A long absence
I cannot recall the last international missions conference I went to. This is in part due to the brain’s recent lowered recall reflex, as much as due to a commitment made two decades back to reduce participation. International Conferences I have found, are programmed to tire one out: there is typical overload, from information to social interaction as well as the need to adapt to a new cultural way of life (even if it is the familiar feel of hotel and meeting facilities).
So maybe twenty years ago, with a new child to raise, I eschewed large meetings unless they were deemed essential to my personal or ministry growth. So, there was the one year we drove into Malaysia for the annual Singapore pastors’ gathering, with our then eight-month-old, and a bulging suitcase of diapers and even a tiny slow cooker to make meals for her (except, after preparing the potful of goodness, we removed the key card and came back to the room to find a pot of uncooked food).
It wasn’t this failure to feed said child a safe meal that brought about the conviction that large meetings had some severe limitations. I had been to enough of them to know the limitations of such gatherings (more on that later). Furthermore, in being home with a child day in and out, I had also developed an appetite for a slower appreciation of life, to learn to watch, wait, anticipate, and aggregate. When life seems mundane, one can slip into mediocrity, or seek glory in the tedium. The latter requires the mind to remain engaged in deep thinking, which requires serious intentionality and discipline — since there is no ‘program’ to follow as such. In the end, it helped me develop some serious thought and belief muscles.
But here I am, in Jakarta, a city I had not visited in thirty years. It looks a lot cleaner than I remember although the smell of sewage can still be pretty pervasive at times, especially when your hotel is along a major trunk road with a large drain running along its length. All of it is amply made up for by the friendly and helpful Indonesians.
A test of material
I was surprised to receive an invitation to attend and to submit a paper. Just as Providence would have it, I have been mulling on some material and it struck me that I…