Well, having returned from vacation I figure it is time for a blog-series documenting and reviewing various aspects of our trip.
Sunday the 3rd we flew out in the morning and into Houston TX. We stayed at the Alden Hotel and at their really fancy restaurant *17. It was some of the best food we have ever had. And the hotel room was super amazing to boot.
Anyway, the next day, we picked up JD, got some BBQ at Pappa’s BBQ, went to Frys on our way down to Galveston.
The Vineyard National Leaders Conference was titled “Heroic Leadership in a time of Change” which I thought was appropriate given all the crazy stuff happening in our world the last few years.
Bert Waggoner opened up the conference, and was right on with a lot of what he said about heroic leadership. Usually I really like Bert and what he has to say, but this wasn’t terribly enlightening. But it was very encouraging and I took some notes I should probably write up at some point. Jeremy Riddle led worship, which was sweet. Ministry time was appropriately awesome.
Afterward we got to hang out with Dianne Morgan who we haven’t seen in a good long while. That was super-great.
Next morning was Cherith Fee-Nordling and she spoke on some crazy awesome stuff. Too much to even dissect a couple weeks removed. I’ll try to re-listen to it when I have a minute and recall my impressions. I do remember trying to take notes and being too impressed and immersed to really do that effectively. Again, ministry time was awesome. Probably even more awesome than the last one.
Then we had some workshops, I went to one on preaching by Dave Schmelzer which was awesome, and a pretty good one on holy spirit ministry basics. I had to wonder though why they were doing a ‘basics’ class at the leaders conference.
That evening we had a good time eating dinner with the crew from River Heights, and then we went to hear Don Williams. He was pretty good, and for the life of me I can only remember ministry time. I should have written this blog before the cruise 🙂 Anyway, they had a bunch of young people come up for ministry, and that was awesome, but then Jill and Dale prayed for Lauren and I personally and that was even more awesome. It is fun when God shows up and does stuff for people in a way you can see and participate in.
Then Jay Pathak spoke, and he was pretty cool. It was kinda funny to hear him speak after having been in a preaching lesson by Schmelzer and then have Jay basically do a bunch of things that Dave said was a no-no. Given my love for Dave’s style I thought Jay was good but not great. Definitely had some good things to say, but nothing really super-stood out for me in memory (post-cruise anyway).
After that we did an outreach to Galveston and that was a blast. I got super-sunburned on my exposed parts, but I got to pray with some fun people. And I got to meet a ton of people and hear a bit about them. It was fun to work on being more outgoing in introducing myself to people and asking them if they wanted prayer for anything.
Then it was on to The Spot for a second floor patio overlooking the ocean to celebrate my B-day.
It was a great time, the food was good, and they even were doing some promotion so they brought in free crappy beer. Crappy or Not, I was excited.
Thursday we had a great morning speaker named Wes Stafford who is the president and CEO of Compassion International. His message was totally inspiring, and didn’t leave a dry eye in the place. One story he told about growing up in Africa when he was six, and holding a 5 year-old in his arms as he died as from a snake-bite. Jon (my senior pastor) remarked that he thought that had a chance of being the most likely talk to change the Vineyard that he had ever heard. I loved it, and think it is worth checking out if you have an hour.
After that Lauren and I attended a Holy Spirit-filled ministry workshop, and a workshop on human trafficking. Both were awesome. I picked up quite a few ideas on how to improve prayer/ministry time, and how to better to hear God and practice the prophetic, as well as train others to do the same. In the human trafficking panel I was super-pumped to see that the Vineyard is developing a task force for abolition of modern slavery. I can and will write a longer post on this, but here are a few links if you want to check it out:
- Breaking Free – a local organization helping women get out of Prostitution. Some people Mercy Vineyard and Lauren and I are getting pretty involved with this.
- Justice North – another local organization trying to raise awareness about human trafficking (St. Paul is a major hub for trafficking and MN is 13th of all states for trafficking in the US).
- Love 146 – an organization going after trafficking in general. Their “Who we are” video about the name Love 146 is fantastic.
- Vineyard Anti-Slavery Team – (VAST) their website section on the national website isn’t up yet, but keep an eye out for it. The plans for it that they shared with us at the conference makes it look like it is going to be a pretty useful site for info on these topics
This is a very short list – but check it out, get involved. It is important that churches band together to go after this. We aren’t going to stop this atrocity on our own, or even in our church. It is going to take us banding together in our communities to really put a dent in this terrible practice.
The last session was supposed to be Rich Nathan talking. But instead he brought up Sammy (can’t remember his last name right now) and interviewed him. Sammy is a Palestinian Christian, who bands together with his neighbors in the Gaza strip to teach non-violence and love for the Israelis. If there were any evangelical Zionists fans of just-war theory in the room it must have blown their minds. I had already heard Rich preach on the subject and bring up Sammy, but it was still super-inspiring.
I love how we are bringing people in to talk to us, who are actually inspiring to action. Especially about these things that seemed like unmovable boulders standing in the way of peace and justice. Sometimes when you are working locally it feels like you can’t keep your faith up for big things to change. Like the day to day, and the spiritual, emotional and physical burdens pile up. So to step back and look at the bigger national picture, and hearing about someone who has picked one thing and is fighting for it is something I really need from time to time. I loved that we had people talking about evangelism and the lost, and others standing up for children, while still another reminded us that while the world is much more complex than we realize sometimes – we can still love our enemies just like Jesus said to. And all that stuff can make a difference.
OK, I’ve rambled enough. I’ll post more about the trip with pictures of the Cruise ship and the islands we stopped at in separate posts.