Merv Stoltzfus is the Conference Minister for Atlantic Coast Mennonite Conference.
While enjoying the MC USA Convention in Phoenix I met Earnest. It wasn’t intentional, it just happened. He was on my pathway or perhaps I was on his; Earnest was a concierge in the convention center. I noticed him numerous times during the week walking from my hotel to youth worship, and shot him a look. He called out to me one day inviting conversation. Apparently the “look” shot his way was a smile; he noticed a simple smile! We talked and I was reminded of the importance of what we portray on our face.
Earnest noticed something unique about this Menno group, a different spirit or attitude, quite noticeable regardless of age! He mentioned how impressed he was with our youth; respectful, kind and considerate. Adults as well shared a gracious spirit; he was impressed! Who were these people, what are they about, and what makes them different than the usual convention attendee? We talked…had an engaging conversation, and parted ways both feeling valued!
Our conversation prompted me to stop a few moments and consider why we have a convention and the value it creates among us. We gather every other year to worship together, learn how God is at work among us, socialize, meet old friends and establish new relationships. We have opportunities to be resourced and grow, times of discernment regarding priorities, purpose, and position. Personal positions are embraced, sometimes challenged; we strive to listen, value, and learn from the many voices. God is with us!
Once again the experience of convention was full of life and vigor. The warmth on our faces wasn’t the only warmth…it was hot! I love that we meet at the same location; youth and adults in the same space. There are different venues, but we have opportunity to be in the same space and it helps create identity. We desperately need these moments that develop identity. Our fast paced lives tug at us and so moments like the ones in Phoenix can provide a foundation, a grounding of whom we are and whose we are. Youth and adults return to their towns with stories of “God moments”; the inspiration of experiencing God in a new way, the joy of God at work in a friend or even someone unknown. We meet people who live in cities like Phoenix. They bless us and we attempt to bless them in the brief encounters of the week.
It is impossible to know the total impact of a week of convention, but I am most grateful for the labyrinth of life experiences filled with stations of God moments; God finding me in new ways, transforming life, filling it with memories that give hope. Moments that include a sea of faces at convention, persons encountering God who has found them, opportunities to anoint with oil persons whom desire God’s healing touch for the struggles of life. And, blessed by the diversity of persons, encountering a myriad of experiences, that create identity and a place of belonging. Truly God was and is among us…may our smiles continue to share hope with all whom we meet!