August 23, 2004, 10:56 am
Filed under: uncategorized

Whew! Back home for a few days. Vegas was good – but extremely tiring. In the four days, we spent about 35 hours in session. I’m almost recovered by now, but I had to get up at 4am to take a friend to the hospital for a surgery today, so catching up is a challenge.

O.k., so there was some very cool stuff about the seminar I attended. It is a new training thing (this was the third time it’s been done) that will be done around the country by my denomination. Because I’m always a little wary of what the denom will come up with, I wasn’t expecting to be impressed . . . but in a lot of ways, I’m happy to report that I was pleasantly surprised. Especially with the degree to which there is an embrace of house church expressions as legitimate, healthy, and even superior to the institutional model at times. None of what was shared was really new to me, but I’ve never seen the official voices of the denom say it. Even better, there were a good number of folks in the training that actually seemed to be embracing it.

I did see some of the ugly side of the denom, in the form of some anal retentive traditionalists who would rather gargle Liquid Drano than admit that their way isn’t the only way. But for now, I choose to focus on the positive.

Here’s a cool story about a God thing that happened while I was there: I went to dinner one night with a new friend, Chuck, who works with a bunch of churches in northern California. We went to a dinner buffet at one of the hotels on the strip – we had been dropped off by another friend, and had planned to walk back to our hotel after dinner (it was about two miles away). While in line to be seated at dinner, we started chatting with this guy in front of us. Turns out he’s a lawyer from Italy, and he’s cruising the U.S. with an unlimited use Greyhound bus pass. Right before he gets seated, this lady behind us, whispers “You guys should invite him to have dinner with you.” Sounded good to us, so we sat down and had dinner with him. Sort of a Joan of Arcadia moment or something. Good times, though. We got to hear his perspective on American politics, the war, culture, and faith. We were able to share our simple approach to following Jesus too. The buffet wasn’t bad either!

After dinner, Chuck and I cruised the strip a bit, watched the fountain show at Bellagio, and began walking back to our hotel. Except that we didn’t know how to get there. We could see the hotel from where we were, but kept running into dead ends, railroad tracks, etc. We happened to get as far as the part of town where a bunch of strip clubs were. Taxi cabs kept pulling over and offering to give us free rides to the clubs – don’t know if they some sort of kick backs for that or what. We had come to another dead end at an intersection, and must have looked very very lost or something, because this lady who was stopped at the traffic light rolled down her window and offered to give us a ride. We said no thanks, but asked for directions to the hotel. She said, “You can’t get there from here. I’ve lived in this town for 47 years, and I can’t find my way around this part of town. Why don’t you just get in the car, and I’ll take you back the only way I know how.” So, we did. As we’re driving, she started telling us that she always gets lost in that part of town. So I asked her why she was driving there at 10pm. She said that she had been looking for her son, and had just found him at a crack house. Ouch. He’s been in and out of rehab a bunch of times, and this time, he’s not welcome back home. Again, ouch. She was pretty upset, and by the time we reached the parking lot of our hotel, it was pretty clear to Chuck and I that this wasn’t just a coincidental meeting. So we prayed with her, offered whatever little help and encouragement we could, and just let her vent. As we were getting out of the car, she reached into her glove compartment and pulled out a free dinner buffet coupon to the Rio, and offered it to us as a little thank you. I just smiled, and told her that she should use it herself, and while she was there, look up a guy I know – Joe Boyd – who’s an actor in a show at the Rio, and happens to pastor some house churches in Las Vegas. I don’t know if she did or will, but how weird is that? At the very least, I’m grateful that we were able to offer some encouragement and hope at a really tough time.

Two days later I got to offer encouragement to another lady. I was sitting in the hotel lobby reading, and she hobbled in and plopped down on the sofa next to the chair I was in. I looked up to give her a friendly smile, and immediately noticed that she was wearing a hospital gown. She said, “I just got shot.” Uhhhhhh, come again? Night club shooting. Innocent bystander. Her cousin had been shot five times. So I prayed for her, and tried to help her get to her room.

I almost started getting paranoid about who I might meet next.


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