Posted by: ritagone | February 19, 2014

The Summit That Was


I told you all that I would be back in two weeks with some amazing stories of my trip to Ericeira, Portugal and Christian Associates’ Leadership Summit.

Words don’t usually fail me, but this time I think they might.  (However, notice that I will use words to describe events and feelings at the Summit anyway, because otherwise you would be reading a blank page and staring at the lovely picture of a street in the town of Ericeira in the blog!)

I went to the Summit with fairly high expectations, as you might remember from my last posting two weeks ago.  I was bringing my friend Iris, if you will recall, who had never been out of the U.S. and to whom the many CA people were just names on a page, not real people at all.  So along with all of my own expectations were my thoughts and concerns about Iris: how would she fit in, would she like the hotel accommodations, the town we were in, the program, and so on and so forth.  You know the feeling if you’ve ever traveled with someone else who you wanted desperately to have a good time, to share your beloved organization and friends and cohorts with in the hope that she would love it all too.  You’re basically traveling for two!

Mission accomplished.  I can safely say that.  Iris was welcomed, embraced by all who met her, and made to feel a part of the CA family.  She fit in effortlessly, because of who she is and because of who the CA tribe is.  I needn’t have worried.  By the time we flew home this past Monday morning, she was madly in love with so many of them, she was making her own plans to have a relationship with them separate from me.  And I am thrilled.

In fact, all of the guests to the Summit came not knowing how they would fit in, if there was a place for them at the table, so to speak, and if this was a group they could easily be a part of.  All of the guests left the Summit blessed and encouraged and feeling that they had made new friends and found a new home.  It’s not that we had a meeting telling the CA staff to be friendly; it’s just that the CA staff is friendly by nature.  No encouragement needed.  It just happens because that’s what they do and who they are.  Thankfully.  It’s what makes me love them so.

The weather wasn’t always great, sad to say, but that didn’t stop people from wandering around Ericeira, a beautiful, friendly little village or town, when it cleared up, as it often did throughout the day and evening.  And the program each day and every night was excellent, but in the end, it’s not the program that stands out.  It’s the people.  It’s Robin and Shannon and Vanessa and Dudley and Deborah and Ken and Wes and Cindy and Richard and Nick and Bethany and so many more that I can’t begin to name them all.  It’s being with them and knowing that you are among friends, among people so like-minded that you don’t have to fumble around for words to describe what you’re feeling.  They know.  And you know in return what is in their hearts.  That doesn’t happen in every situation.  So when it does, you treasure it.  You savor every moment and etch it into your brain and your heart so that you will be able to recall it when you need it and when you want it.

Because you will need it one day soon, when you’re feeling a little lonely and misunderstood.  When you’re feeling that no one around you “gets” what you stand for and why you believe what you do.

When I was in college, I decided not to join any sorority.  I didn’t care for the clannishness of those groups, the aura of superiority they proclaimed over one another, and certainly over those who weren’t sorority sisters.  I preferred to remain independent, free of all that snobbery and what I interpreted as pettiness.  Keep in mind that I wasn’t a believer back then, so I had no sense of community or belonging short of to my fellow English Lit. majors, dorm buddies, or anyone else with whom I happened to share something in common on a rather temporary, flimsy basis.

As I’ve grown as a follower of Jesus, I’ve come to appreciate more and more what it means to belong to a group in which you find your balance, your voice, your meaning as a person and as a worshiper of God.  CA is that group for me.  I love my church, I love my local friends, to be sure.  But my heart beats stronger and more steadily when I’m with CA people.

So the chance to spend almost a week with them overlooking the huge, crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Portugal was magical.  To share a cup of coffee, a meal, a worship moment, a speaker’s comments, a workshop, a walk in the village, a shuttle ride to the airport: how could you not love this?

This, in reality, is what made my experience at the 2014 Leadership Summit so significant, and something that I will continue to treasure in my heart for weeks and months to come.  And something that my friend Iris will use as a benchmark for a watershed change in her own life.

It is so good to be among like-minded people whose faces light up when you walk into the room, and who warm your heart when you see them too.

I hope you have people in your life who mean the same to you and who spark similar emotions of joy and welcome.

Everyone should.


  1. Well said…so glad we share a tribe! Love you!
    Julie Jones

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