Friday, July 13, 2007
I am currently at the IFES World Assembly in Hamilton, Ontario. This gathering takes place every 4 years and it is always a privilege to attend. The Assembly rotates around different countries and continents and I was at the previous two events in Holland in 2003 and South Korea in 1999. Managed to have lunch with Auntie Ally in vancouver on the way over.
We have brought the biggest ever delegation from New Zealand. Val, Andy and I are here as staff, with Ian from the board member and four students; Elliot, Beeteng, Leesha and Jenny. I think we also have the biggest group of students from the 120 movements represented here. It is an investment in the future.
The first session started with a short memorial to Jim Berney, the retired former President of Inter Varsity in Canada, who died recently. I sat next to Jim on the last night of the World Assembly in Seoul and it was him who got me involved in the work in Canada for the few years after that. Jim emailed me shortly before he died to encourage us in New Zealand. I find myself thinking of Bob Horn and Nigel Lee who I also shared time with at IFES events, both of them have also died since the last assembly and both had spoken of visiting New Zealand to help and encourage.
The memory of those who have moved on is sweetened by the reality of those who are here. Every day I meet smiling faces of people I have known for as long as 20 years; men and women whom I have shared fun and danger with on every continent of the world. People who I do not see often but when I do there is an immediate connection. I have a strong sense of being among friends.
These friends share common vision and values and being with them is challenging and inspiring.
Tonight we heard from a Rwandan who grew up in his words “as an angry young Tutsi” having had his father killed by Hutu when he was 5. Later he was kicked out of school during second genocide in 72, lost his job at University in the 80s and saw the rest of his family killed in the genocide of 90s. IFES had offered him a sabbatical out of Rwanda after the genocide but he refused “If I do not share my peoples pain I cannot speak to them of the joy of the cross”. He spoke of the difficult of forgiveness and of telling those who had killed his family that God loved them.
Earlier we heard news of the work in Israel, started by John Woodhead and supported by Scottish C.U.s when I was a student. They spoke of how it would have been easier to have a separate Jewish and Arab work but that they had committed to continuing as they had been started as a movement uniting both together as a testament to the power of the gospel.
This unity is a foretaste of a greater unity to come. On that day men and women of every tribe and nation will worship together in the party that never ends. Some of these friends from the past may have not made it to New Zealand but they have already reached a better destination. Which is open to all not just the chosen people. (this sign is beside the bus stop at the university here!)
I am doing a Seminar on Saturday, taking part in a number of discussions and above all enjoying being with friends. Wish you were here. I wish Ailsa was here too but she is keeping the home fires burning.
Featured friends this time are the Stewarts. They have four children but I am pretty sure that is not Lizzie front left - unless she really is growing up quickly!