We almost didn’t attend.
It was Saturday night and we were heading down to Colorado Springs to visit with old friends, the Exners. We thought we’d skip out of Campus Crusade’s 60th Anniversary celebration at Moby Gym and arrive at the Exners at a more decent hour and we wouldn’t miss anything we couldn’t watch later on video. Then someone reminded us that the introduction of the new staff–everyone who had come to work for Campus Crusade for Christ since the last staff conference in 2009– would be welcomed to the new Cru family.
It didn’t seem like such a big deal to me, we had the commissioning ceremony following New Staff Training last September when we were in Orlando. It was a small gathering with an oath and certificates; it seemed adequate. We’ve celebrated graduations and ordinations and commissionings and now even a wedding ceremony. We figured that amidst 5,000 Cru Missionaries, two wouldn’t be missed as they headed south–and we wouldn’t miss much.
Then a new friend, Karen, who has been on staff with Crusade for over 20 years told us that its her favorite part of the Staff Conference. And another friend from New Staff Training told us that she’d go to the “rehearsal” for us since we were in seminars and let us know where we had to be and when. No shorts, no jeans, nice outfit– it was beginning to feel like we should be there–so we thought we’d make a quick appearance and duck out as soon as “our part” of the evening was finished.
Well THAT didn’t work! The introduction of the new staff was held at the END of the night and we all sat on the lower level in front of God and Steve Douglass and General Oster and everyone. So, as the last set of worship songs began we were asked to assemble in the bowels of Moby Gymnasium and make our way towards the stage. New staff members from Korea were in front of us and young people from Campus Ministry were behind, but we old folks kept up, following the pack who had attended the rehearsal. We were behind the stage and waiting, not so quietly, when the music quieted and Bob Horner, the Master of Ceremonies announced our arrival.
As we began to move forward to walk across the stage, the cheering began. The stagehands clapped as we climbed the steps. The worship team clapped and cheered as we wound our way past the guitars, drums, and keyboards. As we crossed the stage our images filled the jumbotrons that just recently had shown the faces Francis Chan, Steve Douglass, and Josh McDowell. And the cheering continued. Rick and I walked across the stage, down the stairs, and by the front row of guests. I held Rick’s arm as he landed a HIGH-5 from Vonette Bright, the 85 year old widow of Bill Bright! Judy Douglass caught my eye and smiled; we’d just been in a seminar together that afternoon. And from the far back left of Moby, section M (for Military Ministry) whistled and hooted along with the 5,000 missionaries who are sold out to Win, Build, and Send for Jesus.
As the new staff continued streaming for a least 15 minutes, the cheering continued. Finally all of us were seated and the final prayer over us was given and we were free to go! It was all a little hokey, but you know, it was really great too!
I don’t have a lot of experience in the spotlight–at least not voluntarily. I save that stuff for Rick most of the time. And since we haven’t officially accomplished much yet, it seemed a bit odd to be cheered as were were. But there was something inspiring about the whole process that made me think of two things.
First I thought of Hebrews 12:1–I actually sang it to myself thanks to GT and the Hale Express—“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” All of these fellow staff members, fellow believers, the body of Christ were cheering us on, expecting God to do great things through our service and ministry, welcoming us to share in His suffererings and His promises! Wow. What if we all were always aware of the “cloud of witnesses,” those who have gone before us who watch and cheer us from the heavenlies, wouldn’t that be inspiring?
I also thought of the movies and news reports I’ve seen of the men and women of small towns (Bangor, Maine) and big cities (Dallas, Texas) who band together in airports at all hours of the day and night to welcome home our troops. They cheer in the airports and the parking lots and they shake the hands of those who have sacrificed for our good and for the good of a people who sometimes don’t seem to appreciate them. President Bush and vets and former war protesters wait quietly in terminals across the nation to pay honor to our Heros who have come home. Pretty amazing country we live in, isn’t it?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Hebrews 12:1 NLT
Does anything hinder you from running the race for His glory and pleasure?