In about nine hours I'll be on a plane with my family headed to Orlando, Florida. I've been to Florida five times before - well, that is if you count layovers on my way to Jamaica. One of those was an over night layover. Does that count? Anyway, this'll be my first time spending a significant amount of time in the Sunshine State.
The reason for our visit is the 2012 Triennial Conference of North American Baptists. This is a conference held by North American Baptists ever three years, as indicated by its name. This will be the fourth Triennial Conference that I've attended over the years. The previous three I attended either as a teenager (and so went to the youth portion of the conference) or as a volunteer youth leader (and so also went to the youth conference). So then, this will be my first conference attending the main sessions and even the business sessions (lucky me).
The first Triennial Conference I attended was in, I think, Alberta Canada. A couple of unique things about this conference (at least things that stick in my memory) were that it marked the first time I ever raised my hands during a worship song. I remember having a lot of trouble with it. I felt like a complete phony doing it, and probably for good reason. I also remember that the speaker said that he was in "an intimate love relationship with Jesus Christ." Being a teenage boy at the time, my mind immediately went into the gutter and I remember chuckling at it: here was a grown man describing his relationship with Jesus as an "intimate love relationship." It was a concept that was totally foreign to me at the time. It's interesting to think back on my immaturity. To cap the trip off, the small group of kids that attended the conference got to be "bumped" from their flight on the way home. It was announced that the plane had been overbooked, and that anyone willing to give up their seat would receive a voucher from the airline for use on a future flight. We all called our parents and got the OK, and the airline put us up in a hotel for the night and paid us a few hundred bucks each to take a flight the following day.
My second Triennial Conference was as a 19 year old in Sacramento, California. What I remember about this conference most was two things: the speaker, and the day trip to San Francisco. The speaker was one Francis Chan, long before he had risen to notoriety on the international stage. In one of his messages, he quoted J. Vernon McGee, who said, "This is God's universe, so he does things his way. Now, you may have a better way of doing things, but you don't have a universe." This quote stuck with me since that conference, and it's been one of my favorites ever since. The day trip to San Francisco was memorable as well, if for no other reason than that it's a cool city to visit. "Cool" being the operative word, here. I remember being floored by how cold it was when I got off the bus and stood on the street corner in Downtown San Fran.
My third Triennial was held in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Not too much I remember about this conference, but that was probably because it was held two weeks before I was to be married. I suppose my mind was on other things.
So now my family and I will be flying down to Orlando, Florida tomorrow to attend this year's conference. From what I hear, the conference is only about half full, so that's kind of disappointing. Plus, I wonder who's idea it was to start the conference on July 4...in Florida, no less. Florida in July. I suppose the up side is that there won't be too many tourists. This is also a strange location considering that the majority of NAB churches are either in the norther and western portions of the North American continent. Oh well. I guess I can't complain too much about attending the conference for free and staying at the illustrious Peabody Hotel for absolutely nothing. All I have to pay for is my family's travel to and from the conference (which is no small expense, mind you). The speaker for this year's conference is once again Francis Chan. I'm excited to hear him speak.
Needless to say, we're a little nervous for the kids, as neither of them have ever flown before. We were in the backyard last night and a plane flew over our house. I told the kids that we would be in one of those planes in just a couple days. Han said, "I don't want the plane to come down." Smart kid. Although I did have to explain to her that the plane had to come down in order to land. All in all, the kids seem pretty excited about it.
So here's to safe travel and a profitable conference.