Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What I learned talking to strangers + summer adventures update

A few weeks ago I blogged about the crazy assortment of things I was about to embark on. I figured I should check back in to report on progress. I finished my thesis, survived moving house and managed to pass my driving test, something I suspect involved divine intervention. In the last two and a half weeks I have presented at an academic conference, attended a Christian conference and gone on a mission trip. I considered doing the maths on the number of talks I heard between the three activities but decided working that out would probably make my head hurt! There is so much I could say about it all. God was very gracious in making all the logistical stuff come together even better than I originally planned. I plan to post a bit more reflecting on what I learned and how I've seen God at work in the coming weeks. Hopefully the talks from National Training Event (the Christian conference) will be online soon and I will be able to share them with you.

One thing that stood out to me, particularly in the ministry activities, was the stories I heard. I heard some at mission but even more at the Christian conference. The conference dining hall was very large so most of the time you would end up sitting and talking with strangers rather than friends. People would also strike up conversations while waiting for sessions to start and a few were given the chance to share in sessions. Something about the conference environment got people asking good questions and telling good stories. I heard so many interesting stories- stories of how God led people to faith using all sorts of means and circumstances , stories about the trials and joys of different sorts of ministry, stories about the challenges of growing in faith and reaching out in places as diverse as Tonga, Japan, Sydney and Slovenia. It seemed like pretty much everyone had an interesting story to tell of something big or small God was doing. It was so encouraging.

Hearing all these stories made me wonder what we are missing in our churches and communities by not hearing that many stories of God at work. I don't just mean stories of how people got saved (although those are fantastic), but stories of how God is at work right now and what people are learning. I wonder what we are missing out on by assuming we know peoples stories or never bothering to ask? I wonder what we would learn or how we would be encouraged if we made a habit of taking an active interest in what God is doing in peoples lives? What fascinating stories might people tell if only we would ask?

Next up is my second mission trip for the month, starting just after Christmas. It is longer and probably more intense than the mission trips I've done before. It will also have me working with teenagers, a group I don't have much experience with. It is exciting but a bit a bit intimidating. I plan to write a bit more about that before I go.