The morning started early – 4am. The plan was to leave by 6, get to church by 7, be ready to roll by 8. Traffic was a bit thicker than expected so we pull into conference location around 7:30.
Setting up sound and video in a foreign country takes 4x longer than normal. In America we have 110. In Brazil – 220. In the Philippines – both. Sometimes even out of the same outlet. One plug will be 110, another will be 220. It’s clear the result when a 110 object meets a 220 power source. Sparks, smoke and the wonderful sound of frying bacon. Plugging a 220 object in a 110 – lot less dramatic. Much more frustrating. Mainly because there is enough power to bring the power light on but not enough to actually power the object. And you think you’re plugged into a 220 outlet but you’re really not.
Any rate – halfway thru the setup, I can’t find my phone. I unpack all my bags. Look in van. Look in John Kazakalas’ bag (he was sitting next to me). Look back in bags. Back in van. Jon Demeo looks in van and he finds it in the van. From this point on in the trip, it’s Jon’s purpose to get my phone from me to make me think I’ve lost it. It’s like traveling with middle schoolers without the permission slips.
In a few hours, I would see more handiwork or the TMP crew. As I unlock my iPad to take notes on the first session, I notice that my lock screen has been changed. It is the picture of the chest of the hairiest, roundest man I’ve ever seen. I look up and the entire TMP team is looking at me and they begin shaking with laughter. It’s a middle school mission trip at times.
I, of course, am completely innocent in all of this.
In all seriousness, I think we pastors were all psyched about the conference. None of us had heard the others speak. I know I was excited to learn from these guys. All of them have unique life experiences and perspectives. Lots of wisdom. After hanging out with the guys all week, I knew two things to be true about every one of these guys. First, they loved people because they see ALL people as image-bearers of God. That fact alone demands respect and honor from us. It was clear that these men agreed with C.S. Lewis – we’ve never met a mere mortal. All people have value.
The second thing about these guys is they like to laugh and cut up. It’s a good thing. I’d hate to think what kind of torture this trip would have been for the one who didn’t have a great sense of humor. Nobody was immune to the teasing and ribbing. It was awesome fun.
The other thing we were all looking forward to – worshipping with these pastors. I am going to write this at the risk of being misunderstood. Theologically, I can tell you that worship is larger than Sunday morning and that time slot that people choose to go to church. But there is something special and unique about the church gathered to worship. And it’s a different level of intimacy when everyone in the room is sold out to the vision of God. If you cornered each one of these pastors, they’d tell you that they love their home church, they love their services. We do. Don’t miss that.
But not everyone in the room in our Sunday services are sold out to the Gospel of Jesus. Some come because they are made to, some come for guilt, some come for status. And that’s fine – it’s a process and we get that as pastors. But it’s a special kind of awesome to worship in a room full of people who are upside down in love with Jesus to the point they’d live in a trash dump to tell the forgotten about Him. That room being filled with Americans, Chinese, Filipino is another step about that.
The sessions were good and we got great feedback from the Filipino pastors. They loved being able to listen, to worship. To hang out with us and eat meals with us. They loved connecting with other pastors that came to the conference.
There were 8 sessions. We started at 9, I have no idea when we ended but when we did – they wanted more.
As the TMP ate dinner that night to decompress a bit – we all pretty much felt like we had worshipped with Hebrews 11 worthy people. Those heroes of the faith that we hope we live with half of their faith. I have no idea what we brought to the table that they really needed. We walked away with more than they did.
I’ll write more about other thoughts that I’m processing over the next couple of days. Enjoy the video.