Posted by: ritagone | March 3, 2010

A Touching CA Moment

I am not usually a crier in public.  Through the years I’ve discovered the amazing truth that if I let go and really start to blubber, I may not be able to stop, and I’ll somehow wind up in the Guinness Book of Records as the woman with the longest timed crying siege.  Not to mention a massive headache.  So I tend to keep what the British still refer stoically to a “stiff upper lip,” clench my jaw tightly and keep the tears from flowing.

So when I tell you that at the last session at the recent Leadership Summit in Faro, Portugal, I lost it and literally wept into my tissue at the back of the room, you’ll understand that it was a pretty compelling reason for me to do so.

And here’s what happened:  throughout the conference, there was much made of the transition between Linus and Rob.  Rob spoke about it, Linus referred to it, we showed a video of the highlights of the January 18 board meeting and transition “ceremony,” complete with a funny lambasting of Rob at the end where he was accused of kicking and otherwise mistreating my dog Zuzu.  (It will be shown again this coming summer at the Connect in Germany in August.)

This Leadership Summit was Rob’s first formal event as CA’s new President, and he carried himself well.  This was Linus’ first formal event as CA’s “former” President, and he too wore the new title and new role with dignity and grace.

The last night was meant to formally thank Linus and Sharon for their decades of service to CA and to Jesus in Europe.  And who better to speak about that than a European couple — Stefan and Andrea Lingott — who have come to mean so much to the staff of CA because of their commitment to church planting and bringing the Kingdom into Europe?  They had actually asked if they could go up front and speak about Linus and Sharon, which is quite remarkable in itself, because they are normally a bit shy and not desirous of being up front.  Of course they were given permission to do this, and up they came to talk about what the Morrises meant to them.  Now, that alone got my tear ducts flowing.  Stefan is a stirrer; he likes to make sure things don’t run along “business as usual,” and you need to know that he has caused a bit of “trouble” among the leadership of CA with his questions and proddings.  All this is good unless you’re the one fielding his frustration and his passion and you begin to feel you’re being run over by a Mercedes truck!  And often in the past years Linus has been the one standing in front of that truck offering advice and wisdom and being patiently and gracefully loving toward Stefan.

So it was no small thing when Stefan stood there and asked for forgiveness for the times he seemed to push and poke at the leadership, particularly Linus.  It showed integrity and courage on his part, to stand in front of everyone and admit that he had occasionally been a pain.  But because of his influence and determination, the church in Germany is growing and multiplying and expressing itself in many ways to many young people.  (If you’re going to be a pain, be a pain for the right reasons!)

But the most touching part of all was when Stefan and Andrea invited all the Europeans in the room to come up front and gather round Linus and Sharon to pray for them and thank them for their faithfulness to Europe all those years ago.  A good portion of the audience got up from their seats at this invitation and circled the Morrises, tightly packed into a space, with their prayers in their native languages going up to the multi-lingual God they all worship and serve.  German, Russian, Lithuanian, Spanish, French, Dutch, Swedish: it was a veritable United Nations of language, all to the glory of God and in gratefulness for the work of Linus and Sharon.

Those of us who were left seated or standing in the ranks were touched and moved by what was going on.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house, but it was not a forced emotion; it sprang out of Stefan’s and Andrea’s desire to honor this man and woman who had meant so much to them and their ministry and focus.  It was about as organic as you can get in a session which is normally structured and planned and choreographed down to the last jot and tittle.

And it will remain for me the highlight, the image, of what the Leadership Summit 2010 was all about.  When the teaching is forgotten, when I can’t remember the layout of the hotel because I have been in six others since then, when the frustration with the Internet or the disappointment in the weather (expected to be warm and sunny but rainy and overcast instead) is a distant memory, I will remember the people I talked to and shared a glass of wine (or diet Coke) with late at night or during the breaks.

But mostly I will remember Stefan and Andrea warmly and quietly asking the Europeans to come together to honor Linus and Sharon in a way they deserve but don’t often receive.  And I’ll remember the sound of those prayers, prayers I didn’t understand but wept to hear.

And now we move forward with a new President, new events and projects on the horizon, and new challenges.

So if you’re reading this and even beginning to contemplate whether or not you might be able or want to attend the Connect Conference this coming August outside Frankfurt, Germany, might I suggest that you start praying about it right now, asking God to make a way for you to be there so that you can have your own cherished memory to take away into the future?

Regards, Rita

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