I work with a wonderful organization called the Christian & Missionary Alliance. Every two years, a "Council" meeting is called where the pastors, church delegates, missionaries and organizational leaders all descend on a city for what is a combination business meeting and family reunion. While doing the "business" is obviously a fair amount of work, I so enjoy seeing old friends and meeting new ones too.
While I used to attend Council every year (it used to be annual), we've now been in Kosovo for the last four years and I've missed this enormous "family gathering." Last night (Sunday) Melissa and I attended the "missionary banquet," sitting with a 497 people who are spending, or have spent, considerable portions of their lives overseas.
After the meal there was a time of honoring all those missionaries retiring this year. I was struck by the quality of people I saw walk before us. As bio after bio was read, I was awed by their faithful resolution to live out the call of God on their lives. My respect is so much deeper than in years before as I am now much more aware of the sacrifice required. Having spent only four years on the mission field I have some deeper awareness of what a forty year commitment might look like. Two of the retirees had just concluded a 42-year career in Israel. I can only imagine the things they've experienced in that land that has seen so much war.
Another couple just retired from their career in Japan. The woman had grown up as a missionary kid in the Philippines. Her family had been captured during WWII and put in a Japanese prison camp during those years. As an adult, she returned to the nation of her captors, spending her career loving the people of Japan. That is the difference the Gospel makes in the life of a person.
The bulk of today was spent in meetings. Several hours of the day were devoted to the topic of a "Makeover." Most organizations today are grappling with the changing North American culture and the CMA is no different. We're wrestling with how to positively respond to a number cultural developments. The great thing is that all of these developments have tremendous upsides and the potential to positively influence the Kingdom of God and missionary work.
Tonight I'm off to my first committee meeting. I'm looking forward to learning a lot from some very bright people.
That's it from Orlando for day one.