Montreat Youth Conference 2009, part 2
Last week I attended the Montreat Youth Conference 2009 Week 5. I served both as a Small Group Leader and as a Back-Home Leader for my church’s group. This is the second post about the trip, and will consist of “what did I feel” and “what did or did not happen to me” during the week. The first post consists of the “what did I do”.
First – let me get one thing out of the way. Unlike last year, God did not choose to speak directly to me (ironic, considering that we covered the Burning Bush story). If God talked to me this time, it was through smaller things and other people. (And that does seem likely.)
This was a very stretchy week.
The first stretch was a little one. This was the longest car trip that I’ve ever taken alone. Oddly enough, all other trips of more than half of this one have been by air, or with someone. It wasn’t a big stretch, but it’s an interesting anecdote.
The biggest stretch was leading the small group. My small group consisted of 33 people besides myself. In my 20 years of business and church and life, I’ve never actually led a group that big. It went very well, and I was repeatedly affirmed during the week by both the youth and adults in the group. I also benefited greatly from the confidence that my back-home group had in me. There IS a lot of work involved in being a small group leader – mainly due to the prep work required. It’s also a little hard for an introvert as you have to be “on stage” for several hours each day. You have a badge and wristbands that identify you as conference leadership all day long, so you’re not really “off stage” unless you’re alone or in a group of other leaders (or in my case, with the back-home group). At any rate, this went really well. Put a check in the stretch and succeed column.
Another big stretch was Monday night’s worship service. I agreed to serve as a prayer station during the Prayers of the People. There were about 12 of us stationed around Anderson Auditorium. We stood there while music played and people came up to us with personal prayer requests. The easiest one that I got had to do with generic prayers for the broken people in the world. The hardest were a recent personal cancer diagnosis, and a person struggling with addiction. The Holy Spirit was clearly in my corner on this one – I was able to serve as a conduit for hurt and healing and just had to concentrate on saying the right thing. This was a huge stretch for me. Those who have been following my call/career/transition saga know that at one point I said that I am not the right person to be working with people going through serious issues (and that I was immediately called to do just that right after saying so). This was another one of those moments. Put another in the stretch and succeed column (I hope – I haven’t heard from God yet).
A third stretch was performing in the Talent Show. Now I know that my talent (shaking a bell pepper-shaped shaker) was minor, but it was fun to be part of the show rather than the guy behind the scenes for a change. Our young ladies and men sang so sweetly and Mike played guitar so well that we were truly amazing. I can’t wait for Rich to edit the video.
I am grateful for the friend who took the time to listen to my troubles for a few minutes out of his very busy life on Tuesday evening, even while we were making arrangements for other stuff later in the week.
I met a lot of good friends during the week – new and old. I HAVE to find time to go see Brian and Carol and little C sometime in their native habitat. I knew Carol a little from the radio show (and she wasn’t there), but I got to meet Brian and find out how amazing he is. I can immediately think of 10-12 other people that I met at Montreat that I KNOW that I want to find a way to work with again. It was such fun working and laughing with them.
I was TIRED. I got by with about 6 hours of sleep each night (I’m usually good for 8 hours). As Rich told me, the Holy Spirit does get behind you and push. I’m not sure that I’d recommend being both a Small Group and Back-Home Leader in the same week, but it truly is possible. My only regret is that it took time away from my Back-Home group. I think that a better way is to do two weeks and have your back-home group arrive the SECOND week, when you already have the sessions figured out.
The Montreat conference family is a little tough to join for the first time, but it’s totally worth it. For the first few days I was a little lost in the “inside” language (“innie vs. outie” for people responsible for stuff inside vs. outside the auditorium, for example) and I felt a bit like a well-loved new foster child. By the end of the week I felt more like a family member.
The Small Group Leaders that ate together on Sunday morning all commented on the Bacon Alarm Clock that comes with sleeping above the kitchen. Bacon quickly became the theme for our week. We talked about recipes containing bacon. We talked about what people make out of bacon (the AK-47 being the most mentioned). The official photographer had every small group yell “BACON!” when taking their picture.
One youth decided that I looked like Wallace Shawn playing Fizzini in Princess Bride (“Inconceivable!”).
I do not yet know what if any impact that this conference will have on my future. I did get an inkling that some friends may be trying to find a way to pay me to do something for them – and if it is truly the right thing to do for them I hope that it works out. I have learned that I can do some things that I didn’t know I could do before. It was good to have so many positive affirmations from so many people during the week. Here are two of my favorites from my small group:
(From the Blessings page in the booklet) “Thanks for keeping it awesome and if all else fails you can always take up the Bell Pepper professionally. -X”
I ran into one of my small group kids walking the other way in front of Anderson:
Me: Hi, Faith!
Faith: Oh good! You’re excited to see me!
I don’t know what the next year will bring, but next summer Montreat (and probably being a small group leader) will be on the short list of possibilities.