At the Voice of the Martyrs' National Conference last year, we were told that VOM wanted to start doing regional conferences rather than just having one conference in the same place each time. Not many people are willing to travel to Bartlesville, Oklahoma to hear about the persecuted church. But not many people are willing to make the sacrifices to see a regional conference come to their city either.
But one of the reps I oversee, a woman in her mid 70s named Lu, took this challenge to heart. She dreamed of having a conference in her own home church in her own small town. She put an incredible quantity of prayers and sweat to her dreams. And God honored her initiative. This past weekend, 500 people came to her church for an entire day to learn about the persecuted church, and more importantly, the God of the persecuted church.
They came to Flagstaff from many places. I personally met people there who live in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri; and people who had driven all the way from long distances like Carlsbad, New Mexico; Yuma and Sierra Vista, Arizona; or Leeds, Utah. Some of them showed up an hour and a half early.
God blessed the conference with a line up of five compelling speakers. Darcie Gill, a woman whose travels throughout the world have given her an incredible grasp of the persecuted church's message to us in the West. Getaneh Getaneh, whose body has been tortured and imprisoned for Jesus in his native Ethiopia. Mujahid el Masih, who was raised a nominal Christian, became a jihad-bent Muslim as a young adult and then had a dramatic, life-changing encounter with Jesus. Brother "E", whose tales of North Korea seemed like something from Ripley's "Believe it or not". And Gracia Burnham, whose life has been forever changed by a year as a hostage of the Abu Sayyaf guerillas in the Philippines.
Another VOM staffer and I spent Friday night with a kind couple from the host church who have a house just down the street.
Their house is beautiful and elegant, with (literally) a large mountain (Mount Eldon) behind it.
They were hospitable and helpful, even making a gluten-free breakfast (to accommodate my health problems) and serving it on their back deck so we could enjoy the beautiful morning.
Their dog was just the right balance of personality and even their cat was friendly (how rare is that?). The hospitality was so nice that it seemed unfitting for a conference about persecution.
I planned a team dinner on Saturday night for my reps, but leaned on my own "experience" more than on God for organizing it. Consequently I made several logistical miscalculations which caused the dinner to be late and rushed. A good lesson to learn (again).
The "icing on the cake" was that God worked things out for two of the speakers to actually come to our house and meet Mom and pray for her. What a blessing!
Thank You Father for the pile of blessings! Help me not to simply hoard them but to increase my joy--and Yours--by giving them away to others!