Monday, March 21, 2016

It's About Connections friend Jill just messaged me, "Your blog readers want to know how Connect went."  Yeah, I guess I'm a little behind in the blogging arena so let me catch up for all you inquiring minds.  As you can see by this picture, the conference was transformational for me.

I don't want to share too many specifics about these days since so many of you have yet to experience Connect 2016 and I don't want to be a spoiler.   So I'll just share some of my personal feelings and connections.

I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but a few months ago I was asked to co-present at the pre-conference sessions on the topic of hosting packing parties.  One thing Operation Christmas Child is good about is encouraging everyone from shoebox packers to their top leaders to develop themselves and take on new challenges, and I prayerfully accepted this one.  I was given a well-designed curriculum and had the leadership of my regional director, Leigh Fisher.

I studied.  I recruited a team to pray.  And, per request, I arrived on Tuesday afternoon.  The thing is, there was a glitch and a room hadn't been reserved for me.  And...the hotel was completely full.  So my roommate and I sat and waited and as time marched on we started to formulate some other plans for accommodations.  I even texted another friend and blog reader who lives in the area and she offered us a place to stay.  In the end, a room was found for us, though.

I felt a little out of place in my role as pseudo-staff.  Now OCC has some staff persons--Regional Area Coordinators and Regional Area Strategists--who are volunteers.  But I'm not in that category.  I didn't really have a role to play in the preparations, but I did try to pitch in.  And I can say from my little behind-the-scenes foray that these Operation Christmas Child staff folks are the real deal--just as personable and hardworking in the days before the conference as they are during it.  And considering all the work they have to do to prepare for FOUR of these conferences, that's saying a lot.

On Wednesday morning Leigh Fisher got a phone call that changed the shape of the conference for me.  Leigh got the news that one of our new area coordinators, a young woman named Jana, who was planning to be at the conference, was found unresponsive that morning by her husband and life-flighted to a hospital.  We stopped immediately to pray, and prayer for her became the framework of the conference for me.   Jana and I bonded as we rode in the back seat together to our area coordinators' retreat six weeks ago and as reports over the next day let us know she was still unresponsive, I couldn't imagine how her husband and young daughter were feeling.

I spent time in the prayer room with the chaplains--John and Dottie, Steve and Robert--as we joined together to pray for Jana.  On Friday we got the amazing news that she miraculously regained consciousness and was able to recognize family, speak softly, and even walk a few steps.  By that evening she'd been diagnosed with a rare type of stroke and was transferred to rehab.  My thoughts and prayers still keep turning to Jana throughout my days as she journeys toward recovery.  Here's a picture of Jana and her little girl, Hannah, taken on Sunday.  Will you join me in praying for God to continue to be glorified in her healing?

Leigh and I presented the packing party session three times on Thursday, and I enjoyed the opportunity.  It's funny how making a phone call to one person can undo me, while teaching (or, in this case, presenting material) to a group is invigorating.  I hope the participants found the session helpful.

The general sessions were wonderful.  Even though I've been doing this for years now, God always renews the call to do more when the needs around the world are so clearly presented.  I also learned some new leadership strategies from the breakout sessions I was able to experience.  Amazingly, the new Connect app was easy enough for a techno-tard like me to use.

The best part, as always, was getting to see so many of my OCC friends and hug their necks.  It's sad to realize that I won't get to see these folks until at least next fall and maybe not until next spring.  I'm grateful for Facebook and the other technology that lets us stay connected when we're not at Connect.

So...maybe I'll blog in more detail when all the conferences have ended, but for now let me say that if you're a year-round OCC volunteer you still have time to get yourself to the remaining conferences in San Francisco or Atlanta.  And, you should!

Because, really, it's all about the Connections.


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