We just got home last night and I finally feel settled into home again. I have loved on my kids a bunch, cleaned a little, did lots of laundry from our trip, and cooked a meal...well 3 if frozen pancakes & Kraft mac & cheese count. :-) I almost feel like I don't even know where to being when I write about our trip to Exodus because it was such a mind altering experience for me.
The week before we left I kind of felt overwhelmed with the responsibility that we had to go and minister to people that had experiences and baggage that I could not relate with. I felt so uneducated. I felt scared, anxious, nervous, down right stupid because how could I possibly be used to minister to them? Would they think less of me because I have never struggled? Would they judge me because I am not like them and think I am judging them in their sin? How could God possibly use me? I felt kind of isolated in my thinking. Bill was ready, pumped and couldn't wait to go. Yeah, I was excited to go. I was anxious to see what God was going to do but I was also terrified. But hey as far as I knew of we would just be doing registration, greeting people, checking tags and what not. No big deal.
Well, once we arrived in California we waited for our rental vans to show up so we could go to the hotel and check in and get settled before we headed out to a nice dinner at P.F. Changs before the crazy week began on Wednesday. We enjoyed our evening out at this nice outside mall where we did a little window shopping, followed by dinner and then returned to our hotel.
Wednesday morning I woke up at like 4:30 and tossed and turned until 5:15 when I finally decided to get up. The time change was kicking my butt. It was really 7:15 here in TX when I got up. So, I got into the word, worked out and then got ready to head out to breakfast at IHop with the crew and go to Concordia University where we would scope out our room where some of our meeting were going to be and start our volunteer training. Upon arrival we thought our training was at 1:00 which we soon found out it was actually at 11:00...phew at least we made it! So, we all got trained and then got into our positions for the night. Instead of registration (where we thought we would be) Jessi & I paired up and were greeters at one end of the breezeway from 1:30-7:00 PM. We did stop and have dinner where I was able to meet 2 girls who sat at the end of our table. So unsure of what to say. It's not like I can ask why they are there. That would be kind of dumb. Even though not everyone who does attend struggled. In fact one of the girls I met that night didn't struggle; just there to obtain information for her possible ministry opportunity. I also didn't want to miss out on an opportunity that God would have planned for me to minister to someone. So I spoke up, engaged conversation, and enjoyed meeting 2 nice ladies. Then we went to the evening session. That evening was also our first night of Steadfast which is where married couples could come and enjoy a snack and get to know some of us from Stonegate and other married couples who had a spouse who was struggling with SSA. Being unsure of how many people to expect the first night we had a great turn out. We would do Steadfast each night from 9:30-10:30ish. We were also going to do some breakout sessions on Thursday & Friday from 3-5.
This was it....no registration...no casual greeting....I was going to be in contact with them. So insecure in what to say and how to relate I enthusiastically greeted as couples came in and directed them to our refreshment table. I felt scared. I felt pressure to make my mark. To not miss out on my ministry opportunity. So, I finally engaged in a conversation. Never asking which partner struggled just simply talking about where they were from, if they had children, what they liked to do...etc. Okay, so it wasn't so bad. Bill on the other hand is the outspoken, funny guy who people love. I wasn't worried about him figuring out his part. Before the night ended we were engaged in wonderful conversations and met lots of new friends. Our first night came to an end and we collapsed into bed around 11:30 at night to be up and in the lobby by 7:45 the next morning. I so hoped the time change would adjust quickly because if not I was going to be tired!
I slept good and got up early on Thursday and praised God for Starbucks in our lobby. A grande caramel macchiato with fat free milk is what kept me going all day. We got to the college in time for some breakfast and then went to the general session that morning. Kathy Koch, founder of Celebrate Kids, Inc. spoke that the first morning session. Kathy was such a down to earth, funny speaker who totally felt the same way I did when she spoke at her first Exodus event...how could a non-struggler possibly relate? What could we possibly offer them? Well, she offered a ton of encouragement and insight to my non-struggling soul. Like she said God is God, Sin is Sin... We all have issues. It's the same playing field. God is love! I have my own sins and who am I to classify them? That is my own sin! Just as much as homosexuality is...so is gossiping, over eating, adultery, coveting, pornography, drug abuse...Sin is Sin and God is God, Period!
"For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is a guilty as a person who has broken all of God's laws" James 2:10
Thursday morning we took a trip to Sam's to pick up more food for our evening Steadfast as well as flowers and stuff for our banquet that night for all of the Steadfast attendees. So, during the 3-5 Steadfast breakout session Jessi, Jake & I decorated the tables for our banquet that evening. Bill got paired up with Nita (another lady on the team) to lead one of the small discussion groups. I was kind of relieved it wasn't me since I was so...well you know...scared. Once again, how could I relate? Well, we decorated the tables and finished up and headed back to our room to see that the breakout session just ended and the small discussion groups were just being divided out. Oh no....I was going to have to actually engage them on a more personal level. Well, I thought I would just sit in Bill & Nita's group and take in the discussion and maybe I would feel more comfortable to interject here and there. Well, as Bill started asking the questions he decided that we would ALL ANSWER them by going around the circle. I was panicking inside...what if I say something offensive? What if it comes out wrong? What if I turn red? What if I can't get enough air? Yikes! We started going around the circle and then the next person went, then the next, the next and then it was my turn. I was so nervous and I answered the question and I don't even think my voice quivered, haha! That wasn't so bad as I looked to Bill for a little support. If anyone knows me I am not a public speaker, talker, entertainer....I am a behind the scenes kind of gal! Question number 2, phew it was over! I felt like I connected with each person in our group despite my nervousness. Once again I was reminded that these are just people journeying through life and their struggle just so happens to be SSA. It breaks my heart that the church ostracizes them like they have leprosy or something contagious instead of embracing them, guiding them and loving them. Sin is Sin! Who are we as the body of Christ to expell them from the church because of their SSA? Seriously? Don't we serve a mighty God? A God who heals? A God who is a miracle worker? A God who loves each one of us? He is the great provider & is faithful!!!
Instead of eating in the dining hall for dinner we all joined together and ate in the tent and had a catered meal. It was so nice. We sat at a table with a couple that was around our age. We were joined by a couple dating and 2 other guys...one who came to the conference alone and the other was just at the banquet alone the rest of his friends were resting. It was such a fun time! We laughed so much and just enjoyed each other's stories and experiences. I think we have swayed them all into attending CPM at Stonegate next Spring. I sure hope they do! I cut out early to man my post at the bottom of the stairs in the general session area as I greeted our guests and checked tags before each session began. We concluded the evening with a Steadfast fellowship time.
Friday morning was much like Thursdays where we attended the sessions and then took a little break and headed back to that outside mall for a bit. We headed back for 2:45 so we could set up refreshments for Steadfast and then Patrick spoke from 3-4 and we had our small discussion groups from 4-5 and today was so much better. It felt easier since we had built relationships with some of the couples and we felt like we were actually connecting with them on a little deeper level. It was so great to see how God was wrecking our perspectives and expectations and drawing us closer to the truth. We were able to experience God's true, all forgiving love! We saw it work in the lives of those around us. We are all just broken people. We were blessed out by the strength people had to expose their innermost weakness and expound upon the hurt and struggles they had and to see wives standing next to their husbands supporting them in their weakness was amazing. We saw such boldness & courage. We were once again reminded that sin is sin no matter what and that we all stand broken before the Lord with our sins exposed no matter what they might be.
"If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness." 1 John 1:8-9
I was super excited about Saturday...not so much for having to BE AT the school by 6:30 in the morning! Needless to say it was going to be a long day. Today was going to be Love Won Out! It has so many general breakouts for people who just want to gain knowledge and become more educated. They also have sessions for those struggling. I was especially looking forward to one titled Practical Tips For Reaching Out! Well, we kicked off the morning with greeting and directing people to registration and then we went to the first half of the general session. Part way through the second half we went and got all of our left over snacks from Steadfast and brought them outside the conference center to pass out to the guests for free. For lunch part of our team went out while Bill & I stayed and had a wonderful bagged lunch and went to that breakout session. Some of the main points I learned were this:
- As believers we are uneducated and often times ignorant to the heart of Christ
- The opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality it is holiness
- 5 Common Myths
Homosexuality is a choice
Homosexuality is all about sex
Homosexuality is determined by one thing
The opposite of homosexuality is heterosexuality
The opposite of homosexuality is heterosexuality
- As believers we need to evaluate our attitude
- Just Come-don't we minister to them, too?
- Cliche-lose them they sound condescending
- Evangelize-what has God brought you out of?
- It's all about relationships-be vulnerable.
- Freedom for others may look different from what you envisioned.
- Finally, have a plan. We need to reach practically.
After our breakout session & lunch I went & heard Nancy Heche speak. It was a great! We waited for everyone to be done and then headed back to our hotel and got ready for a relaxing evening out on Huntington beach before we caught our plane the next morning.
I hope you made it to the end I know it was very lengthy but God truly gave us a new respect & insight for Exodus. I learned some of my own weaknesses and struggles and learned what I need to work on. I also learned how to relate and that we don't have so much different after all. It's my own critical, judgmental, uneducated spirit sometimes that makes me ignorant. Praise God that everyday is a new day!
"So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor." James 4:7-10