Dear Friends and Members of First United Methodist Church of Mount Dora,
It is a pleasure to write you this letter as your newly appointed pastor, beginning January 1st. This will be my third pastoral appointment. My wife, Alesia, and our children Amelia (age 3) and Daniel (age 5) look forward to joining the Mount Dora community soon.
We are a truly international couple. Alesia and I first met online in 2010. I then met her in person when I participated in a short-term mission trip to Minsk, Belarus in January 2011 with a mission called Spring of Revival. Alesia is Belarusian by birth. She speaks four languages, including English and Russian. She is a social worker by trade, and graduated from the Belarusian State University. We have been married since March 25, 2012. We share a love of Christ, travel, languages, and child advocacy. Some of my hobbies include writing, fitness, and reading. Some of Alesia’s hobbies include cooking, fitness, and watching movies.
As for me, I was adopted at the age of 2 in 1985. The psychologists told my adoptive parents that I would struggle developmentally. My mother refused to believe this. She believed I needed words of affirmation and love. Within the first months of entering the home of David and Karen Averill, I began talking. I have not stopped talking since. I consider my adoption the handiwork of God.
I was born and raised in Miami-Dade County. Both of my parents worked in the aviation industry. My mother is retired in DeLand, Florida, and glad we will move closer to her.
I studied English at the University of Florida. During my freshman year, I became an active member of University United Methodist Church (now the Gator Wesley Foundation). This is the same campus ministry where Pastor Gary begun his journey into ministry in the 1980s.
Initially, I enrolled in seminary in 2004 to become a United Methodist pastor. However, my first semester at seminary made me think that I was not ready. Therefore, I enlisted in the United States Army. During my first two years, I was assigned to learn Arabic.
Eventually, I became proficient enough to become a translator and intelligence professional. Yet, it was at a Walk to Emmaus retreat, during my military service, that I received an undeniable call from God to ordained ministry. This happened at GA-Lina Emmaus Walk #100 in April 2008 in the area of Augusta, Georgia. After five years in the Army, I returned to seminary at Asbury Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.
During seminary, I served from 2010 to 2012 as the Director of Christian Education at St. John United Methodist Church in Sebring, Florida. Thereafter, I was appointed to First UMC of Gainesville on July 1, 2012 as an Associate Pastor. In Gainesville, I focused on working with the homeless community of downtown Gainesville, discipleship, and youth ministry. Alesia and I also traveled to Cuba to make connections with a sister church in La Moza.
One of our more challenging moments of life and ministry was when Alesia and I experienced the loss of our first son, David Sergei, due to a stillbirth when she was 34 weeks pregnant in May 2014. Friends, family, and parishioners supported us with prayers and encouragement during this tragic time. Through our faith in God, we found redemption in the midst of this tragedy. Our second son, Daniel, was born one year later on May 1, 2015.
We moved to Winter Haven soon after Daniel’s birth. I have partnered with the laity and staff of St. John’s to bring glory to God. Together as a church, we became a part of the PEACE Justice Ministry in Polk County. We started an indoor soccer league to share Christ with children and families. We served as a Red Cross shelter in the wake of Hurricane Irma. These initiatives happened among other joys and challenges with the Lord as our Good Shepherd.
In Winter Haven, St. John’s supported my personal and professional growth. Our family is grateful. Amelia was born on May 18, 2017. I became an Army Reserve chaplain in May 2018. My calling to military chaplaincy is secondary, but I believe it augments my pastoral ministry. In chaplaincy, I have learned to meet young people (many who don’t know Jesus) where they are, and share the love of Christ in innovative ways. I graduated with my Doctor of Ministry degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in May 2019.
While I have been appointed to your church due to an unfortunate set of circumstances because of Pastor Gary’s battle with a rare, lung disease, I believe the Lord will bring us to better days. Prayerfully, those days will include better health for Pastor Gary, and the waning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I know that I come not to replace a beloved pastor, but to be an Elisha to an Elijah, carrying the mantle of ministry into the future. My family and I look forward to getting to know you in the coming months.
Grace and Peace in the name of Jesus Christ,
David T. Averill