Last weekend we attended the missions festival at Highlands Pres, which is the church I grew up in and the one the rest of my family still attends. And it was amazing.
This is the church that taught me about missions when I was little. I’ve been going to missions conferences there since the church was first planted, which was back when I was in elementary school. I even ran one of them back in 2006. (…which was when I discovered that I am the only one in my family who did not inherit the event-planning gene, by the way. It does not come easily for me.)
For years, I have gone to missions conferences at Highlands, listened to the missionaries, and wondered whether God would someday give me the privilege of being counted among them.
This past weekend, I was.
It was strange to walk through the doors to the banquet on Friday night, to be handed a bulletin with my name and bio printed inside, and to be asked to stand up as part of the missionary introductions. It was strange being on the other side. Good, but strange. We’ve been to several missions conferences already this spring, but this one was different. It wasn’t just a chance to talk about our ministry and encourage people to get involved in missions. It was a chance to look these people in the eye and say “Thank you. Thank you for investing in me as a little kid. Thank you for loving me and encouraging me in missions all those years ago. Thank you for praying diligently for me. Thank you for letting God use you in my life.”
The whole weekend was such a blessing. We had the dinner banquet on Friday evening, and during the program, the 4 of us (Bonhams/Kines) went upstairs to spend some times with the kids. The 4yo–5th grade group was in the middle of “The Amazing Race,” and we had a great time talking to them about missions during their snack break. I love it when we get the chance to talk to the kids at these churches, because I remember the impact that visiting missionaries had on me when I was a kid. After the banquet and program were over, the Highlands youth group had a coffeehouse fundraiser with live music and a silent auction to raise money for their upcoming mission trip, and we stayed and visited for awhile.
Saturday was a full one… The guys had an early morning men’s breakfast, where the missionary men were part of a question/answer panel. The ladies had a luncheon where each of the missionary ladies were given a few minutes to speak. Since I don’t have any cool missionary stories from the field yet, I told the story of how the Lord called me to missions as a child and the way he has worked in my life since and brought me to the point I am now. It was especially fitting since Highlands is such an integral part of that calling. So many of the ladies who are a part of my story were sitting there at the luncheon, and I couldn’t keep back the tears as I spoke. After the luncheon, we had a meeting with the missions committee. We also had the chance to spend some time with the committee again that night, when we had a relaxing dinner with the whole group.
Sunday morning we had the chance to talk to one of the sunday school classes, where we told the story of how God brought us to where we are and told them about our upcoming training and future ministry. We had about half an hour to talk a little more in-depth about what we’re doing, and it was a great time to share our calling. Then during the 2nd service, they called us up front to ask us a few questions and invited us to share briefly about our ministry. But most of all, it was a chance to reconnect with people I love.
From start to finish, it was an emotional weekend, but in such a sweet way. I love that church. I love those people. And I love the fact that they’re with me all the way.