Sunday, March 18, 2012
Hats Off for Connect Conference
I suppose in some ways trying to decide which Operation Christmas Child Connect Conference you like best would be akin to trying to choose which of your children is your favorite. God has used each of these conferences in my life in a unique way.
I arrived at the 2011 conference very discouraged and left with a sense that I'd been set free. It's hard to beat that.
This year, though, was exceptional in other ways.
Just two weeks before the conference Linda Bennett, my OCC team Prayer Coordinator, felt God was moving her to attend Connect. That alone was amazing. Just two days before we left I had no idea what our plans should be. Should we leave Wednesday evening and divide the 7 & 1/2 hour trip over 2 days or should we leave at 4:00 am on Thursday morning?
Then Linda let me know that her husband was willing to use his travel points to secure a hotel room for us on Wednesday night and suddenly the trip became more of a vacation than a mad rush to get to Philly by noon on Thursday.
To add to the fun, we stopped at several Walmarts on the drive down and netted over 450 hats for shoeboxes for only 25 cents each.
The travel was blessedly easy and the hotel lobby was crowded when we arrived at 11:30 am. There were definitely more attendees taking advantage of the early pre-conference sessions this year, and those sessions were a blessing.
I hugged and greeted friend after friend--sharing a sense of connection that went beyond words and, right in stride with the conference theme, I was "Getting Plugged In."
When the evening session came, Wendy Newell and the rest of the team led us in anointed worship. Our theme verses from Ephesians 1:18-19 started to come alive. The sense of family continued as we heard astounding stories of God's goodness on "this side of the box". Hearing Randy Riddle give a vision of our goals and initiatives for 2013 was nearly breathtaking. This work that God is doing is beyond measure and we are so blessed that He uses us in the process.
On Friday morning we launched into Al Newell's powerful presentation of High Impact Volunteer Ministry. I thought I knew a lot about this process but this biblical interpretation was completely unique and "the eyes of my heart WERE enlightened" in brand new ways.
This call to leadership still feels a bit overwhelming (and Al's reminder that David's poor leadership decision to go against God's will and take a census resulted in the deaths of 70,000 people gave me pause.) But knowing the biblical roots of these principles makes me realize anew that God will give the POWER to maintain what He has ordained.
Friday evening's session with the Ukrainian National Leadership Team was humbling. To hear about their faithfulness in volunteering to be responsible for the distribution of 640,000 shoeboxes and the development of The Greatest Journey discipleship program made our large shoebox packing party look like a child's play date. But the idea of being connected with our brothers and sisters across the world was electric.
Saturday's sessions arrived way too quickly. In the morning Livia Satterfield (pictured above) blessed us with the story of how her Operation Christmas Child shoebox brought her the love of God and a new family. I was so touched by her story and am praying that God will open a door for her to come to our packing party in September.
The regional reflection session was probably the most moving time of the conference for me. We met as a Mid-Atlantic family to cast our vision for 2012. But more than that, we shared our hurts and our convictions and our hopes. As a family, we came together to "know the hope to which He has called (us), the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe." Ephesians 1:18,19a
In our closing session we shared the body and blood of Christ together and the power of worship flowed again. We each made and sealed commitments for the year ahead.
Plugged in, we left to take His power to the world around us--a much more fitting celebration of St. Patrick's legacy on this March 17th than many around our country.
Thank you, OCC staff, for another unparalleled and POWERFUL Connect Conference. Hats off to you all!
Posted by Kathy Schriefer at 3:44 PM