Earlier this month I had the opportunity to travel out to St. Louis for The Navigators National Staff Conference. They only have one of these once every four years, so I really lucked out that my first year on staff happened to coincide with this event. There were around 1200 Navigator staff at the event each day at the Millennium Hotel. I had the privilege of hearing a lot of fantastic speakers such as Eddie Broussard, Brenda Salter-McNeil, and Bill Tell. We also got to hear a talk given by Alan Andrews, the U.S. Director, and Mike Treneer, the International President. I have pages and pages of notes from these talks that I haven’t had the time to properly digest.
Aside from the great speakers I had a few highlights from the conference that I’d like to point out. Each day there were workshops offered on a variety of topics that you could attend during the lunch hour. I chose to go to the ones being offered by NavPress. There was a workshop on how to get a book published, how to get a Bible study published and how to get an article published in Discipleship Journal or Pray Magazine. Now that I have this “insider information” I feel like I’m a little closer to getting published, but I’m still a long way from that day.
While in St. Louis I was able to reconnect with some old friends from FSU who have moved on, from NCP and from iNFO training. One of those friends was a man named Larry Hope who I met this summer. He is Nav staff in Chicago with the metro mission. The FSU Navigators are currently talking about partnering with the Chicago metro Navs for a spring break trip that will take our students up to Illinois for a week for a service project. It hasn’t been finalized yet, but it’s looking good.
I came back from this trip with a renewed sense of perspective. What we’re doing on campus is invaluable and absolutely necessary. The same goes for all the different Nav ministries. What’s more, not all laborers look the same. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the words of Alan Andrews: “Everyone who wants to play gets to play.” We all have a role in the Great Commission, no matter how we play the game.
This is my favorite memory from the conference. On Monday morning, my last morning there, I attended an all-collegiate breakfast event. For the second time this year I was able to get breakfast with Jim Downing, a 94-year-old Christ-follower who is known by all Navs as “the oldest living Navigator.” I sat to his right. Unfortunately for me, the man to his left was talking his ear off. I only got to ask the man one question before we started the meeting. So what did I ask? “What has God been stirring in your heart during the conference?” Yeah, I thought it was a winner too. He told me that his heart was in a constant state of rejoicing over everything that he saw. He told me that he was extremely impressed by the conference, by its high level of excellence and creativity. We began the meeting. The first thing we did during the meeting was sing a few songs. As we were singing the first song he turned me around (yes, he physically turned me around; he’s a strong guy for his age). We were at the front table, so when I turned around I had a view of the hundreds of collegiate staff singing. Then, with a big smile on his face and pointing out to the crowd, Jim said to me, “This is why my heart is rejoicing.”
One last note. I want to apologize to all the people I know who live in Missouri that I did not visit. In fact, I did not even let anyone know I was coming. I knew I wasn’t going to have any extra time while I was there. Maybe next time I’m in the area I’ll be able see you folks.