This is a long blog. I think you’re now used to the fact that all my blogs are long. If you don’t like to read, I’m sorry. You can just read the first and last sentences of every paragraph. 🙂 But, if you do like to read, engage in it, reflect on it, respond to what God might be saying to you through it. 🙂 And be encouraged.
It’s been an incredibly long day. Emotionally and intellectually exhausting. I even locked myself in a bathroom stall for ten minutes and cried for a good while (the only way to get away from all the people). I remember thinking at one point in the day. “I don’t want to do this anymore.” “This” being China ministry. I was at a complete loss, completely overwhelmed, feeling like a tiny tiny dot on the landscape, one nobody would notice if I left it all. And I am a tiny tiny dot, but I also have value- I just wasn’t feeling it at the time. Ironically, today’s theme was about truth. I’ll admit, it sounded all great in the speeches and presentations today, but there in that moment I wasn’t clinging to the truth. I wasn’t relying on the truth of Christ and the identity I had in him realizing that it’s ultimately all about him and not about me. It’s not about my inadequacies, but about Him being completely adequate- everyhing we need for abundant life is available for us. I was letting emotions and the enemy and human nature dictate things rather than the truth of Christ. And I let myself get overwhelmed. And I lost it.
The day began with us meeting in our table groups. The 4000 people are divided into groups of 5-6 people with whom we share a table for the week, dialoguing about the various issues of the day as prompted to us. I know that it is no accident that we are placed as we are, no random choice. I believe God put together the people that he wanted together for a reason. Most groups are divided according to specific ministry interests, but every group is diverse across ethnic backgrounds. In my group is a pastor/church planter from Fiji (like a big teddy bear, great storyteller), an African-American woman from Chicago who is an ordanied minister, speaker, and author, a man from Brazil, a Rwandan man who is involved in reconciliation among victims of genocide, and finally me, an English teacher in China. I have already learned much from them.
After spending part of the morning studying Ephesians together with Ajith Fernando presiding, we then began the theme of the day: TRUTH. Various speakers presented. On the Global Conversation website they had all written papers for people to read and comment and reflect on before the congress. Then they presented it- some directly from their paper, some with a different script entirely. They engaged us in the material. “If we don’t stand for truth we might as well stop this Congress right here” Os Guiness said. We discussed, we listened, we were challenged. My head hurt, but I will process it all in the weeks and months to come.
For lunch I started to find a spot on the ground when a woman asked if she could join me. Turns out it was Michele Rickett with Sisters in Service. We talked about her ministry, especially where it is based in China. I told her about Starfish (a ministry to help girls coming out of prostitution) in Beijing. We talked about counseling and prayer resolution, and reconciliation. This turned into our own personal stories of forgiveness and reconciliation and ended with us affirming each other in the transforming ways of Christ. We talked mostly about becoming “the wounded healer.” What a blessing to be in her company.
After lunch was the multiplex session. Dude. In a lot of ways it was very academic and intellectual. Still trying to wrap my mind around it. Still trying to figure out how to apply it to my context. Four men (from Netherlands, India, Sweden, and Lebanon) talked about “Dogma and Diversity: Can Evangelical Truth Effectively Face Up to Secularity in a Pluralistic World?” They talked about the secularization of Europe and pluralism of India, the process of it becoming the way it did, and then the Lebanese stood up and explained how diversity and secularity in his country is actually opening doors rather than being a threat. He said, “we get to be the solution for the people who are fighting each other” and then goes on to say, “if we look at these people as our enemies, the Bible says we have to love them. If they are our brothers and sisters, the Bible says we have to love them. Bottom line is that we have to love them.”
But, know that God is moving in Asia. Lives are being transformed. And we are one small part of that. In the evening session we focused on Asia. Not a dry eye was in that place as we participated in video, music, song, dance, testimony, response, prayer, drama, and community. I was reminded. Again. I walked away with a newfound committment because of my brothers and sisters in Asia.
The night ended by us remembering our leaders, imitating their faith- and played a video of Billy Graham. Mostly clips from his revivals and the Lausanne congresses, including his last revival 5 years ago. Today he is 92 years old, still as passionate. They emphasized that he would have wanted this video to be all about the glory of God and not of Billy Graham. And it was. Indeed it was.