The conference we were required (ok, that’s too strong a word, but we really needed to be there) to attend in January was a real blessing to both of us, so much so, that I thought it’d be good to just do a post on that.
Each year, our mission, WorldVenture (yes, there’s not supposed to be a space between the two words) holds a conference for our mission family with the specific purpose of gathering for renewal. Yes, there are other activities possible, from additional training sessions to board meetings, but the core of the meeting is for our mission family to gather for spiritual renewal.
Can I just say here that I love our sending organization? We have been so blessed over the years, and we continue to be amazed that the Lord would direct us to be part of such an amazing group of people.
Anyway, it’s a cool meeting for a number of reasons. Reason numero uno for me, though, is the fact that we spend the first two whole days in prayer. Having experienced this a number of times now in our 17 years with WorldVenture, it is just an amazing, glorious, overwhelming thing, and we are so awed that our organization has not changed one whit in keeping this a priority.
For one thing, this living-overseas-cross-cultural-spanning-several-worlds experience tends to mess with your mind a bit, and to be in a large room full of other people who have had the same kind of experience – it’s a powerful, powerful thing. There is a sense of belonging, a sense of understanding, a sense of rest that’s hard to put into words. And that almost our entire leadership team has been there, too, before changing gears to come and serve in the home office – that is also profoundly meaningful.
(Yes, we have associations in an astounding number of places around the globe, doing an unfathomable variety of things in those places, so we’re certainly not feeling like everyone knows what our experience is in that regard. But that we’ve all walked a similar path, well like I said, it’s hard to express.)
We set off for this adventure having arrived at the airport at 4:30 am here in Kiev, the norm for any of our treks that direction, because all of the flights heading in that direction leave in the same time frame. I don’t list the time here to be dramatic; we’ve come to the place that it’s kind of an excitement thing to know that that 6:30 flight means big doings on the other end.
I will tell a little bit on Mark here in that, usually, he just cannot get his body to jump into ‘new’ mode as fast as he commands it to, and so he’s not been planning his whole life to take lots of little short trips where there’s a 9 hour time difference for only a week’s time. Let’s just say that that’s not his go-to preference for travel/entertainment :-) .
But the Lord blessed him immensely this trip with the ability to throw himself easily into the new time zone, the weather, the jarring other-worldness that is the change from Kiev to the U.S., and he plopped himself in the driver’s seat of the rental car eager to find a place we’d talked about before heading to a yummy place for dinner.
I should say that the time zones between here and there work out such that you start out in the morning and just end up on the other side in the afternoon/evening of a rather long, single day. If you think too much about all of the planes and meals and transfers and security checks in between, it’s not good for you; but if you can leave the one place as it was, mentally be in neutral for the in-between stuff, and come up in the other place where it’s at, you can usually do ok.
I’ve thrown off the chronology a bit and will stay off track for a minute longer to say that we went to a local church for church the first morning there, as the conference didn’t officially start until Monday morning. To be in the beautiful sunshine of the Colorado Rockies, enjoying the fellowship of believers who also call on his name, and to spend the afternoon walking around in the mountains – folks, it doesn’t get much better than that!
Anyway, so after the two days of prayer, we settled into the general session with worship time, seminars and the other sessions we’ve come to know.
WorldVenture does what to me is unique (but I don’t know, maybe other organizations do this, too) in that this meeting has quite a diverse group of people in attendance. Any missionaries who are on furlough are asked to attend, and at any given time during the week, you’ll see a good percentage of the home office staff as well. Board members also attend, often traveling from all over the U.S. to participate, as well as new appointees, usually tacking the conference on to some pre-field training time at the home office. Missionaries do travel straight from the field, as we did, but it’s not the norm. And something that we so appreciated when we were getting to know WorldVenture is that there is also a group of “Invited Guests”. These are folks who have expressed interest either in missions in general, or in serving with WorldVenture in particular. Spending a week with new and older missionaries, with board members and staff, and with every kind in between, it’s just an amazing opportunity to ask questions and interact with folks from literally all over the world with a fantastic wealth of experiences.
It’s a joy to welcome those who are just starting their missionary experience, and a treasure to hear the testimonies of those who have come to the end and are retiring. We hear news of the organization and participate in the ceremonies that mark the life of a family, this time, the installation of a new president.
And the stories. Oh, the stories. Maybe it’s just that I love a good story, but I am so touched when I hear someone’s personal story! One woman who’s been in her place of service for many years related the story of a praying for a family member – I’ll never forget her hilarious statement recalling this person’s fit-ness for a short-term missions trip, ‘Well, not unless you want to take the mission field with you’ – and her encouragement to never stop praying. (They did take the person with them, and it was through the unusual experience of being on a short term mission trip, hearing the testimonies of other believers, that this family member met Christ for themselves.)
Another man related how he’d had challenged the small group of businessmen who attended an early morning Bible study to fully comply with the legal tax requirements as a testimony to their trusting the Lord. They were certain he didn’t understand how business worked and that their businesses would certainly fail if they did as he was suggesting. Stepping out in faith, they did, and their witness was visible in places they’d never even dreamed of: at a chance meeting of the man and a government tax official where the tax official was questioning whether there were any ‘real’ people who were Christians, the man related the names of some of the men in his group. The tax official knew instantly who they were, blurting out, ‘They’re the only honest businessmen in all of A—a!’
I could go on and on, but we were so blessed. The jet-lag on the other end – well, not so much, but we don’t need to go into that now :-) .