Thursday, February 4, 2010

Global Impact Missions Conference - St. Pete, FL

Twenty three hours of driving over 2 1/2 days brought us safely to Florida. But we were refreshed a bit on the way. Our children love swimming, and the Lord helped us find a hotel with both an indoor pool, and reasonable rates. So, after checkout in the morning we took time for a nice swim. The icing on the cake for Mom and Dad was the Jacuzzi, which felt so wonderful on travel weary bones and muscles. Tues. evening we arrived in time for a very warm welcome and a good Supper at the home of our long time friends and “adopted family,” Bruce and Karyl Kaufmann, and, of course, a good night’s sleep.

Coming back to Cornerstone Community Church in St. Petersburg, Florida has been a highlight for us. Steffi was very involved there when she first came to Florida. Later, during her seminary years, she did an internship there. And during Dean’s four years in Florida there was a lot of interaction with both teens and adults from Cornerstone through his involvement with various events and ministries. So Cornerstone feels like home.

The conference started early Wed. morning with Breakfast with the “Summer Club,” a ministry to seniors. Each of the missionaries had a chance to share briefly with this group with whom we would become much better acquainted throughout the conference. We have really come to appreciate the supportiveness of Christian seniors (in all of our churches) for the cause of Christ through missions. They are great people with hearts of gold and generous spirits. We also heard firsthand from Pastor Rex Bullock about his visit with missionaries Jack Munos and Katie Zook, who were pulled from the rubble of a building in Haiti and medivaced out, first to Guantanamo Bay, and then to Florida. They are recuperating well, and are both out of ICU now. But Jack lost his wife, Jeanne, in the earthquake, and two other short term missionaries, Merle West and Gene Dufour, were fatally trapped in the rubble, as well. The fact that Jack and Jeanne Munos were scheduled to be with us at the missions conference was an ever present and sober reminder of the tremendous toll this earthquake has taken, and frequent prayers went up for the missionaries and their families, our Haitian brothers and sisters, and their country.

Thursday’s main event was a “Heartside Chat” with the missionaries going to different homes and speaking to smaller groups. We enjoyed a good meal and great conversation with new friends at the Kaufmann home. Friday we were hosted at the church for a “Missionary Appreciation Luncheon,” and back again in the evening for a youth service. Saturday was a rather full day. Dean had the privilege of speaking to the Men’s Breakfast, and several of the men said they really appreciated what he shared, and were encouraged to pursue the dreams God has placed in their hearts. Also, a homeless man came in while we were having breakfast, enjoyed a meal, and stayed for the devotional. He asked for prayer to overcome alcoholism. Pray for J.D.

Later that morning and afternoon, each missionary or missionary couple were given time to share what God has been doing through their ministries, and in the evening we were treated to several songs by the choir from our Haitian church in Immokalee, FL. Then their choir director, who is a medical assistant, shared pictures and stories from his trip to Haiti shortly after the earthquake. He was an angel of mercy to several badly injured people. And the offering that evening went to help the Immokolee church with several projects in Haiti.

Sunday morning all of us participated in both services, and had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to a much larger audience. Between services we answered “Questions you’ve always wanted to ask a missionary.” We also enjoyed an inspiring and challenging message from Dr. Art Brown, the director of Free Methodist World Missions in the U.S. Another highlight for us was when award winning puppeteer Pam Lorenzo brought her puppets out of retirement to do a very creative rendition of “Please Don’t Send Me to Africa.” Pam is always a creative genius. But what made it more special for us was that Steffi worked with Pam and her puppeteers 19 years ago. It was working with the puppets, Sunday School, and Bible Quizzing programs in St. Pete that inspired Steffi to take such a keen interest in working with children and teens in Christian education.

Throughout the conference we thoroughly enjoyed making new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and sharing our mutual love for the Lord. We want to thank Cornerstone, its staff, and especially Pastor Lee Crist for organizing such a wonderful event.

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