Here’s some pictures to give a feel of some of the moments I managed to capture on my handy Canon A70 at the E06 conference where I took 4 workshops on the same topic.
Overall the E06 conference is one of the most well organized and well thought through conference I’ve ever been part of specifically for teenagers, college goers and young adults, I thought the three streams gave it the speakers a good framework to focus our sessions and workshops.
On a personal note, I felt most taken care of as a workshop speaker with one person assigned to make sure I have my coffee, and the equipment or notes are always ready. Wow! I felt pampered. At first it was strange, and yet later I just enjoyed it. And Janice who was helping me out did a FANTASTIC job (a round of applause everyone). E Hoon was also a wonderful support from her first email to me until the final instructions for the closing day. There were many more people working behind the scenes. I think this must be celebrated and acknowledged!
Most if not all of the participants in my workshops very lively, attentive and asking good questions. I could see in the eyes of many – the desire to learn, and work through issues that concern them relating to the theme “How then shall we live?”
I think there was an advantage for more intimate interaction when the workshops were limited to not more than 40 people. So, there were good questions and answers between me and them, and we could easily have break-out groups of 4-5 people for mutual conversations. Later, getting everyone back was good so we could hear from other groups as well and then I did a wrap up. My focus at the end was to emphasize Grace and graciousness especially in the light of out topic “Loving Thy Neighbor: Negotiating the tension between Dogmatism & Tolerance”. Closing the workshops with everyone holding hands in a circle (BLC style) and praying was especially meaningful for me whether it’s the act of forming the often imperfect circle to the act of praying together.
I didn’t manage to go for the plenary sessions or the concerts. I think the Carnival was a good idea getting people into the streets for some practical work. so, my comments are limited to my workshops and whenever I had contact with people before or after the workshops.
One enriching and fruitful conversation was with a more senior pastor and I . I couldnt help smiling with a chuckle or two when he said getting the few of us to do the workshops is like “outsourcing” specialists to bring our expertise into the conference. I admit I was a little shy when he said that, and appreciate the confidence and trust he had on us. For me, I merely thought of this as playing my part as friends of those who are part of the organizers, and more importantly doing my part as a member of the wider Christian family. We both desire “God’s will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven” in the lives of these young adults specifically (Hey! I’m included in this bracket.. I’m 34!). We use a different “language” to describe what we are doing (I’m sure how we view ministry and process through stuff will be an exciting dialogue topic in days to come)… keeping the right focus before us in the end is what REALLY matters.
My heart was warmed when I heard one person share with some tears in her eyes how she felt re-connected to God. There were also numerous outside of the workshop conversations with participants which were very helpful. for me these are always previous times where what God is doing is clearly still in progress (and not limited to the official sessions)
During the last day, I also appreciated a low key no-hype-and-yet-reflective time of prayer, letter writing, and relooking at one’s journey of faith and recentering oneself for the post-conference realities. My pastor friend smiled when he told me, “I didn’t know you could use a disney song for an altar call ..” It’s been quite a while since I’ve done “ministry time” in this way. I liked the way it was adapted for this context. In BLC, this kind of prayer ministry is done during the Holy communion (and often we can’t cover all the people and there’s limitations of time). Listening to some of the requests for prayer and witnessing some genuine tears encouraged me to give thanks to the responsiveness that was present that day.
This “responsiveness” is one that needs to be celebrated and also guarded. And my prayer is that Malaysian leaders especially pastors like me will continue to upgrade ourselves so we can not only be fellow travellers (and often cheer leaders) to them, but also play the role of spiritual directors/mentors, and catalysts for healthy theological reflection and compassionate praxis. This “responsiveness” will need to grow in due time with wisdom and maturity so our faith will last in the long run and continue to be relevant to our times.
I believe that was the purpose of the organizers of the above conference was towards this end. And I’m thankful to be given a chance to play my part in not just the intended purpose of the organizers but more importantly what I perceive to be God’s vision for the growth of a faithful community of Christ-followers in our nation. It’s got to start somewhere. That somewhere is often right before our eyes.