I guess we've held everyone in suspense long enough. Dan, you've been so patient! Well, my husband Aaron and I just got back a few days ago from visiting City Church International in Hong Kong, and we're slowly recovering from the 12 hour time difference and an extremely long trip in a relatively short space of time. I've already written about the miraculous provision of God that got us there on Voice of Grace, my personal blog, if you're curious.
Our trip began on the morning of April 17th, when we set out by car with our 3 children to drive south for about 14 hours. We met up with Aaron's parents in New Jersey and spent the night in a hotel there (on them) and set out from there without children for JFK airport in New York City. Everything went quite smoothly once we finally found a suitable place to park our car and we were flying out by late afternoon on a 16 hour flight over the icy north. We arrived on the following evening and after finally getting through customs/immigration and hunting down our luggage we headed out to be welcomed by Ryan Rufus, who had been waiting patiently. We all recognized each other right away, which was good haha, and then he drove us to their apartment where we stayed up talking with him and Kylie for a couple hours before getting some sleep.
We were at home right away, and fell in love with the Ryan and Kylie and their 3 beautiful daughters. It was such a great time being with people who have such a similar understanding of grace, and I guess it makes sense since we've been listening to MP3's from the website for more than a year and a half. We really felt like they were long lost friends, they were so easy to be with. They also have an amazing testimony of how God brought them out of legalistic religious control into the freedom of the Gospel of Grace! And I think Aaron appreciated Ryan's late night sugar stash as well...
In the morning we piled into the car with Kylie and the girls to head to church. It was so weird to walk into the room where they meet and start being introduced to people with familiar names and voices, having heard them pray, or give prophetic words, or sing, or testify at some point over the time we've been listening! I can honestly say we were just as excited to meet these people as anyone else, part of the reason we decided not to try for the Grace and Glory conference in Sydney. We were there for the prayer time before the service, and Glenda came over to welcome us just as prayer was starting.
I was not prepared for how beautiful she is in person! She's certainly pretty in pictures I've seen but in real life there is a dynamic godly beauty that I have always been taught to strive for in certain past legalistic contexts, but didn't actually exist there. I guess I've mostly seen weak counterfeits of this kind of beauty, the kind that leave you feeling condemned and ashamed of how far you are from the 'standard', so it was refreshing to meet a real woman, ha!, real women (yes, there are more of these lovely ladies in the church, they are not an exclusive elite set of superwomen!) living in the grace of God and glowing with the unfading glory of the New Covenant. It's funny what seemingly small things make big impressions on me!
During the prayer time, there were 2 prophetic words about canaries (I believe one is on the MP3 for that Sunday), which I only mention because we'd been telling Kylie the story of how my sister rescued a canary from the streets of Toronto a couple of years ago and still has him. It was a little amusing that canaries came up in the prayer time!
Rob came over and met us before things got started as well. To me, one of the most surprising things about the whole experience was my complete lack of fear or nervousness. Normally I would be shaky and sweaty at the thought of meeting so many new people, especially people I admire so much. In the past growing up in the church I always put men/women in leadership up on pedestals in some strange way, so I was encouraged that maybe finally I'm growing up, learning that there really really is no hierarchy in the church!
This really is a great answer to something I've been praying about for a long time, the fear of man I lived under for my whole life could be debilitating at times (a speech in school would have me crying for hours before or after, and I actually missed up to 40 school days a year during high school as I would make myself sick with worrying that my teachers hated me). Though God has been setting me free a little at a time over the past years, this message of grace has brought a freedom I didn't even know was possible. Strangely, I think this is one of the more significant things I'm walking away with from this whole experience. We even got up in front of the church to give a brief testimony of sorts, and I actually spoke a couple sentences as well, seriously, you can listen, my voice wasn't shaking, that's a miracle! But there's more!
(I like to call this "Rob Dylan")
Rob preached an amazing and intense prophetic message (There's a Flood of Glory Coming, transcribed by Dan a couple of posts ago)complete with performance of a Bob Dylan song. We were sitting in the front row and it was almost too much for me at times, and I'm a pretty intense person myself. What I mean by too much is that I couldn't really take it all in at once, we still have to go back and listen to it again. So glad Dan transcribed it because I don't think I would even know where to begin with note taking! It was just so good to be there, though a bit like a dream, everything happened so fast. We got to meet a lot of great people afterward as well before heading back to Ryan and Kylie's.
TO BE CONTINUED....i promise