Last week, we had the great privilege to attend our organization’s international conference– something that only happens once every three years. There were a few different hashtags flying around it, but one of them was #wearefamily.
You can jam along. It’s ok.
We always say it’s like a giant family reunion, and it is. This year was particularly special, I felt, because we got to hear a lot from our own. That is, the main speakers were our leadership and directors– and hearing such words of encouragement from those over us (a lot of them that I didn’t know very well beforehand) was particularly inspiring– because I know that they aren’t some special guest who likely won’t recall me a month down the road (no criticism is meant by that, it’s just natural). Of course, we all breakfasted, lunched and dinnered together, so we caught up with friends from all over the world and made some new friends with new missionaries as well.
-I was really inspired by the testimonies of so many. Of course, miracles and healings are always something to give glory to God for– but I was encouraged most by those who stuck it out, prayed it out, sweated-and-bled it out. Stories of following Jesus, stories of His faithfulness through it all. People who have been on the field for years and years and who to whom our issues and struggles are not anything new (except maybe the foreign taxes thing…)… I always stand in awe of people who have been married for 20, 30, 40, 50+ years… That’s so commendable and honor-worthy in my eyes. When I meet and have a chance to chat with those who’ve been on the field for 15, 20, 25, even 45 years… Well, it kinda blows my mind.
-One of our directors, in a very frank talk about faithfulness in communication, spoke about the testimony of obedience and faithfulness. Though sometimes the day ins and day outs of ministry are not what we call “newsletter noteworthy”, if God has sent us there to do it, then who are we to judge whether that testimony is powerful or not and to whom it is powerful? God apparently valued it enough to send someone to do it. Given my comments above and our saying that, “In Japan, we don’t lay the foundation– we dig the hole to lay the foundation”, it was very, very encouraging. It rang true to something the Lord spoke to me more than a year ago when I was discouraged that I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted: “The only failure is a failure to be faithful.” I was challenged in a few different ways, and I’ll carry around these things in my mind and heart for a while yet, I think.
-Times of worship were amazing and sweet. So much of it was about praising God for His faithfulness and it caused me to remember these times where I felt I was in way deeper water than I could tread. “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.” Those times of stretching were hard- let me tell you– but I felt that in worship, and in things people heard from the Lord, I felt like I received some of my own freedom that I had been looking for. Fitting that the last evening, we sang, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, I’ll walk upon the waters, wherever you will lead me…”
-On a practical side: the WIM office staff– with whom we spend much time communicating about practical mundane issues– they were still awesome, but in real life. Twice, our office manager dropped everything she had, even made a trip to the office on her day off, to notarize papers for us. One of them skipped a session to sit with Rosalyn while she slept, because she was in desperate need of a nap. They are gold to me, every single one of them.
-Rosalyn LOVED being in the nursery (a little too much, as it seems we had a toddler romance going on…). Not once did she cry for me to stay or throw a fit. So, they found quality people to take care of our kids, which was a blessing beyond measure.
-We had a fun day. We went to Schlitterbahn, a huge water park, thanks to the many supporters who contributed to the conference and the directors who raised the funds. This is not something that we would normally get to do, so it was so nice to do something “fun” with “family” and just relax. All of us are on the go people, so a day off was pretty incredible.
-Practical help from a financial expert and a lawyer. Ever tried to figure out what documents you need if something happens to you overseas and your kids need to get to their guardians in the States?? How to make it easier for them and everyone in your life if something happens? How to plan to provide for your family for the future? Some of these issues are major ones, particularly for certain countries. It was SUCH a relief for me to get the answers we needed, and to get it from experts and for free. Wow. Thank you. I still can’t get over it.
-A very comfortable hotel (with free AC!) and wonderful meals. Again, many thanks to the supporters and directors who don’t overdo it, but also don’t cut corners. We’re all used to cutting corners as much as we can, so this feels like dessert.
There’s more, but this is the gist for the moment. I don’t want to bore ya’ll, but we came back not exhausted but equipped and refreshed for the next season ahead of us.
So, a HUGE thank you again to all who supported this conference in any way– I think it will have an impact way beyond ourselves. You’ve been a huge blessing, not just to the missionaries and organization, but to the nations that we’re all serving. For us, we needed it.
Thank you WIM for ALL you do! BEST organization ever.