HOMESTEAD, Florida (Mennonite Mission Network) -- A passion for stretching the boundaries of faith and service led Rick Lee to the DOOR program and his involvement with the DOOR program led Lee to the pulpit of Homestead (Fla.) Mennonite Church. It is a journey Lee describes as “surprising and life-giving”.
“DOOR works across denominations, a practice that reflects and strengthens the kingdom of God,” Lee said. It is this practice, of working in cooperation with Christians of various backgrounds, that Lee said he finds most gratifying about the DOOR (Discovering Opportunities for Outreach and Service) program.
Raised in a family deeply rooted in the Southern Baptist tradition, Lee experienced early in his life a desire to experiment with ministry. Lee’s forays into what he calls “urban experiential-education” have come via different avenues.
One summer Lee lived and worked with an intentional Christian community that operated an inner-city mission in Chicago. That experiment stirred a passion for urban ministry which led to Lee’s work with COPA (Chicago Opportunities for Peace in Action). Lee was on the board of COPA in 2000 when the organization merged with DOOR, now a partner program of Mennonite Mission Network and Presbyterian Church USA. Lee continued serving on the board of the newly-formed DOOR Chicago.
During their years in Chicago, Lee, his wife Debbie and their two children, attended a Mennonite congregation, Living Water Community Church where Rick Lee became involved in it’s leadership.
In 2003, the Lee family moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For two years the Lees created opportunities for ministry, while they taught English in the city of Macaé.
“We organized parties, special events, worship services, Sunday classes and Bible studies; anything that would help spread the good news,” Lee said. “We abandoned life as we knew it [in Chicago] in favor of pursuing life as God offered it.”
After returning to the United States, the family settled in Miami where Lee served as associate pastor at a large Baptist church. He was quick to renew his involvement with DOOR, this time agreeing to serve on the board in Miami.
“Rick brings a wealth of service experience with him to the DOOR Miami program,” says Heidi Aspinwall, National Director for Volunteers and Miami Dwell Director.
While the Lees were settling in to their new life in Miami, the elders of nearby Homestead Mennonite Church were looking for speakers to fill their pulpit as they sought a new pastor. Jason Wyse of Homestead’s pastoral search committee had worked with Lee through DOOR Miami and asked him to speak. Lee agreed to fill the pulpit as needed.
Wyse did not initially consider Lee a pastoral candidate, but before long, Lee was garnering attention from the search committee.
“Rick made it a habit to stay after services, getting to know the people, reaching out to them on a personal level.” Wyse said.
Lee’s natural connection with the congregation along with his experience with urban service and the Mennonite church, convinced the search team of Lee’s qualifications for the job. When they approached Lee, he was stunned.
“It wasn’t even on my radar,” Lee says of the search committee’s invitation to apply to be their pastor.
True to his long-standing passion for finding service whereever it presents itself, Lee applied for the position as pastor and after a series of interviews with the congregation and the Southeast Mennonite Conference, was installed as pastor of HMC on November 15, 2009.
Homestead Mennonite Church was founded by Mennonites with strong Voluntary Service connections. . Wyse said the leadership envisions Rick helping to guide the church in a return to those roots while working to strengthen the existing community ties. Currently, the church is planning a DOOR event for theirown youth.
As for Lee, he said one of the things that has always appealed to him about the Mennonites is their willingness to minister in cooperation.
“One of my greatest pleasures is introducing brothers and sisters in Christ to one another across denominational barriers.” Lee said. “Working with a diverse board stimulates and stretches me. All this I find very gratifying. God leads us on surprising paths to unimaginable destinations.”