night, we would have been scrambling in the cold night to evacuate. Or, if it had happened just 10 minutes later after we had all left the house, it would have continued unchecked and taken the whole house. Or, if it hadn’t been Mikeala’s birthday with her and her sister getting up early to spend a day at Disney with a friend who works there, then they would have still been upstairs sleeping after we left for work, with only smoke detectors to warn them. So many things lined up today making it possible for us all to escape unharmed and the house to be saved. There are many more families facing more devastating tragedies, in our community and all over. The fire chief said they had 5 house fires yesterday from heaters or fireplaces! I can’t help but wonder if their homes were destroyed and if they have warm places to stay tonight.

So thank you all for your loving concern, and please join me in praising God that our situation isn’t as bad as it could have been!!

With love and gratitude,

Renee and Gary Isabelle

Jeanne Abernathy

The day I decided to visit FPCE, I showed up at the First Light service as it was ending. (There was a mistake on the website, long since corrected!) But two sweet members came straight up to me, and said “Don’t worry honey, there’s another service starting real soon over in Fellowship Hall!” Of course I headed over, and found just as much hospitality – and coffee! I am a former singer and praise band member, so I instantly connected with the Crossings music, which is a wonderful blend of hymns and praise music. I love the fact that the Crossings service is multi-generational, and there is something special about worshipping together as a huge family! I love the humorous videos played before the service starts – and I’ve shared them on my social media! We pray for one another each week, which is so important. While one of us may be celebrating, another may be hurting, another may be mourning, another may be stressed out, or another may be sick or weak. I have stuck around because I do feel the Holy Spirit among us. We will all have to be shepherds of the flock for a little while during this transition of pastors, learning more about each other and our gifts, caring for each other, and continuing to love each other. He wants us to build each other up in His image, and continue to grow in our faith. 

Shawnie Cheatham

I love First Church for two reasons, as a result of what I’ve seen in all of you. The first reason is, as you know I was recently hired as the Preschool Director and shortly after being hired I also took over as Director of Mom’s Morning Out. I have been welcomed with so much love and encouragement and I’ve been treated with so much respect and have had many of you seek me out asking what you can do to help me. I knew very early that God had a purpose in sending me here……to a church with so much love!

The second reason why I love First Church is that I’ve been in such awe over how all of you as a church have come together in love and have handled yourselves during a time that can be so devastating and damaging for a church. I spent 18 years in a church that went through 4 pastor’s, 1 interim pastor that was there on Sunday’s only, 1 devastating church spilt and one very long period without an interim pastor and it was tough to see, experience and to be an employee through….mostly because the lack of commitment and love for one another wasn’t there, instead of coming together, others worked against each other causing conflict and discord. 

Through the challenges that we are all facing here I’ve seen others take on more work duties, I’ve seen church members step in and take over programs or assist with programs and it’s all being done through the simple act of….LOVE! All of you LOVE this church and each other and you’re all working together and not against each other for the love of this church to succeed.