One of the few years I can't attend opening night of the New Wilmington Mission Conference this year. The weather is cool and raining. My prayers go up for this life changing conference.
Memories from my post written three years ago:
The heat is oppressive, but it wouldn't be missionary
conference if it weren't. I tell Katie we need to sit on the edge of
the outdoor auditorium. I tried once to sit in the middle and that
really was too uncomfortable. On metal folding chairs, I soak it in. Up
front a circle of pray-ers, by the world map of florescent orange tags
marking mission stations, are holding hands in preparation for the
I lift my head up to the flags of the countries
and states. I love the lake, seeing walkers on the far side with their
golden retrievers and black labs. Soon, the junior high delegates
meander down the hill to the sawdust floor. My heart leaps, I'm so full
of anticipation of an evening of singing, preaching of far away lands
and the tradition that is 106 years old this year.
My vague first
recollection is this same auditorium, my father help build years before I
was born, darkness and the lighted stage. Leaving my sister in a
steaming dorm room, as she was a delegate. As I got older, we came for
the evening sessions, the singing with enthusiasm became my highlight. I
always loved missionaries. How anyone could find this boring always
beyond my imagination. Now the singing is with a praise band and this
year, led us well into the presence of the Lord. For many years, the
choir director encouraged the singing. My sister's daughter also had the
opportunity to be a delegate from her church in New Jersey. I even
planned my trips home to coincide with the conference.
my girls here as babies with my mother. The first time Katie came, Mom
encouraged me to allow her to play in the sawdust, "Danny played with
his trucks during the meetings." Then someone urgently told us that
glass was in the sawdust and I grabbed Katie. We spent that evening on
the grass on the hill. Next time, we found out childcare was provided,
even a vacation Bible school for older kids.
A memorial service
for a friend of my parents was included one year. We sat in the chapel
and bag pipes filled the small space with Amazing Grace. Mom told us
stories of this missionary and I wished I had been born earlier.
must admit another important part of the memories and tradition is
food. Ice cream at the Dutch Isle afterwards and chewing over the
message of the evening. How did it touch you? Once or twice we went to
the old Isaly's for our ice cream. Mostly the Dutch Isle provided our
ice cream with family and friends. Last night we enjoyed it under their
metal canopy, with that rhythmic rain and smiling at the Amish family,
with the small girl staring us over as we were staring at her and her
siblings. The father got the buggy just like our father would get the
car in the rain. He waved at us as they left. I prayed for their
safety on the non-lit road in the storm that came up after an
oppressively hot day.
I love the tradition, yet the freshness
every year of seeing the Holy Spirit winding His way through the lives
of young people, urging them into His service. I relish the history of
the white haired ones who had served, yet still on fire for Jesus. This
is Church being the hands and feet of Jesus. This is exciting!
the presence of the Lord is in this place..." we sing at the end of the
service with our sweaty arms around each other, swaying.