October 9, 2019
I’m going to try to wrap up the New Wineskins experience with this posting. I ask your forgiveness, because the only way to do that is to give a very superficial covering of the conference. But let’s start with
Thursday September 26
SAMS Family Day
How honored I was when I got the note from Stewart Wicker, the President and MIssion Director, inviting me to be part of the day. In ways I can’t begin to express (perhaps fodder for a meditation) SAMS seems to be my anchor in my spiritual world right now. If you want to know my history with SAMS (now Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders) drop me a note and I’ll fill you in. I think that, too, is a fascinating story of God in action.
I first learned about SAMS (then the South American MIssionary Society) at the first New Wineskins I attended — actually New Wineskins' second conference held in 1994. But more about that in my account of the 2019 conference.
Hurricane Mitch hit the Honduras in October of 1998. By whatever reasoning — now long forgotten — we decided to do a mission trip to help. SAMS was the logical choice. As I recall, it turned out we were the first short term mission team they had ever trained and sent out. The trip was, in my opinion, a huge success and the story is worth it’s own telling, just not here.
Since I was solo, after breakfast I pulled up a chair outside the door everyone would need to take back and forth to the other buildings. Sure enough, Johann and Louise Van der Bijl, the couple from South Africa whom I now consider to be my “Paul,” sat down and we caught up on the weeks since the conference. I am in awe of their ministry — training leaders in disciple making — and the lengths to which they will go to share the Gospel.
Family Day started with a Eucharist, which was wonderful, but the real blessing was seeing people I hadn’t seen in years. Our intertwining stories are fascinating (to me at least.) Just before the Eucharist I was seated in the row by the door into the auditorium, and there was a steady flow of friends coming in, many of whom I knew. As I said, worship was wonderful. The worship leader played a 12 string guitar to accompany the liturgy, the only person, other than myself, that I’ve ever know to use one. The sound is amazingly different.
As you have probably gathered by now, music touches and refreshes my soul, and one of the songs particularly touched me...His Mercy is More, by Matt Boswell and Matt Papa. Their album, by the same name, is awesome.
Lunch started the succession of Divine Appointments I experienced throughout the weekend. The Center was beginning to fill with missionaries and leaders from literally all over the globe. Sharing a table and hearing their stories was incredibly enriching. Their lives are astounding.
The evening was a reception for SAMS supporters (senders) and missionaries. We were assigned tables with assigned partners, but the flow beforehand was rich with old friends and new. The speakers were phenomenal and inspiring.
The reception was followed by the opening Plenary for the New Wineskins Conference. I was thankful they streamed the Plenaries live over the internet for two reasons...one, the hills of between the buildings were more than I could navigate, and two, I was exhausted.
I’ve been at my computer for over two hours now...writing a bit, recalling a bit, writing a bit more and I’ve only covered one day, so I’m going to condense the conference itself.
A brief interlude about my first visit to New Wineskins. I was at Rez trying to build a missions mindset in the parish using Acts 2:42. A parishioner came to me with info about this "new conference on doing missions called New Wineskins." So we went together. The interesting part is, he never took part in any of our subsequent mission trips.
The three days were made up of literally dozens of what they called MAP talks...30 minute presentations on various missionary subjects. I looked at the list and gave up. The talks were scattered all over the campus, and, as I’ve said before, the hills were too much for me to navigate.
The Plenaries were astounding. I haven’t been able to find recordings of the Bible studies which were as rich as the presentations. I had two takeaways: one was the acronym “C.O.M.E.” Commit fully; Obey HIs Commands; Maintain Faith; Embrace Risk. Indeed, this could be the theme of the entire Conference (and the days following.)
Second, a joke told by one of the bishops. It was very convicting.
A pastor was invited to dinner with a very pious couple in his congregation. After the meal the wife said to her husband, “I can’t find the pastor’s knife and fork. Do you think he stole them? The husband replied, “Even if he did, we can’t mention it.” All through the following year the wife couldn’t let it go, but didn’t say anything until the pastor returned for his annual home visit. Unable to contain herself she burst out, “Did you steal our knife and fork?” “Oh, no.” replied the pastor. “I’m not a thief. I put it inside the cover of your Bible.”
The Plenaries were convicting as well. The recordings for the 2019 Conference haven’t been posted yet, but if you want to see how impactful they are, the sessions for 2016 are here.
In between the Plenaries the meals continued to be more Divine Appointments, as were the free hours in between. The SAMS conference coordinator had asked me to play a small role by supporting the missionaries through having some one-on-ones, which I gladly did. I’m absolutely certain I was more blessed than those with whom I met. And each Divine Appointment convinced me even more that God had me on a secure path with my new understanding of my mission in life.
“ To purposefully live in the Sacrament of the Present Moment,
touching the lives of others with the presence of God,
bringing joy, healing and peace.”
I realize that this is both grandiose, and, at the same time, miniscule compared to the lives of those saints at the conference, but I believe it is my small contribution to God’s kingdom in my latter years. That He has chosen to use me in this seems almost overwhelming, but that’s the content for a meditation another day.
One example of the incredible missionaries from SAMS and others attending New Wineskins: Johann and Louise Van der Bijl
They literally minister all over Africa. If you look to the right at the tags on their blog site you’ll see how wide their scope is. Johann is a scholar par excellence, and Louise is his equal in every way. They recently sent me photos of a mission trip (oh how I wish this blog had a way to show a gallery of pictures) to a primitive village where they were living in a tent, using a latrine (no...no pictures of using it just showing it...a hole in the ground.) and a cold water hose for a shower.
I attended Johann’s presentation of the system. He had to reduce a four week training course into a fifteen minute presentation and did an outstanding job. I’m longing to sit at Johann and Louise’s feet to learn.
(If you'd like to support a missionary, there are many organizations who need help, but -- as you can tell -- my choice is SAMS.
It’s now been five hours since I started this update. As I mentioned earlier, not all the time was spent at the computer typing. The conference was so rich, much of it has been reliving memories and trying to absorb all the Lord poured out.
I just realized this is four pages long! Probably should have been two — or even three — postings. But it is what it is. If you’ve hung in with me this far, I’m blessed beyond measure that you care.
I’m working on several meditations, but none of which I believe the Lord has told me to share.
Thanks for yonderin’ with me