This past weekend, I and the ministry I am apart of called “Unchained” (for now) from my church went on a 4 day trip to a conference called “Hope for Wholeness.” We drove 14 hours through the incredible Smokey Mountains through Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, right into South Carolina.
The trip into the city of Greenville was treacherous. We drove through a rainstorm almost the whole way there. While in good conversation, we ran out of gas and were basically stranded on the side of the road in Kentucky. Fortunately, we were no more than a block from the gas station where we walked (well I didn’t, the guys did. lol) to the station to get a canister of gas to drive the car to the station to fill up. It was good to discover when we arrived to the conference that we were NOT the only ones with car and travel trouble.
It seemed as if many of us were being targeted in order to keep us from attending this very first event for the network. One of the conference speakers was almost stranded at an airport because his plane was delayed, but then….the entire flight was canceled! Truly, something was trying to get many of us discouraged from attending this event. I know I was really discouraged to make it to the last hour of the beginning of the leaders’ conference. Funny thing was that it was about “Discouragement”. Anyways, We were able to participate for those last few moments. What I didn’t realize was that my experience was totally a metaphor for the journey to deep connection that I had been experiencing on my own road to becoming more mature in my walk with Christ.
During the conference, we heard story after story of people being honest and vulnerable about their walk with the Lord as well as their own struggles and shortcomings. They were being vulnerable and honest about their hurts from friends, colleagues, and family members. They were also honest about their present relationships.
McKrae Game, director of Truth Ministry, led the entire conference from a place of selflessness and lack of self-preservation. He shared his tears with us as well as his hope in Christ. He encouraged everyone to be honest about their reality and gave people the opportunity to just be where they are IN process. I was also given the privilege to give my testimony. The experience was refreshing, exciting, and nerve racking.
What really impacted me was the community that I experienced there. On several occasions, as I reached out to some of the leaders that had been in ministry for a while, they met me with transparency and openness. Their genuineness, support, and caring-ness was great to see from a body of believers who barely knew me. It was almost like home away from home. I actually experienced feeling a bit more closer to them because of their vulnerability. I also appreciated that they literally took themselves off of the pedestal of “performance” and let themselves be on level ground with us all. I was really moved. With all of their present scars and wounds exposed before everyone, they pointed all of the attendees to Christ.
Through this conference, an invitation was made to the church. Will the church rise up by taking off of their masks and expose their secrets so that they will not live in bondage to fear any longer? Will the church of Christ venture to be “real” so that they would be more like the Father who created them? Will the church look to Christ to hold them together rather them living as if they need to hold themselves together? I don’t know, BUT my hope is that the church will stop pretending and begin to BE who He’s created us to be. This weekend gave me a small glimpse of what that would look like. On my way back home, I decided to open up to my group about a present issue I was having. The group appreciated my vulnerability and felt free to share what they had been experiencing as well. I think that the journey to the conference and the journey to deep connection through vulnerability is worth the risk. Will you dare to take the trip no matter how treacherous or discouraging it could be?