Let me back up a little bit to the first ACFW conference I attended back in 2005. I signed up for an intensive critique workshop led by Gayle Roper. Gayle, multipublished author and mentor extraordinaire, asked us to submit a synopsis and the first twenty-five pages or so to the other seven who were in the group about a month before the conference. We critiqued each other’s work and then took a day (more or less) to discuss the critiques during the workshop. Of that group, six are still heavily involved in ACFW: Camy Tang (2005 Genesis award winner and current Genesis Contest Coordinator), Linda (Arkansas Area Coordinator, dual-category Genesis finalist) , Rachael (Genesis winner in the Young Adult category), Evelyn Ray (who manned the bookstore during the conference and challenged me to enter the Genesis contest next year), Cynthia Ruchti (uber conference choir director, winner of the ACFW Special Service award and amazing woman in general) and me (ACFW Carolina Area Coordinator). Gayle has had such an influence on all of us. Thanks, Gayle, for all your guidance, encouragement and support.
I could name names forever, but let me just say that I am so blessed to be in such an organization with so many fine writers who have a heart for Christ. The worship sessions alone were worth the trip. There were so many stories of how people felt oppressed or had left crises at home before coming to the conference. And there were so many ways the Lord ministered during the singings, listening to the speakers, while being prayed over or just in general conversation. Here are a few examples:
One writer, Sharon Hinck, said she came to the conference feeling like a pheasant that had been shot. (Sharon is from Minnesota and she told me that when you hunt ring-neck pheasant, you use a shotgun.) She felt like she had little holes all over her from critics, detractors and even those who called for boycotts of her Christian sci-fi/fantasy. But when she left, Sunday afternoon, each of those little holes had been healed. This wasn’t accomplished in one “Ah-ha!” moment, but with a word of encouragement from an attendee, a point made during a workshop or even through a worship song. But, the Lord saw fit to heal those wounds and restore her so that she could continue her journey. Isaiah 53:5 says, “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
Here’s a personal observation of the Lord’s sense of humor: I am afraid of flying. Well, not really afraid, I just don’t like landings, taking off or turbulence. You see, I made the mistake of taking a ride with my husband and his flight instructor in a small Cessna 172 – while they practiced stalls! If you don’t know that term, this means they point the nose of the plane up and climb until it starts to fall out of the sky! Obviously, it’s very important that pilots learn how to pull a plane out of stall. But did you know that if you sit in the back seat during these practice, you can’t hear the conversations that the pilot and instructor are having? Nope, all I heard was the stall alarm BEEP-BEEP-BEEPing while my stomach was flip-flip-flipping. ARGH!
Anyway, back to my story: on the way out to Dallas, a young man in uniform (dark pants, white shirt with stripes on his shoulders) sat beside me. Since I don’t fly very much, I asked him what he did and he said he was a first officer (sorta like a co-pilot?) for another airline! We talked about flying and he kept me fairly calm the entire flight.
On the way home, I thought that I’d be OK. That is until we ran into some turbulance. I weakly laughed and told my seatmate that my husband had asked me whose arm I was going to claw since he wasn’t going. That’s when he told me he was a pilot and that I needed to have faith! Yup, our loving Father put a Christian pilot (who was also a saxophonist for a mega-church near Dallas) in the seat next to mine. Don’t you know He had a chuckle when He planned that!
The songs we sang were such a blessing! Rachel Hauck (worship leader), Gail Sattler (bassist), my buddy Cynthia, Annette Irby, and Dawn Kinzer were simply amazing in the way they led the worship services. We sang songs like “Favorite One,” “Blessed Be the Name” and so many others that just touched my heart. At the final service, Pam Myers performed a mine/signing to Ken Medema’s “Moses” that was so inspiring. And then Cynthia led the choir (I got to open my mouth and make a few joyful noises with them) in singing, “Be Still and Know That He is God.” Ahhhh!