Day 6 (8/10/11)
I struggled with some doubts and fears today, which usually looks like thoughts racing around in my head and a million “what if?” scenarios. It took some time before I could bring myself back around to the present and to what I know to be true. I’m least grateful for those few moments today when my fears took over and allowed my mind to be distracted and unfocused.
Day 8 (8/12/11)
When did I give and receive the most love today?
Every morning, we have a devotion time with the rest of the COTN staff. I can already tell that I am going to miss this time dearly when I return home. We spend time singing, sharing Scripture and encouraging one another with truths and messages that God has given each of us. This morning, we were focusing specifically on praying for the conference, which starts tonight. As we were singing, I asked God to give me a word to share with others. Just as the music ended, God told me, “I am going to give you a new story.” I was overwhelmed. But it gets better.
God isn’t just writing a new story for me; He’s asking me to live out of that new story. I am no longer, “Alair, who has gone through _______ and God loves me.” I am, “Alair, whom God loves.” I also believe that God is going to write new stories for the men and women coming to the conference today- new stories of restoration, redemption, healing, hope and joy. What a moment of love this was today.
When did I give and receive the least love today?
I don’t know if there was a specific moment today when I wasn’t receiving love. Rather, I was convicted about my ability to give love to others unselfishly and willingly. The theme of our conference is “Imago Dei,” which means “image of God.” Tonight’s main message was how each of us has been created in unique and special ways to display God’s image. If we live with this understanding, then the way that we interact and live with others will inevitably change. I’m slowly realizing how oftentimes I can be so self-focused that I may recognize God’s image in others yet fall short of serving others before myself.
Day 9 (8/13/11)
When did I feel most alive today?
We spent all day at the conference and it was amazing! Part of the conference involved offering four workshops on various topics, and participants could choose two to attend. I co-facilitated one workshop on raising and disciplining children, and this just confirmed how much I enjoy teaching and leading group discussions. My part of the workshop focused on how God acts and loves as a parent, and I used the story of the prodigal son to illuminate God as a parent who runs toward us and meets us with unconditional love. This was astounding for many of the people in the workshop, who had a really difficult time understanding how parents can respond in love when their children are disobedient and rebellious. I believe that God wanted to shake up their concept of parenting and discipline, and hopefully they walked away knowing how much Father God loves them as well as how they can best love their children.
When did I feel life draining out of me?
Another part of the conference involved small group time, where participants were assigned to a small group of peers that they met with throughout the conference in order to discuss what they had learned. I had the privilege of co-leading a small group with an amazing Ugandan woman named Sylvia, and we had a large group of about 25 participants. Normally, I love leading group discussions and hearing how God is moving in the lives of others. But today, I was surprised to find that I felt drained after group time and very resistant to meet with my group. This may have been due to the size of the group or the fact that discussion time took longer because almost everything needed to be translated. However, I think a big part of why this was draining is that our group discussions weren’t able to go deep and I didn’t have the opportunity to really press in and hear how God was moving. I realized that surface conversation drains the life out of me, so small group time was difficulty.
We had an incredible last day of our conference! We addressed several issues within marriage and family that are rarely discussed in Ugandan culture, and I see this conference as the catalyst to continued dialogue and learning amongst Ugandan couples, families and churches. My moment of greatest belonging came after the conference had finished. I was saying goodbye to my small group participants and fellow coaches and was walking to get some dinner when I felt a tug on my shirt. A young girl with a baby on her back had stopped me and simply said, “I need to talk to you.” We stepped aside and she shared her heartbreaking story of how she got pregnant, was abandoned by the father’s child and had been shunned by her family because she kept the child. She had gone to my workshop on raising children and was so worried that her young baby would grow up deprived of a father. Pastor Scott and I talked with her at length, reminding her of her value and worth as a daughter of God and encouraging her that God would provide godly men to speak into her child’s life. At the end of our time, she let Scott and I take turns holding her precious baby and praying for them. God is always in the business of rewriting stories and making all things new…
When did I have the least sense of belonging?
As the conference was winding down, I was feeling exhausted. My mind wasn’t as fully present as I would have liked for several reasons, so I felt somewhat disconnected from my team and what was being shared at the conference. It’s easy for me to get caught up in the planning and organizing and facilitating that I miss being present with God, myself and others. At those moments, I feel distant and separated from others. There have been several moments this trip where I’ve experienced this feeling, so I’m seeing this as a further invitation from God to continue working on being present and setting aside my own worries and fears.