I have events fly across my desk, in emails, or on Facebook all day, every day. When I saw the flyer for Worship in the Park I was immediately drawn in and wanted to know more. After some digging, I connected with Denziel Ortiz, the VP of Community Outreach for SAGU’s Southwestern Mission Association (SMA). I asked how this came about, and he responded,
“A student asked the question if we have ever done a worship night in the park before. It wasn’t something we had done, so we took action into making it possible. We knew we needed to contact the city and gain permission on which park would be eligible. At first we were going to go with Rail Yard park, but was told that the park will not be open until next year. We all prayed as a team and felt that Freedman Memorial Plaza was the place where God wanted us to have it! We began to work with the city on how to facilitate this the best we could. The African American Hall of Fame was involved by helping us sponsor parking, and allowing us to use their grounds along with their support. Dr. Rasheed was a huge help in guiding us on who to talk to for this event. We put this together alongside our other sponsors, Fuego Church and University Church, and we thank them for their amazing donations!”
Upon arriving to the park, there was a buzz and a tangible excitement in the air. The team had organized to have an old car there, available to spray-paint whatever you might want to share. Someone had climbed on top of the hood, and as I crossed the street they waved and welcomed me. Students with water offered me a drink, others held signs along the sidewalk inviting cars driving by to stop and join in. The band had already begun their worship music, and it enveloped all who were in earshot of the park. Beautiful harmonies working together to worship God, of course, but also to unite neighbors and friends.
Along with the student-led worship, there were devotionals, words of encouragement, and offerings of personal prayer. It was obvious to anyone there that these students genuinely cared for each person in attendance that night. Denziel’s hope was for people to feel the love of God, that their team would bring an encouraging voice, and especially in this tough time – for the people to leave having hope.
Perhaps what was most meaningful to me was the overwhelming push for unity in our city and communities. I am currently part of a local diversity group with city leaders where we are doing a lot of listening and learning as to what racial tensions we see here in Waxahachie – and deciding how to put some action to what we learn. It was so encouraging to behold the next generation not only organize and execute an event like this, but it be divinely placed in a park that separates one side of town from the other. I’ve grown up here, and there has always been a dividing line between the “East Side” and the rest of Waxahachie. I personally hate this reality, and events like this give me hope for a future where the dividing line can be erased and obliterated for good. Perhaps, if we can all come together, we will see change.
A selection of quotes I want to share with you:
“We gathered in unity, to lift up the name of Jesus! It was a great moment for SAGU and Waxahachie. Allowing people to see that there is still hope for the next generation. It was truly transformational to see people worship together within the community.”
– Denziel Ortiz, VP of Community Outreach
“We made a statement that as a student body we’re just as much for our community (every part) as the nations. People from all walks of life came, the name of Jesus was lifted, people were loved, and lives were transformed.”
– Edward Perkins, SAGU Worship Leader
“Worship Night at the park was so life restoring not just for me, but the students and community of Waxahachie. I was blown away with the worship team’s ability to create the atmosphere of worship along with the prayers and encouragement that were spoken over us. It was an overall great experience!”
– Abigail Cruz, Community Outreach Committee
“There is still a remnant of young people ready and able to see positive change happen in Ellis County. That brings hope to the heart.”
– Sharon Verigan, Executive Director of Believing Restoration is Attainable (BRA)
“I admire this organization and their efforts in taking the reigns in leading our people from darkness to light. There will be no change or peace in our society until God is sitting at the conference table.”
– Dr. Jamal Rasheed, Director and Curator of the Ellis County African American Hall of Fame
– Ami Trull is the Content Manager for EllisDownHome.com – She is a 5th generation resident of Ellis County. She and her husband, Jay have two sons. Ami is also a photographer and graphic designer. She is passionate about telling the stories that matter most.
The next event that SMA is a part of is Hope For The Holidays, a drive-thru grocery and supply event! Check out the flyer below for more details!