Calvary Chapel Mom in Florida Leading Movement for Children, Freedom
Story by Christmas Beeler
Photos courtesy of Hannah Petersen and CCDF USA
Hannah Petersen walked to the elementary school, bringing medicine for her 8-year-old son. She had been a faithful volunteer there for years until the pandemic halted parental involvement. Approaching the building, her gaze wandered to the playground; her son would be in P.E. now.
She stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes widened in alarm. There in the Florida heat, her son’s entire 2nd-grade class was running laps while wearing masks. It’s almost 90 degrees outside! she noted. As a mom of four, Hannah knew the heat was hard on kids playing outside and that masks increased the risk for getting heat exhaustion as well as harmful bacteria. She had known that face coverings were mandatory in the classrooms, but why were the children being forced to wear them outside in the fresh air?
She paused to watch how the children were coping. Hot and sweaty, they looked defeated and sad, lacking the joyful spark of children playing. She remembered reports she had read about the psychological impact on children wearing masks for eight-plus hours a day.
Hannah Petersen (center), a believer who attends Calvary Chapel Lakeland, FL, rallies a group of local parents who opposed their young children wearing masks, especially during P.E. in high Florida temperatures. She is also a County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF) USA board member, which helps concerned citizens stand for freedom in their counties. Here, Hannah and attorney Jeff Childers show the crowd pictures of the harmful bacterial sores that prolonged mask use can cause on children–including MRSA sores. Childers and CCDF successfully overturned the mask mandate in Polk County, Florida schools.
This is wrong, she thought grimly, a wave of nausea hitting her stomach. She realized this policy affected not only her son but thousands of children across the state and the nation. But what can I do? she wondered. Then, as if the Lord had answered her, she felt a resolve in her heart that she had to do something. She couldn’t sit by and not speak up on behalf of the children.
Later, when she questioned her son, he told her that he had pulled his mask down to breathe better, and the teacher had yelled at him and forced him to run more laps as punishment.
“I felt that our government had failed us, and I thought about who I could turn to for help. Our country was established to put the power into the people’s hands—to make our own choices, elect our own officials to protect us. So I went to the people.”
Rallying the People
That week, she started a Facebook group, putting out feelers for other parents who might share her concerns. Thousands responded.
“It was like everybody was waiting for someone else to [do something],” she recounted. “People started flooding in, coming together. In just a few weeks, we had 10,000 people on that page.”
Hannah and her husband Sean attend Calvary Chapel Lakeland, FL, where her father is also the pastor. As the couple prayed together about what they should do, she recalled, “God was with us every step of the way. He made everything so clear, leading me deeper into this. Sometimes it got overwhelming, but I couldn’t deny the power of Him in this movement.” She realized, “Everyone who has come alongside us to fight this has been born-again believers. The Christians are really standing up together to fight this for our children.”
As the page grew, resources came in, enabling the group to hire an attorney to help draft letters and—when the need arose—bring the matter with the school board to court.
Soon she connected with County Citizens Defending Freedom (CCDF). “The vision of CCDF is to take back America one county at a time,” she explained. Hannah and CCDF collaborated to approach Polk County School Board members with evidence that children were suffering from wearing the masks.
“We have pictures and testimonies of children suffering with everything from MRSA on their faces, severe upper respiratory issues, and special needs students who have been eating holes in their masks and ingesting the materials,” Hannah elaborated. “We were unsuccessful in our first approach, and decided to then involve the county citizens, and rally at the school board meetings. We have had upwards of 500 local citizens showing up.”
She continued, “We are holding every leader in our county accountable for the decisions that they make that are in contrast to our constitutional rights, and ultimately opposing the Judeo-Christian values which our country was founded upon. The organization is using Matthew 18:15-17 as a standard to our approach with our county leaders and school board superintendent. We will go to them in private and give them the opportunity to put the people first. If this doesn’t work, we will involve the county citizens and make them aware.” If there is no change, they go to the national news; the last step is to take legal action. CCDF partners with nonprofit legal groups like Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel—both of whom have recently defended Calvary Chapels in court cases regarding church caps.
“Moreover, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.” Matthew 18:15-17a
Hannah is now on CCDF’s board of directors, and the group has expanded into several divisions: education, election integrity, financial accountability, legal matters, media division, and pastoral support.
Hannah with her young son, now in 3rd grade, whose class was forced to run laps in the Florida heat while wearing masks. He struggled to breathe, pulled down his mask, and was punished by a teacher.
In the parents’ investigation of the school board, they also discovered that graphic sexual content was being taught in schools and that LGBTQ icons were being heavily promoted. “We now have a new superintendent who we are developing a mutual respect for and keeping an open line of communication with, moving forward,” she stated.
“There’s a lot that we’re facing right now. In education, there are theories being taught in school—sex education, critical race theory—things that go against our national unity and the natural laws that God established. So we started an education division, making sure that the public education our kids are being taught is appropriate.”
“We also have local attorneys who have onboarded with us,” Hannah said. “We are in the process of writing statutes, developing our own news network to get the word out to the community about what is going on at the local level. We’ll have leaders on as guests, ask them questions, hold them accountable.”
Many Americans are concerned about their freedoms and their future. Thousands have contacted Hannah with questions; the most common are: What can I do? and Where can I start?
“People are focusing on the national news, getting overwhelmed, and feeling helpless,” Hannah related. “That’s how I felt.” But she learned that making a difference starts locally. “CCDF president Steve Maxwell says, ‘If we can’t save the nation, we can surely save our county.’ And if other counties would do this, then I believe we can save our nation.”
To those who want to see change, she exhorted, “Look at your own government, your county. Rally your citizens. If everyone does this, I truly believe we will start seeing change.” One can start with their own local network, create an email list, and connect via social media. CCDF is working on a list of procedures to help walk others through the local process which should be ready for release around January. “For now, you can go to the website (ccdfusa.com) and sign up for our newsletter,” she encouraged, “and we’ll do what we can to help.” So far, 14 counties in Florida and 1 in Texas are working with CCDF to fight unfair mandates.
After the Florida governor announced that masks would not be mandatory for school children, there were still local school boards forcing kids to mask up. “We focus so much on the state and federal governments that we forget where the real power is—in the county government, the local school boards,” Hannah advised.
Hannah speaks to a crowd of parents at a CCDF meeting in Polk County, FL. More than 10,000 people joined her local social media page about fighting mask mandates for children. CCDF urges parents to follow the Matthew 18:15-17 model of confrontation with county leaders: approach them first in private before taking the next steps.
Faith over Fear
One thing that God has taught her through the process, Hannah reflected, is that believers need not listen to fear when the Lord is telling them to act. “When Sean and I would read our Bibles together, the Lord kept giving us Scriptures about fear. He kept illuminating to both of us not to be afraid but just to trust Him.”
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
They worried that being in the public eye would endanger Sean’s position at work. “The more media attention we got on the national level, the more his job was at risk,” she recalled. “CCDF asked us to appear in national news, and at first we said No. Then we prayed about it, and the Lord spoke clearly that we needed to trust Him.” Every morning, Hannah and Sean read the Bible and pray together, seeking the Lord. They had just finished building a house and had increased financial responsibility, she admitted, “So we had to trust Him more.”
She has seen God’s faithfulness to their family. “Since then, God has actually opened the opportunity for Sean to start his own business. Now he has the freedom to speak on anything.”
Taking that leap of faith felt like “free falling into God’s arms,” Hannah said. She added, “It’s so important nowadays that Christians have the boldness to step out in faith and not be intimidated by fear. We need to do what the Lord leads us to do and trust Him as He leads us in His plan. There is nowhere else I want to be.”
A Biblical Model
In an effort to be a good witness and approach leaders in a godly way, Hannah shared, “Matthew 18 is our model in dealing with conflict. If someone in a position of authority is violating our rights or breaking the law, we go to them in private. We don’t blast them on social media, even though we could. Because we have handled things this way, their response has been amazing.” Some have even collaborated with CCDF in coming up with local solutions.
Her dad, Pastor Roger Jahn of CC Lakeland, FL, approves of Hannah using the biblical model and often gives her counsel. He asserted, “One of the great tragedies of our time is that the pastors have disengaged from the public forum and from the political process. During the Revolutionary War, there was actually a group of clergy who joined in the cause called the Black Robe Regiment. They were very ardent and influential in our fight for American independence from the British.” Most pastors don’t realize how much liberty they still have, he reflected: “We can’t endorse certain candidates, but we can speak biblical truth about policies and how they line up with Scripture.”
Though Pastor Roger does not use his pulpit to talk about Hannah’s work with the CCDF, he supports their work privately and mentions it in his relationships with people. Several parents from the fellowship are also involved.
“I’m actually passionate about a nonpartisan group like CCDF that is unashamedly Christian in their conduct and speech, though not defined as a Christian organization. They put God first in all of their meetings, and they use godly principles. Recently, they approached a school board superintendent privately, based on Matthew 18, and now are part of his counsel on certain issues.”
Balance: Faith and Freedom
Roger cautioned, “I don’t believe God has called us to be political activists. We are not called to build the kingdom of America but the Kingdom of God—to expand the heavenly Kingdom through the Gospel and the Word.” At the same time, he added, “We know that the spirit of antichrist and evil is behind so much of the corruption we are seeing in the world today. We can’t stand idly by when the spirit of antichrist is bringing such a divide in our nation and seeking to take away our religious freedoms—to worship God and share the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
For all believers, Roger observed, “I believe God would have us stand—in a godly way, as peaceably as possible—for what is right. Especially for those who cannot defend themselves, like the children, and those who don’t have the resources to fight injustice.”
Roger cited Revelation 12:12b, Woe to the inhabitants of the earth … For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time. He commented, “That was written nearly 2,000 years ago—how much shorter are his days now, how much more is his fury?”
Roger referenced a well-known quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
What should Christian leaders and believers do? Pastor Roger urged people to seek the Lord. “We need to be led by the Holy Spirit, to listen for His voice. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice and follow Him.”
All over the nation, children are being forced to wear masks for 8-plus hours a day, even during outdoor playtime and P.E. CCDF educates parents and school boards about some of the adverse effects this has had on children, including MRSA sores on their faces and psychological trauma. Photo courtesy of Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science (IAPHS)
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16
“I do believe that we are in the last times. Tragically, the enemy has gotten some Christians so fixated on looking for the end that they are not engaged in the now. They are looking for signs of what’s going to happen next and neglecting the Lord’s commission to share the Gospel with those around them,” Roger expressed. “Yes, we know these things will happen: that the Church will be called up in the Rapture, that the antichrist will come, and that Jesus is going to return. Yet I need to be focused on what God is doing now, the opportunities we have to share Christ with the lost while we still have time. Sharing the Gospel is our only business. CCDF is seeking to do the Kingdom work by holding on to the freedoms we still have to share the Gospel and teach the Word.”
Hannah noted a key verse for CCDF, John 1:5 (NIV), which says, The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. She added, “We covet the prayers and support of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are in the midst of a spiritual war like our country has never seen. We need to stay vigilant and covered with the full armor of God. He is with us.”
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
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