General Council 4 (Wrap up)

IMG_0385It’s great to be home, even if I was delayed two hours, and lost my iPhone.  Waaaah.  But I’m not letting it steal my joy.  What a great time at the General Council of the Christian & Missionary Alliance!

Pastors and missionaries are my favorite people to hang out with.  Funny, smart, happy (usually).  It was awesome to make new friends, and hang out with church leaders from around the world.

Here are some wrap-up items:

Louisville really grew on me.  My first impression was that its downtown was worn out and blighted.  I had a top floor view (17 stories) from the hotel, and could see the Ohio River, and several steel-bridges, with no artistic flair, to them. Boarded up buildings a block long. Stuff like that.  Okay, so not a good first impression. But the more I wandered and drove and hung out, the city really grew on me.

IMG_0377Southern hospitality is alive and well.  Super service at the Marriott Downtown.  Everywhere we went, except Walmart, the people who helped us were really nice. Plus I discovered some of the cool/hip parts of town… and realized there was a lot more to discover.  I like that.  It makes me want to explore.

Here are my restua-RANTS and RAVES…

  • Smokey Bones… yes, it’s a chain, but has my favorite ribs with sweet, tangy sauce, and just the right texture.
  • The Red Tavern… amazing food and classy ambiance on Fourth Street. I had pot roast, but the Flinns had pecan-encrusted halibut.  I only wish Margi were there (she left one day early).
  • BoomBozz… nice atmosphere, good pizza, friendly service, clean bathrooms (YES!).
  • Highland Coffee… DELICIOUS coffee, cool atmosphere, free wifi.  I LOVED your sugar free blended mocha. Friendly staff.  The one guy memorized my really complicated drink after one visit!  Impressive.
  • Champions… sports bar/restuarant with really good food, in the hotel.  A nice surprise.
  • Luigi’s… okay, my favorite place.  An old-time Italian lunch joint, with delicious pizza and a huge variety of pastas, served buffet style.  This is the kind of pizza I miss from my Chicago days.  If you’re in town, head to Luigi’s. And then walk half a block to:
  • Louisville Slugger factory.  Home of my childhood bat.  You can see them making the bats through the windows.  They have a museum (we didn’t visit) and a store (we did visit). … and then walk to see..
  • The Louisville Bats minor league baseball team… in one of the prettiest ball parks I’ve ever seen.  Like a mini-Wrigley field.  Perfect place for a family outing; clean, friendly, affordable, and scaled down just right from the big leagues.

IMG_0383I have to confess, I was bummed to leave town.

A huge thank you to the leaders and staff or the C&MA for hosting an outstanding conference for so many people.  Great job.  I love you guys, and feel humbled and honored that you trusted me with the pulpit.

Once again, our missionaries proved what heroes they are; in the last service, we consecrated a fresh batch, and kept true to our value that lost people matter to God, and he wants them found.

God did stuff. That’s good.

Links:

The Christian and Missionary Alliance

Audio of the keynote speakers, including my talk, and Todd Adams, the missionary whose kids were kidnapped. The links are on the right side of the page, “mp3 download” for each nite.  I spoke on Wednesday.

Pastors’ resources (from my seminar).

Here’s a picture of where I spoke, though I couldn’t get the whole building one shot.

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General Council 1

GENCOUNCIL09aMy church is a member of a family of churches called the Christian & Missionary Alliance, or the Alliance for short.  Every other year, the Alliance gathers for a big rally called the General Council.  Worship, planning meetings, exhibits, networking, community, prayer, and PREACHING… which is where I come in, no doubt due to some horrendous miscalculation on the part of our leaders!  I was [accidentally?] invited to preach at one of the general sessions, which happened last night.

The first night was a riot… a huge parade of missionaries and flags started us off.  Had to be over 100 missionaries, dressed in the attire of their nations, with flags and banners, marching up the aisles as the rest of us worshiped and sang.  What really got to me was seeing some of the retired missionaries:  front line troops, proceeding slowly… one was even in a wheel chair.  These men and women are my heroes, and — even though I’m a manly Italian guy — I couldn’t hold back the tears.  I confess.

Todd Adams, missionary to Mali and now Papua New Guinea, gave an AMAZING message about how lost people matter to God.  He offered the most riveting illustration of God’s heart for lost people that I have ever heard.  He told of the day, on the mission field, when kidnappers carjacked his jeep… WITH HIS BABY AND HIS 6-YEAR OLD SON IN THE BACK SEAT.

Todd shared how the carjackers put a gun to his head, ripped him out of his seat, and drove off with his kids. As the bad guys made a u-turn on the dirt road, Todd knew he had only one chance:  he ran with all his might, and jumped onto the rear mounted spare tire, holding on for dear life.

Inside he could see his little boy, weeping and crying out frantically for his dad.

Then Todd paused and described, as a dad, the anguish he felt at that moment… wanting his children back so desperately he would do ANYTHING to get them.  He said that if you don’t understand the profound depths of love and desire the father has for his lost children, you don’t understand your Father at all.

Powerful stuff.  I sat riveted to my seat.

Uh-oh.  It’s 6:43, and I’m going to a breakfast for Simpson University.  Gotta run…

To be continued…