Because I read a lot last year, I could write a lot. I had a personal target on the number of blog hits, and thanks to the endorsement of some popular friends, I surpassed that target by a few hundreds.
I write to clarify my own thought process. This blog, for example, is a repository of random reflections, and serves as a personal record of life events, sort of speak. I’m always thrilled when people can resonate with what I write—an added bonus, in my estimation.
I did two series in 2012 that I thought were definitive in terms of my worldview and perspective. One was on humanity, on being human, and being a global citizen, titled “A Child of All Nations,” and the other was a series of personal testimonies and how I perceived my life thus far, “This is My Story”. I was proud of these series, not because they were groundbreaking or anything, but because they represented the culmination of thought processes that had been simmering for a while. The posts associated with the two series are listed here.
What I’ve observed in this writing experience is that the more personal I make the piece, the more popular it tends to be. Which is a bit strange for me, since I’d rather people be interested in my thoughts than in my life.
So I was particularly happy that The Education of Jesus Christ was the most popular post last year, again thanks to friends’ endorsement, because it encapsulated some of the most mind-blowing things I had reflected upon. The post was not about me; it was about Jesus.
I’ve been an attendee. I’ve been a volunteer. Now I reflect on another role: a seminar presenter.
But before that, some other highlights from GYC:
Star struck… by Dr. Hasel | Adam Ramdin’s Sabbath sermon – simply awesome | David Shin’s last evening devotion – de-romanticizing revolution | Sam Bonello’s plenary session – Sam and Katie have got to live one of the most interesting lives in present-day Adventism | Team Revolution’s 5k | Networking with Adventist engineers.
1. Size Matters
I had never in my life felt so short as when I stood in front of a long and full room for my first seminar. Some 230+ people came, most likely because of Adam Ramdin’s—with whom I co-presented the seminar—fantastic sermon earlier that day (but they saw me instead, ha!). Perhaps also, the topic of the seminar—Knowing and Living God’s Will for My Life—simply scratched where it itched, especially for this teenagers-to-young-adults age group.
I felt a little overwhelmed during the first session, since I imagined there would only be a few rows of people. I prepared materials for that audience size, which was what I was used to with ANEW or other ministry events. It ended up being more serious than I thought it would be, and upon reflection that day, I had to change certain things for the 2nd and 3rd seminars to make them more conversational.
I couldn’t really articulate why, but basically with the size of the audience and the layout of the room, I, as a speaker, needed to adjust the content of my presentation, delivery, posture, and voice, to engage the audience effectively (measured somewhat by gut feeling). I don’t think I could’ve realized that had I not been in this situation. Lesson learned.
2. A Piece of Me
I was debating whether or not to include a personal life experience for the last seminar to illustrate a point. I did, and I think it helped make the point. I learned that as a speaker, it wasn’t enough to present materials; I had to give something of myself to the presentation.
The personal touch, the personal signature, is something that makes a presentation different because it is person A who gives it instead of person B. It’s not a matter of originality or of the vanity of being different, but it’s a matter of God’s individualized calling: there’s a reason why God calls A for a specific task.
The giving of oneself is a hard thing to do. It takes vulnerability, a little courage, and lots of prayer. But ministry is about being vulnerable, and I love this quote:
Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it… Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 190.
3. Give What You Can Give
I’m not a seasoned speaker. I didn’t have much material that I could pull out from to talk about following God’s will. In fact I had never spoken on the subject before. Preparing a 3-part seminar was already a stretch, and I recycled some materials too.
It’s hard to answer the question, How did the seminars go? I honestly don’t know. I hope they helped some. I hope that the seminars provided a venue where the Holy Spirit could speak to people. It was not so much what I said, but how the Holy Spirit made application to the hearts.
Coming out of the last seminar, I had this thought: I gave what I could give. It’s up to God what He would do with it, but I offered these presentations as my offering to Him.
When I first started coming to GYC, I would remember every message, every speaker, and every conviction felt during each session. I would even remember who sang which special music for which evening. I learned so many new things, heard so many fresh thoughts that I had never heard before. My hungry and ignorant soul needed those sermons.
But if you’re like me and will be attending your n-th GYC conference this year, you may have more difficulty in remembering the messages you heard in previous GYCs. It takes me a few minutes now to distinguish between GYC 2008 and 2009, and I honestly can’t remember what happened in 2010. The conferences, plenary sessions, and workshops blend together in this one big blob of memory where I picture multitudes of people entering and exiting the auditorium.
If that is so, I want to suggest that listening to 7 sermons straight each day may not be your greatest need in coming to GYC. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t come, though. I’d like to submit that your greatest need may be to serve others at the conference and volunteer.
Early this year I wrote about my volunteering experience at GYC 2011, about how much fun it was. As a result, I couldn’t attend most of the sessions and seminars, and I remember almost nothing from last year. But I assure you, I was spiritually fed and refreshed.
If you have never volunteered at GYC, here’s my attempt to canvass you to do it this year.
First, you get to work with people who are like-minded and passionately determined to give the best for God. The resonance in thought, feeling, and mission is at a level you will rarely see elsewhere (and if you’re in a secular environment – never). As a result, the kind of synergy in teamwork that takes place is simply invigorating.
Second, you get to be involved in a short-term project that will very likely end well, and with low chance of interpersonal conflicts because everyone is so nice. Even if there’s conflict, the prevailing custom is to be Christ-like. Basically, a happy ending is guaranteed and you will gain that rewarding feeling from a job well done.
Third, you get to appreciate the complicated orchestra that is GYC. The details that go into actualizing an event for 7000 people are simply astounding, and not one person involved in the project has superpowers. Have you thought about what goes into moving 7000 people from the auditorium to the dining hall without confusion? GYC happens because of individual contributions from young men and women whose lives have been touched by the Gospel. And THAT is simply amazing.
Fourth, you get to see how God covers glitches. Because there are so many pieces that need to come together, mistakes happen. And you get to practice that Christian love and humility you hear about in the seminars, because it may be that God covers some of the glitches through you. What about practicing patience during complaints when registration is down? These things do happen, because we’re imperfect human beings in an imperfect world.
The machinery that makes the conference happen is not faultless, but it so happens that God’s grace is enough to cover our–yes, all 7000 of us–shortcomings and weaknesses.
You may get sore leg muscles from running back and forth delivering water bottles. Or you may get blisters from rushing to print handouts for speakers. But there’s a storehouse of blessings that will not be unlocked until you are engaged in service.
“in our life here, earthly, sin-restricted though it is, the greatest joy andthe highest education are in service”(Education, p. 309)
So, volunteer! Just remember to do stretches each night and that blisters heal. But that joy of service will do something more lasting to your soul. See you in Seattle!