I just have to start off by saying, “WOW!”
What an amazing weekend we had. *super big smiles*
It all started last Thursday night when we headed out of town for what we would later come to know as an incredible ‘EXPERIENCE’. We were preparing to head to central Florida on Friday morning for the Pen Florida District Council of the Assemblies of God ‘EXPERIENCE’ Conference and had to spend the night in Lady Lake in order to avoid leaving our house at 4:15 A.M. *i shudder at the thought* This conference is held every year as an opportunity for church leaders to learn new techniques and methods to better reach people groups within their area of ministry.
In all honesty, Friday morning came a little quicker than I wanted it to. That bed sure was feeling awfully good and – as excited as I was – I just did NOT want to crawl out of it. *okay, so does anyone ever really ‘crawl’ out of bed¿ is that even possible¿* However, droopy-eyed as I was, I managed to drag myself out from underneath the cozy little haven that had nestled my body through the night. It was time to “move it, move it”. *haha….so i know you are totally rubber-necking and thinking of King Julian, the lemur from Madagascar.*
Right on schedule, we pulled out from the church parking lot and pointed our nose due south. *maybe be a little southwest* We were on our way, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. *neither of which are true, but it sounds good in the story* Little did we know exactly what we were in store for just a few hours later.
We arrived at our destination in plenty of time to visit the ministry vendors who were lined up and down the hallways. After visiting the mini cafe in the church’s school building, we were awake and ready for the day’s events. We were officially ready for the hours and hours of teaching workshops that lay ahead. *i know it sounds super boring, but it really isn’t*
The morning session started off cuh-RAY-zee good! Pastor Jim Raley from Ormond Beach Calvary Christian Center hit it out of the ballpark with his message, “Between Now and Next.” All I can say about that is AWESOME!¡ After the message, it was a beautiful site to see the “now” generation lay hands on the “next” generation as they vowed to allow the womb of vision to birth life into those coming up behind them in ministry. *WOW WOW WOW*
After catching our breath, we headed off to breakout workshop sessions. Did we ever learn some good stuff! I could elaborate but if I did we’d be here all day. Again, I simply say, AWESOME!
Lunch at Five Guys burger place was super yummy. The music was annoyingly loud though. I guess they were playing the “psychological” games they play to make people eat faster and leave faster so they can move the lunch crowd through faster. *they think we don’t know, but we are sooooo on to them* Nonetheless, the fellowship was great and the food was good. However, it did make staying awake in the afternoon sessions a little more challenging! *yawn*
After a few more hours of really, really good workshops, our group headed over to Panera Bread to kill a little time before the evening service. Of course, killing time meant loads of unnecessary calories!¡ But again, the word that comes to mind is YUMMY!
Finally it was time to head to the main event that I had been waiting for for months! When I first heard who the guest speaker was going to be, I determined in my heart I WOULD be there. *pause here for a moment and let me interrupt the story with a sub-story that is crucial to the development of the main story*
I heard back several months ago – like the beginning of the year – who was going to be keynote speaker and made up my mind then and there that I would do everything within my power to be at this conference. *okay, not really my power as I immediately went into prayer for God to provide a way if it was in His will* Well…..a few weeks before the conference date, several things went on at the house that required A TON of money to repair. It was very evident that finances were going to make it impossible for my dream to come true. *enter melodramatic music* It wasn’t looking good. *sad face* I cried big tears to my husband and said, “This man has been my inspiration and he is living my dream. I really want to hear him in person.” I kicked my prayers into over-drive – actually, at this point they were more like pleas. I really wanted to be there. Fast forward a little – we received a huge blessing that enabled us to go to the conference free of charge! *yay, God* All we were going to have to do is pay for our food. What a blessing!!!
Back to the story. Anticipation built as we entered the building AN HOUR early to get a good seat! And a good seat is exactly what we got! Second row, directly behind the guest speaker. Praise and worship ensued. I was totally swept up in God’s presence as I reflected on His provision to even get us to this place! After a good bit of time, the main speaker was introduced. *Drum roll please*…………up to the podium he came…….the street evangelist of all street evangelists……the inspiration for the outreach work we had done for years…….director of the Los Angeles Dream Center……MATTHEW BARNETT. His message was everything I hoped it would be and more!!
After an exciting time around the altars, we headed off to a late night meal at Cracker Barrel. *not recommended before bed* Again, great fellowship and good food!
The next morning was just as awesome as the night before. Pastor Matthew was scheduled to speak again, and again we sat right behind him. *i hate sitting farther back because i hate getting distracted by people who fidget and can’t sit still* The day started off pretty cool when during the announcement time, Pastor Matthew turned around and fist-bumped my twelve year old son. *smiles* He preached another inspiring message and when he was done I had an opportunity to tell him what an inspiration he had been to our evangelism team and how his courage to love the unlovable (to the world) gave us courage to do the same! We hugged and I cried as I realized our dream really isn’t our dream at all, but God’s dream.
Service concluded and off our team went to their respective workshops. Several more hours of teaching and being inspired to use our ministry gifts to the best of our ability (in God’s strength) to perform the task He’s given us to do. Lunch at Subway then back for more meetings. What a great time we had.
Before we knew it, the conference was concluded and back to Lady Lake we headed. Spent the afternoon napping and watching football *go gators*, trying to get caught up on a little rest. Sunday we had great services at church to cap off a perfect weekend!!! *fulfilled and satisfied* God is good and worthy of our praise!