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LIFE 2007 – Three Quick Glimpses

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When you hear vintage C&MA stories—the ones that seem legendary about how people gave sacrificially and responded overwhelmingly—what do you think? What do you feel? Do such stories make you wonder why we don’t see God move the same way today?

What we experienced at LIFE 2007 was in the same vein as those Alliance stories we so often read. I am not saying that this conference was better or more spiritual than past conferences but that the type of responses seen in students were . . . different.

Three quick glimpses should give you a feel for what I am talking about. First, on Thursday night a special service called Project 132 was presented: one focus (Africa), three hours of entertainment and interaction and two ways to engage.

The night was moving, and on Friday morning, we presented the LIFE attendees with an opportunity to give to support C&MA work in Africa. We encouraged each youth ministry to take its own offering and present it Saturday morning during our main session. Our only challenge: give sacrificially.

On Saturday morning, when everything was counted, more than $117,000 was given. As a point of reference, the largest one-time offerings taken during LIFE conferences in the past were in the $40,000 to $50,000 range. What’s more, included in this offering were watches, engagement rings, iPods and the like. Listen to what one youth worker wrote:

The way you guys took the offering was awesome! It was great to come together as a youth group and talk about what we should give. I challenged my students about giving sacrificially. We had planned to go to Disney World for three days after the conference and when we talked about giving sacrificially, I challenged them to consider sacrificing their trip to Disney World in order to give the money to the African ministries. They were completely shocked and conflicted. I gave them the option of sacrificing even just one day at Disney World, which would be about a $1,000. In the end, they chose not to sacrifice those days, but once we counted the money, we ended up collecting more than $1,800 for the offering. The kids gained a totally new understanding of what it meant to give sacrificially. Outside of the $1,800, people gave gift cards, euros (I had a guy going to another country after the conference) and anything of any value. In the end, we gave almost as much as if we had sacrificed two days at Disney World. I was so proud of them and was glad you chose to do the offering in this way.

Enough said! Second, we hosted what may have been the first missionary “parade” during a LIFE conference. The response, again, was nothing short of overwhelming. I don’t think the students had any idea the C&MA was so huge overseas. After 10 minutes of seeing missionaries walk around the auditorium carrying flags from countries all over the world, we stopped to honor their commitment and sacrifice. The students gave the missionaries a five-minute standing ovation. In fact, dozens of students spontaneously left their seats to hug missionaries and say “thank you.” As the program leader, I watched with awe as I realized students’ heart for the unreached people of the world, as well as their heart for the men and women of The Alliance who are on the front lines of reaching these people. Again, the words of a youth pastor might help you glimpse the power of that moment:

When the flags, country signs and missionaries were parading through the convention center, we were ALL overwhelmed. I was crying like everyone else. I think it really gave students a tangible connection to the missionaries in the field and it made missions, and ministry in general, a real thing for them to consider for their lives.

Again, enough said! Finally, on Saturday morning, when a call for full-time, vocational service was extended, more than 1,200 students responded. Never in the past have we seen a response this size. Even more amazing was the fact that the call to full-time, vocational service was so clear and challenging. There was no “if you would consider full-time service.” Instead, it was “if you believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that God IS calling you into vocational ministry.” Yet in spite of the intense call, once the invitation was made, the floodgates opened and students poured into the aisles.

So there you have it—my attempt to explain the unexplainable. These three glimpses—true sacrificial giving, a heart for the unreached people of the world and a radical response to serving Jesus Christ—give me the feeling that vintage Alliance stories might be vintage no more.

May it be so!

Past Alliance Life Issues

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