The metaphor for our first day in Atlanta, GA for the 59th General Conference Session of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was our journey to get there. Flying at 39,000 feet over the clouds, inside the Southwest Boeing 737 jet, I put my mind yet again into the question, "What does this General Conference session mean for me spiritually?" I had been praying about this matter for some days as this trip came closer.
Clarity came as we faced our traveling environment.
First, as we winged over Arizona the smoke of the huge fire that had been burning for several days rose up to meet us. The pilot informed us that the elements of this fire cloud had reached all the way to Chicago. Certainly life can become like a cloud of smoke--impossible to see through and seemingly choking off the friendly light of the sunshine. My desire for this General Conference session is to rise above the daily "smoke" and experience the inspiration that comes from worshipping together with believers from over 200 countries.
Second, periodically we heard our pilot share information about our progress towards the airport. Time of arrival, weather at our destination, and sites along the way. As a Seventh-day Adventist Christian it gives me enduring hope and meaning on life's journey to have the Pilot of our Church give us his Word as we wing to our ultimate spiritual destination. At General Conference Session in Atlanta I will be sitting with hundreds of delegates who, with me, both rejoice and cherish the "truth that sets us free." I shook hands and visited with the undertreasurer from one of the Unions in Africa. Our language, culture, and nationality differ. But the object of our faith is the same--my brother in Africa trusts the same Pilot as his brother in the United States.
Finally, as we drove into Atlanta on Tuesday night we literally ran into the worst thunderstorm we'd experienced in many years. Visibility was near zero. It lasted for mile after mile. What gave me encouragement in the storm was my wife, Jennifer, who calmly talked along with me and kept another set of eyes on the semi-trucks passing us by. It was just we two--but we were a little community going through a trial--albeit a short one. General Conference Session in Atlanta is the tangible evidence that we are a church community that spans continents and culture. Together with the Lord we can make it through the storms.
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