Tuesday, July 21, 2009

AFHE 09: New Chances to Trust

Last week God taught me again not to cling to the way He has done things in the past. The 2008 VOM booth at the Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) convention was such a fantastic experience that I wanted God to do things exactly the same way again. But He didn’t.

Lu couldn’t come this year because of recovering from her surgery and from the regional conference. (And after standing on my feet for 2 days, I am glad she didn’t attempt it.) And Marva told me at the regional that she had accidentally scheduled another event for this weekend and wouldn’t be able to come either. Yikes! How could I do AFHE without them?

Praise God, I would have the help of Mark for both days this year. He was only able to help one day last year. And John would be available on Saturday. However, that still left us staffed at 2 people on Friday and 3 on Saturday. Last year we had 3 on Friday and 4 on Saturday – and even then were shorthanded.

But I realized out that God had ordained that these women would be unavailable to help this year. I might as well just sit back and anticipate what He would do. After all, God cares about homeschooling families more than I do. God also cares about the persecuted church more than I do. So, God would work it out somehow.

Then I got an idea. The “Z” family, whose daughters provided the music at the regional conference, live in Phoenix. They homeschool. Maybe some of them would be willing to help? I happened to have their email address. Sent them an email and they wrote back quickly, very eager to help for the first day of the conference. (I would later learn that they delayed a family trip so the daughters could help on Friday, leaving for California at 6 PM that night.) Because the 3 daughters are under 20, I was able to get them in as exhibitors for $10 each instead of the $60 each that AFHE charges for adult exhibitors.

There was another problem. The normally impeccable Mr. H made a mistake this year. He shipped out only enough materials for a crowd of 1500 people. Last year there were 4100 at the convention. Mark and I didn’t catch the mistake until about 2 weeks before the convention. After talking with Mr. H, we decided to try to wing it just using what he’d sent and the “stash” of stuff we already had on hand. I picked up some leftovers from the regional conference too. Once again, another chance to trust God.

Last year in two days at the conference we got 130 sign ups (and worked very hard for these). We had a tough location towards the back of the exhibit hall. This year we had a much better location and the exhibit hall was better arranged (food on the opposite side from the entrance so people had to walk across the exhibit hall to get their food).

This year, in just the first day, we had about 180 sign ups!

Last year Lu, Marva, and I had spent the night in hotels in downtown Phoenix. That had worked out well and I even got to distribute tracts at a Diamondbacks game. This year things were different. No D-backs game (or any other major events) going on in downtown Phoenix and no one else from VOM staying at a hotel. So, God worked things out this year so that Mark generously took me out to eat with his wife, step daughter and grandkids, and then I spent the night at his house. Mark and his wife Deb are great hosts, although I will say that they have two of the ugliest cats I have seen in a long time. Here’s one of them, named Dutch:

Day two was harder going than day one. Perhaps because it was just John, Mark, and I at the booth. Since most of the “shoppers” are mothers (you quickly learn at home schooling conventions that Dads are just the bag carriers), maybe the sight of 3 males talking about “martyrs” was a bit scary to the women. We still managed to pick up about another 80 sign ups, with a grand total of 262 for both days. That’s double last year!

Our stash of materials held up pretty well, despite the short ship from HQ. We ran out of Kids of Courage newsletters, Foxe, and Illegal T-Shirts. Our total “donations for resources” were down slightly this year to $556 from $600 last year.

A blogging homeschooling Mom made a very kind blog post about her visit to our booth. Here’s another pre-convention post she made about Kids of Courage:

Praise God for demonstrating His trustworthiness to me again at AFHE. Even though He didn’t do it the same way He did last year.

One last shot that I think symbolizes the preciousness of homeschooling: