Friday, July 4, 2008

The Team Luncheon

I wanted to have a special luncheon on Friday for the reps from my territory (Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico). Some of them I had only met via phone calls and email. So, when I got to Bartlesville, I put my antenna up for a good place to have it.

I asked Lu to check into it while I was at the Area Coordinator meetings on Thursday. When I got to the meetings, I also asked Mr. B if he had any recommendations, since he lives in Bartlesville. He said, "Why not just have it in the side room at the Bistro where we ate last night?" That sounded good to me, so he made reservations for my group to have lunch there the next day.

When I got back to my dorm room that night, a note from Lu was on my door. She had made arrangements for us to have the meal at a Chinese buffet!

So, now I had to choose between the two. I'm giving you all this detail because later you'll see how God guided me (without me knowing it) to make the right choice.

I had been to the Chinese buffet in 2006 and liked their food (and pricing) better than the Bistro. I also knew that the buffet had better parking and location. On the other hand, Bistro had a side room for us to use, whereas the buffet was more or less all one big room. But I decided I would rather eat crow with the Bistro than having to make Lu eat crow with the Chinese. So, I called Mr. B, got the number for the Bistro, and the owner was very nice in accepting my cancellation.

I was hoping to give my reps the chance to hear directly from someone from overseas (a real, live persecuted Christian) at the lunch. I remembered how incredible it was when I got to have breakfast with Getaneh Getaneh from Ethiopia at the 2006 conference. (Here's a shot of Getanah after that breakfast.)

So I looked around the VVN banquet hall to see who was there from some other country. I only saw one foreign-looking family and they looked like they were from India. I thought, "Well, they would be OK." So I went over and introduced myself to the father and asked if he would like to bring his family to my team lunch. He readily agreed.

To my surprise, he turned out to be someone I was already quite familiar with. His name is Mujahid el Masih, and he co-authored a book with his ministry partner David Witt. David lives about 25 miles from me and worked for VOM for a number of years, before founding Spirit of Martyrdom earlier this year. David's father Bill Witt (himself a VOM rep) was the one who first suggested that I should become a representative for VOM. Mujahid lives in Colorado, and I had already been encouraging my reps in that state to get in touch with Mujahid and try to arrange meetings for him. (Sometimes churches are more receptive to having someone from overseas come and speak than having a local rep. In these cases, the local rep can tag along and help answer questions and distribute information about VOM.)

At the VVN banquet that night (Thursday) I handed out little hand written slips of papers to my reps who were there (a few were missing), giving the location and time for the team luncheon (high noon at the Chinese buffet). I gave one to Mujahid too.

When I returned to my dorm room after the prayer meeting on Friday morning, two unsettling events hit in quick succession.

First, Lu discovered the Chinese buffet owner had misunderstood. She had told him we would be there from noon to 2:30. He had thought we wouldn't arrive until 2:30. Because of the heavy lunch traffic, my team would not be able to sit all at one table: we would have to split up.

I seriously considered trying to switch the meal back to the private side room of the Bistro that I knew would still be available. But the idea of trying to contact all my reps with a new address (and the complex parking instructions) did not appeal to me, especially since I had less than an hour before the meal was to start. We would just have to go with the Chinese buffet and do the best we could.

The second interruption was a knock on my door room door at about 11:20. I was sitting at my desk, trying to call several reps who had not yet even heard that there would be a meal at all, when Mr. R and Mrs. B, both senior VOM staffers, came in to tell me there had been a mixup. I had to vacate my room and move into another dorm room because someone else was going to be using my room that night!

There was some humor in the situation. These two people, with obviously heavy responsibility for the conference, getting stuck with the allocation of dorm rooms. Mr. R actually helped me carry my baggage over to the new room. Mrs. B told me she had stayed in my new hall when she went to school at OWU years ago. (Here's a picture of Mr. R at the banquet the previous night. He is on the left.)

As soon as I had moved to the new room, I had to leave for the luncheon.

There were 19 of us all together, and we ate our lunches at 3 tables, then I had everyone move their chairs around and kind of form a circle in one corner of the restaurant. I introduced Mujahid and he stood up and began to share his testimony. It didn't take him long to get into full preaching mode. He was speaking so enthusiastically, extolling Jesus, that you could hear him throughout probably 1/3 to 1/2 of the restaurant!

As it turned out, there were 7 other people having lunch at the restaurant who were in Bartlesville for the VOM conference. They were from Arizona. (Coincidence?) Even more amazing, I recognized 2 of them. I had met them in the Tulsa airport at the end of the 2006 conference!

Here is a picture of us at the Tulsa airport in 2006:

And here we are at the conference in 2008:

When these 7 heard Mujahid start preaching, they moved their chairs over next to us to listen better!

He was born in a nominal Christian home in Pakistan, became a zealous Muslim as an adult, then had a genuine and powerful encounter with Jesus! He evangelized very boldly in Pakistan, despite the serious risks. Multiple times he was miraculously delivered from imminent death at the hands of angry Muslims. It was a powerful challenge to me to be more bold in evangelism.

Rather than telling you everything that Mujahid said, let me simply recommend that you listen to some of his messages online. You can find some on his ministry web site, and also on Sermon Audio.

We then had about 10 minutes of good solid prayer, where we prayed for Mujahid and he prayed for us.

It occurred to me afterwards that if I had held the meeting in the Bistro's side room, the others in the restaurant would never have gotten to hear Mujahid. Sort of the same mistake we sometimes make in church: we preach the gospel well within the church, but not out on the street where the unsaved are at.

The rest of the meeting was also very good but not worth describing in my blog. Here are a few more pictures. (For security reasons, I cannot show you any pictures of Mujahid or his family.)

Friday had been a powerful day for me already: the prayer meeting, and then the lunch with Mujahid. The day was not yet over, and the conference itself had not yet officially started!

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