In light of the events of the weekend, specifically the egg hunt, I wanted to write about a massive event rather than a person, that was held on the church property following hurricane Andrew. Instead, I asked my dad to write about the event since he planned and executed: Giving Thanks With a Grateful Heart – Thanksgiving in Homestead 1992. Christmas in Homestead 1992 was equally as big, maybe bigger. But the Thanksgiving event was just amazing.
-By JT Johnson
Giving Thanks With A Grateful Heart(GTWAGH) was another in a long list of illustrious events in the storied history of Life-Pointe Church/HCOG that brought thousands of people together in one place. We announced that 10,000 hot turkey dinners would be served to any and all comers.
That was a real step of courage since Homestead had been dubbed “Bumstead” in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew. Squatting along the canals or in damaged abandoned buildings were thousands of homeless job seekers/opportunists in search of a fast buck, a government handout or free meals; they would be glad to have a Turkey Dinner on Thanksgiving. We were glad to serve them, too, but we were really just trying to remind our town to be thankful to The Lord for the really important stuff–our families and our lives. Our housing could be replaced.
We had it all lined up, we thought. TBN purchased the turkeys, a local trucking company provided a refrigerated semi tractor-trailer to keep the food cold and CBN’s Operation Blessing donated thousands of bibles. Bill Bailey, brother of the OJ trial lawyer F. Lee Bailey, raised and donated thousands of dollars for this event and another one at Christmas time. We had all the food, T-shirts, shelter and paper goods/plates we needed. Funding providentially came in many sources. We had plenty of volunteers lined when one hundred twenty-five students/ teachers from West Virginia University heard about it the week before and asked if they could help.
Everything was just perfect until two days before Thanksgiving. Press releases went out to every major news outlet and calls were coming in from the press.
Then our volunteer cook welched on us and I was up the proverbial creek with no means of propulsion. I wanted to resign. Self-destruction seemed for a moment or two somewhat more pleasant than no cook.
Hungry Harry, Official caterer for the NFL Tampa Bay Bucs and personal friend of Bucs’ owner Hugh Culverhouse, got a call from me about 10 pm two days before Thanksgiving asking him to cook for us. He dropped what he was doing for three days and bailed us out. Whewww!! Life was sweet.
GTWAGH was a success amidst the ruins of our roofless sanctuary, unrepaired as yet. We were on the front page of our local paper, the Miami Herald did a multi-page article and USA Today included a picture with a brief mention of our church. AP news wires carried the story of the church with no roof serving South Florida 10,000 hot Turkey Dinners and a few days later the Hurricane Insurance Information Center sent me a copy of an article about it from the Sacramento Bee.
A few days later the foundation started by President George H. W. Bush, “Points of Light” and the charitable “Sears Foundation” awarded me the Hurricane Hero Award for conspicuous service to the survivors of Andrew. I didn’t feel like a hero. Harry was the hero. I was just doing what God gave me opportunity to do. Besides Anne and Phillip were right there with me all the way and they deserved it if anyone did.
I remember the crowds of people gathering, the slosh under foot from grass and dirt being walked on until it became mud, and the tents where the food was being prepared and served. That was a crazy time and it was so much work. The egg hunt actually gave me a couple of flashbacks to the Giving Thanks event, and the Christmas in Homestead. Not everyone has the opportunity to go through one of those events, but it is a character shaping time.