(My apologies for making you wait for part two.)
The conference started Monday afternoon. Our main speaker was Tex Williams, who is the director of World Bible School. He brought us several great messages during the week, about a variety of topics. After his first message and some orientation, we had dinner and spent the rest of the evening meeting new people and reconnecting with old friends.
I’m not going to go into what we did every day, but for those of you wondering what we actually did all week, the daily schedule was:
Message from Tex
Message from Tex
I enjoyed the classes but for me the greatest part of the conference was getting to talk to all the other missionaries. We had met most of them before but this was a new opportunity—a chance to visit with them as colleagues. It was a blessing to be able to talk to teams that have been here for years about how hard the first year or two is. Think about the first couple of years of marriage: people warn you it’s hard, but once you’re actually married, you are able to relate to what they’re saying, learn from them and be encouraged by them. And that’s what it was for us. A chance to hear someone say, “Yes, what you guys are going through is normal,” “Here’s something you can try when that happens,” and “Don’t worry—it gets better!” Don’t get me wrong—we didn’t spend the whole week in counseling. I also enjoyed spending many hours playing cards with the other women, staying up into the wee small hours of the night.
The other invaluable part of the week were the worship times. I can’t tell you how hungry I was for worship in a large group. In English. Russ got to lead singing a couple of times which was also a blessing. I know he misses doing that (and I miss hearing him do it).
Thursday night was a highlight of the week. Georgia planned a luau-themed banquet. It was a blast. We decorated the hall and gave everyone leis as they came in. Several of the men participated in a hula competition that I am sure everyone will remember for quite some time. Another hysterically funny game was Pass the Banana. We had been looking for luau-themed games online and found this game, only it was using coconuts. But we were in Belo, and coconuts were scarce, so somehow we decided to use bananas. We split into five groups and started playing hot potato with the bananas. In my group, the game evolved and we started throwing the banana across the circle. I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but bananas aren’t a very hearty fruit! After a round or two, we were throwing mush at each other. Fortunately, there was a huge centerpiece made up of fruit so we had an unlimited supply of bananas! I think we ended up using nine or ten bananas. It was absolutely disgusting (we were all coated in banana slime) and incredibly fun. In the end, it came down to me and Randy. We joked that we would determine the team budget based on the outcome. (Thankfully I won!) All the prizes were food items from the US.
Friday was a day of goodbyes and long rides. We were on a flight home with the Porters at 9:55 PM. We shared the van to the airport with a couple of other families. The van ride was bumpy to say the least, and Russ and I affectionately refer to the ride to the airport as “Puke Fest 2006”. But somehow everyone made it to their flights on time and we got home, safe and sound at about 11:30 Friday night. We holed up for the rest of the weekend, recovering from the week.
We are so thankful we got to go to the Missionary Conference and are already looking forward to next year’s conference in Porto Alegre. In the meantime, we have many new friends around the country to keep us encouraged.