Sunday, April 16, 2017

Reflections on the Global Connect Conference 2017

This year as I prepared for the Global Connect Conference I was looking forward to seeing friends from other states and other countries.  The Global conference is a time when the Operation Christmas Child family comes together in one accord to share with each other what has been happening in our positions and how we can pray and encourage one another.

This year was a bit different for me, we were encouraged to protect the identities of our brothers and sisters within sensitive country regions where Satan doesn't want the gospel message to be spread.  Satan is doing anything he can in these days to stop the spread of the gospel message to those that need it the most, those that are dying without knowing Him as their Saviour and Lord.  The ministry of Operation Christmas Child is going to the deepest darkest places of the world in order to shed the light and love of the one true God.  I cannot think of a better organization to partner with to spread God's love to children all over the world.

There are so many unreached people groups that still need to hear the gospel message.  We heard from Samuel Chiang as he told us the importance of telling the story with integrity, most people that are within unreached people groups pass down history thru story telling and the same is true with the gospel message being passed onto others thru the art of storytelling.  We were asked to share the message of Mary and Martha.  I initially thought it would be an easy task, as this is a story so many of us know so well.  For those of us in the developed nations, I found myself paraphrasing the story and putting the story in terms of how we might see it today.  At one point in the breakout session, I realized that the way I was telling the story was not with the integrity of the gospel story.  I stopped and was convicted in my spirit and wondered to myself would the way I told the story to someone in another language help to bring them to the saving knowledge of Christ, or would it deter them?  Was I being true to the gospel message?  There was nothing wrong with the way I told the story, I used terms that would be captivating for someone living in a crazy busy schedule of today's society.  Samuel went on to tell us that giving a bible is not of help for many in the unreached people groups because story telling was most effective methods of passing on the story.  From this, I learned not to paraphrase.  Let us continue praying that all people groups will be reached one day, pray for teachability of spirit for the groups reaching out and that spending time in God's presence will be the number one priority in the hearts.

The ministry of Operation Christmas Child is building up an army of believers as we pass the baton of faith to the next generation of kids, and that is exciting.   This year the goal is to continue to fix our eyes on Jesus.  Ross Rhoades once stated, "It is the gaze that gets us, but it is the stare that keeps us".

We truly do not have a full understanding of the persecution that our brothers and sisters around the world live thru daily.  We here in the US are privileged to be able to openly share the gospel message, wear Christian symbols of our faith, travel about at any hour day or night without the thought of being persecuted.  Many around the world daily put their lives in risk to share the gospel message.  I heard a statement one time that if I were not putting my life at risk today, what makes me think that I would put my life at risk another day for the gospel.  Am I openly sharing my faith?  Am I selective with whom I share my faith?  When I am at work do I engage in conversations of eternal value, or do I sit back and remain silent?  What the developed world considers persecution is merely an inconvenience in our lives.  We are not being shot at for sharing the gospel, we are not putting our lives on the line each day when we rise and step out our door to go about our daily routine.  Continue to pray for those that are serving around the world that the Lord would continue to guide them, protect them, give them the boldness to continue sharing the gospel message and yet if it is His will to bring them home that the families and friends left behind would be comforted by the Holy Spirit.

We heard from so many powerful speakers during the conference that it was as if we were sitting in front of a fire hydrant to drink the water and we were given so much that our cups runneth over.  One quote that I loved was from Pastor Jim Cymbala when he said: "my life was a mess, God turned into a message."  Oh, that we could see our lives in this light, that we are a message, we bring the hope of a Savior to the hurting world.  Our stories or testimonies of what the Lord has brought us thru are instruments to be used for His glory, we just need to have our eyes fixed on Jesus so we can see the hurt in the world and know when we are to minister to the hurting in our corner of the world.

Each child that receives a shoebox gift has the opportunity to go thru The Greatest Journey (TGJ) discipleship program.  The goal for 2017 is to reach 12 million shoeboxes (children) and to see 5 million children graduate thru the TGJ.  We learned that every 20 seconds a child is coming into a relationship with Christ thru TGJ.  That is a fantastic return on a simple shoebox gift.  This year we are seeing some changes in the shoebox ministry.  First, the cost of donations for each shoebox gift is now $9.00 per box.  Second, no candy or toothpaste in the shoeboxes.  Third, the TGJ material will be available later this year for churches in the US to use for discipleship of the children and teaching them how to evangelize.  This year marks the first year that an OCC plastic shoebox will be available for purchase at area Hobby Lobby's and CBD (Christian Book Distributors).  We are not sure of the price yet, but I can say the boxes are very nice and sturdy.

We ended our time on Sunday will a powerful message from Will Graham reminding us that we are here to do work, spiritually.  We are to be obedient to the call on our lives.  There is no partial obedience, it is all or none.  When we are telling the story of Jesus or any story in the bible, we are to remember and never forget that God is the hero of the story.  Lastly, when we are rebuked by God's word we are not to blame others, but we are to deal with our sin.  It is no one else's fault but our own when we sin, it is a decision each individual makes, we all have the choice and opportunity to say no to sin.

The beautiful culmination of our time together ended with a communion service of 129 nations coming together in one accord, I can only imagine what heaven will be like when we one day arrive and are surrounded by so many nations of believers bowing down to the one true and living God.




In closing, I would like to challenge each of you to pack a shoebox, write a letter to the child and most importantly pray over the shoebox gift.  Become involved with the ministry, if you feel lead.  There are many positions available to serve year round.  For more information go to https://www.samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/volunteer-year-round/.