Masculine Conversations

Masculine Conversations

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thankfulness Day 22: GMHC Recap

"Faith is an outrageous trust in God"
- Dr. A., career missionary to Africa

Words really cannot describe adequately our three days in Louisville, Kentucky: the presence of God, working so clearly amongst 2,800 students and professionals all seeking to serve Him more fully; the blessing of fellowship with so many others all on the same path; the inspiration of thousands lifting up their voices in praise...

Nevertheless, here is a bit of a recap. If I can't describe fully everything that God did at the GMHC, hopefully I can give at least an idea of it. 

 After driving 1,000 miles from Vermont, we met with a couple of friends in Louisville for lunch at a little  bagel shop, and then arrived at Southeast Christian Church mid-afternoon.

 We were met at the door by conference staff asking us questions about our recent contacts with Ebola patients and whether we had been to Africa in the past few months. None of us had, so we were allowed to enter.

This church is a great place for the conference, because it is so incredibly big. This is the main atrium, looking toward the entrance to the sanctuary. Behind the big poster in the center are crisscrossing escalators that go up to the fifth floor seating for the sanctuary, and on the left and right sides of the atrium are the rooms for the breakout sessions.

We started with a breakout session called "stories from a lifetime in Africa," by an 80-year-old man who has been a missionary all his life, and whose parents were missionaries before him.

"Take time to pray, reflect, and rest. Take time to wait on God."
 "The real secret of blessing is brokenness before God."

Quoting from 30 Principles for Life, he said: "Trusting in God means looking beyond what we can see, to see what God sees." (Charles Stanley)

It was extremely inspiring to hear his many, many stories of all the times God had worked in his life. From falling into a well (he had learned to swim the week before) to being chased by a rabid dog (it died 8 feet behind him) to escaping a concentration camp by 24 hours, to escaping 3 invading armies and countless civil wars, God was with him the whole way.

It was especially encouraging that he was not only faithful to God's call himself, but he also passed this passion on to his kids. His first daughter was watching surgeries at the age of 2, making rounds at 7, functioning as his surgical assistant at 10, and actually participating in surgeries at 13! His first son was in charge of the maintenance of the hospital at by age 11. Now, all of his children are missionaries.

After dinner, we moved to the sanctuary for the first plenary session. The speaker was Laura Lederer, and her topic was human trafficking. While very sobering and too graphic to share much of here, it was very good to learn what we, as students and health professionals, can do to make a difference.

Behind the big posters at the end is the coffee shop, with a chapel above it. All the way behind those are the two stories of vendor halls.

Friday morning, we started out with a breakout talk by Dr. D., called "Surgery Stories from Well-filled Lives."  He said that medicine will always try to woo a doctor away from other things, so that one always feels the need to make one more round, to fit in one more patient, to... and the list goes on. Medical professionals, and especially missionaries, must constantly guard against this tendency, especially in the area of making family a high priority.

As he said, God will never ask you to compromise your family for the sake of missions. I could not agree more. Rather, there must be a balance. And for the understaffed missionary, that means carefully choosing what to and what not to spend time on.

Will Rogers, conference coordinator

We took in a second breakout on rural missions in the U.S. This was given by an doctor who grew up in India and came over to the U.S. for his higher education. He had always assumed that he would return to India to do missions work there, but to his surprise, ended up working in a little town of 2,000 in rural Tennessee.

The needs for doctors and missionaries right here in the U.S. are astounding!

Next was the second plenary of the conference, by Dr. T., who is working in an inner city clinic. One of his points that really stuck with me was his reiteration again and again that an effective missionary is not one who is a smooth talker or a Bible scholar or a good doctor or whatever else, but is simply a person who knows Jesus Christ like a friend, who pursues Him above all else, and who has been transformed by Him. 

It is only by drawing so close to Jesus that His love overflows from within us that we can really effectively reach people for him. As he said, the gospel of Jesus Christ is simple, yet so often, we let our own religion get in the way of God's love, just as the Pharisees did in the New Testament. Convicting!

Chick-fil-a for lunch!! 

The first breakout after lunch was by C., another inner city evangelist. His talk was on how to find God's will, and he gave four disciplines that we should be seeking to follow:

1. Foster your relationship with Jesus above all else
2. Renounce the world
3. Live by faith, not by fear
4. Disciple others towards obedience of Christ's commandments

The second breakout was by Dr. J., who also works in a U.S. inner city area. His talk was on the need for inner city missions, and how to prepare to do this effectively. 
 Making our way through the 200 vendors

 We always love reuniting with Mrs. Morgenthaler at the CMDA booths. She has been a good friend ever since we started coming here in 2011. (This picture was from a previous year when Curtis was there, since we didn't get a group shot this time).

After dinner, we went to plenary #3, by Dr. D., entitled "Make me a servant" and "Dream big enough."

He is in an area of Africa in which there are currently 56 million people who need surgery. And so, as he said, "big numbers demand big dreams." 

Looking out over the crowd, he asked us this question: "What is your glorious quest? Is it worth dying for?" And he wondered aloud, "Is God waiting for someone to dream a God-sized dream so he can show his real power?"

People exiting the plenary session

Saturday morning we were up bright and early for our last day of the conference. We had two breakout sessions, the first of which was by Kent and Amber Brantley, on "Our story, your story, God's story." 

Telling their story of education, marriage, call to missions, and eventual battle with Ebola, these two stressed the fact that they were only tools who were willing to be used by God, and that God should get all the glory for what he did through them. 

I was particularly impressed by the fact that early on in marriage, Kent realized that he was idolizing comfort, and he and Amber determined, from then on, to proactively choose the less comfortable options in life. For example, when faced with a residency location decision, they chose the one where they would be interacting with a more needy and more difficult people group.

And so, as he pointed out, this saying "yes" to God in the small things led to an easy transition to saying "yes" to the big things, when God called them overseas, then to work with Ebola patients, and eventually, to serve him even through sickness with the disease itself.

"God is still doing amazing things today through normal people" Kent said.

The commitment map

After attending a final breakout by Dr. D. on some specific needs with regard to Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus in Africa, we moved back to the sanctuary for the last plenary.

Dr. T. delivered a powerful message entitled "End game." End game, as defined by the dictionary, is the final stage of a game, in which there are only a few pieces and moves remaining.

Dr. T. said that the world is now in God's end game, as Christ's return draws nearer and we work to win souls across the world. "Got has called ALL Christians to be players in his end game, and he wants us to have key roles."

 At the end of the plenary, everyone came up and placed commitment cards on the giant map on stage. 

It was an incredible conference, and I am so grateful for everything I learned over those 3 days. Just 358 days to wait now until GMHC 2015!

"God is moving, and he wants to use US for his end game. Are you in or are you out? Are you willing to risk all, or will you play it safe?"

- Dr. T., career missionary to Africa

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