Monday, April 27, 2015

Join Me at NWMC

For the last several years, I have taken a week's vacation to attend the New Wilmington Mission Conference (NWMC) and I write about my experience the following week. I just signed up for this year's conference and was prompted by the Spirit to invite others to join me. Now you may think that it's not for you...maybe you're not a missionary or perhaps you are concerned because you and I are from different faith traditions. Please don't let that be a reason not to go. It is not just for missionaries (in the stereotypical sense) and it is not a denominational conference. It a time to be renewed and find out where God is calling you into his greater plan for the world. It's a time to make the world smaller by befriending Christians from all over the world. And it is a time of meaningful worship. But most of all, it's my little piece of heaven I want to share with all of you.

Just Another Missionary
This past week I attended the New Wilmington Mission Conference. It was incredible! This morning I woke up thinking of a verse from the song If I Were a Rich Man from The Fiddler on the Roof (one of my all time favorite musicals).

If I were rich, I'd have the time that I lack
To sit in the synagogue and pray.
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.
And I'd discuss the holy books 
with the learned men, several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.

By these standards, I've been one of the richest people on the planet this past week. During the rest of the year, I often feel like I'm running to keep up and there is never enough time to just stop and be still in God's presence. At conference, I spent every waking moment of the past seven glorious days there through interactive bible study, hearing about what God is doing all over the world during mission hour and at table during meals talking with brothers and sisters in the faith from all over the world and then joining hundreds of believers (from young children to the young-at-heart who are in their 90s) in the worship of our God. And that was just the mornings! I had an opportunity to deepen friendships started last year and make new friends I already miss dearly. I spoke with people from California, Florida, Ohio, Malawi, China, and Iraq learning about the places they call home as they shared about the miracles God is doing there every day. I can tell you from what I heard—Our God's not dead, he's surely alive!!!!! The echo of the praise music calling out to us all over the campus as we walked to the outdoor pavilion near the lake where we worshiped twice a day is still calling in my heart. Never has the song "Surely the Presence" been so tangible for surely the presence of the Lord was in that place and I hope to carry that reality in my heart every day.

I remember in the beginning of the week confiding in a good friend that I wondered if indeed I really
did belong at that conference. After all, I'm not a missionary and know in my heart that I'm not being called to bring God's word to a foreign land. This is my fourth year at conference and I almost felt guilty being there—like I was crashing someone else's party. I'm not a missionary. I'm just a pray-er and not a very good one at that. Early in the week, I was asked the dreaded question: So what's your connection to mission? When I told this missionary to Malawi I was a pray-er, I felt like I was confessing a horrible failure to her. You know—those who can, go and those who can't, pray. Her reaction caught me off guard. She was so happy to meet me and with excitement asked me to pray for her and her husband and the work they are doing and for the people of Malawi. It's like she thought my praying would make all the difference in their mission. I guess I have to look back on those things God has been teaching me about prayer because clearly my heart hasn't gotten it yet.

God has an amazing sense of timing because I confided my feelings of unworthiness to be there to my friend just before the morning worship and less than 30 minutes later, the speaker was expounding on the scripture of the Samaritan woman at the well being the first missionary as she ran home to tell everyone she knew what Jesus had just said and done. The speaker went on to apply that to us saying that we are all missionaries right where God has placed us. When we help our elderly neighbor out with her trash, when we share with a coworker what God is doing in our lives, when we live a life of grace in our communities, we are missionaries and our mission field is right in our hometowns, our schools, our places of work, and our city streets. Where ever we are—we are God's ambassadors to the world. I keep forgetting that!

I am so very grateful to God for this conference—not only for what it does in the world but for what it does in me. It helps bring God's Word and grace to the world by preparing those God is calling to go out into the world, but also, it prepares me for my calling to pray for those who are sent and to be sent myself as a missionary back into my own little corner of the world. I'm looking forward to being able to share the wonderful things God has done in my mission field at next year's conference. I hope you will join me there.

Learn more about the conference at their website:

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