Tag Archives for " Mission Conference "

2 It was an International Experience

How do you transform a gymnasium into an International Market Place?

Is it even possible? Why would you want to? They say, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ so I will show you with a few photos, “how” we did just that. And the “why”? It was our church’s (Pine Castle United Methodist Church) annual mission’s weekend called GIC or Global Impact Celebration. Kelly and I co-chaired the event with our Missions Pastor and many, many other volunteers.

Friday night was to be a world affair banquette with the movie “Peace Child,” and Sunday would feature our guest speaker, missionary and author – Don Richardson, followed by an Expo display of the missionaries and outreach ministries which our church supports.

First the expo draping went up to help disguise and soften the gymnasium walls. Tables were skirted in preparation for the Sunday Expo and stored to be used on Sunday. (Thanks Jeff for providing these for us!)

Backdrops from the Children’s department added color and definition to our ‘international’ theme. (Lee holds the ladder for Stephaney.)

Round tables were decorated (by a small army) for the banquet (thanks to Eleanor and her team). We were going for a South American ‘fiesta’ look with bright colors that popped, and colorful helium balloons to fill the dead space above the tables.

The perimeter of the gym would feature the International Market Place, displaying cultural artifacts and trinkets from around the world. Here Connie and Jeanette discuss how the Africa market will look.

An African ‘Safari’ look was the finished product (thanks Jeanette).

From Africa we transition into South America. Bright, happy and fun colors draws one into this village scene that could easily be Mexico or even Guatemala.

South America came alive thanks to Kim, Sondra & their team.

Next, we move into our Asian market (above and below photos).

This area included , China, Thailand, Myanmar and the country near and dear to my heart, Indonesia (two photos above), and the Marshal Islands & Japan (as seen below)

The Island Nations (above)

Stephaney and I are smiling because the work is done and we still have a half hour to change our clothes before the banquet starts.

Now, just add ‘people’, and let the festivities  begin.

Volunteers like Marilyn and Liz served close to 200 people.

Our school chef, Patrick (in the black hat), outdid himself with an international meal that was amazing…from the pita bread & hummus to the couscous and adobo chicken with rice and more.

With the tables cleared, it’s now time to “let the program begin”. Kelly was the MC and the program began with a dramatic video of “Peace Child.”

It’s Don Richardson’s story of a primitive tribe of cannibals in Irian Jaya (Papua, Indonesia). The Sawi people honored & practiced treachery and betrayal and thus in the Gospel story (to Don’s dismay), chose Judas over Jesus as a hero. But hidden within their cultural, Don found a practice that would point them back to Jesus. It was the tradition of a ‘Peace Child.” When the chief’s only infant son was exchanged with the warring tribe for peace, Don was able to point them to Jesus, the perfect Peace Child. (Link to YouTube clip of Peace Child)

On Sunday, the round tables are replaced with the expo tables holding the displays put up by our missionaries. The missionaries line up in front of their tables waiting for the church members to enter.

Church members use their passports (found in their bulletin) to enter the expo and participate in the prize drawing later. They fill the aisles as they talk to the 40 some ministries attending and supported by PCUMC.

Some of our missionaries were unable to attend so church members volunteered to “represent” that person and share their ministry with others. Here, Jo shares with this couple about Suzanne’s work in Africa.

Our Guest Speaker, Don Richardson and his wife Carol join us at the Expo with their book table. (Books by Don Richardson: Eternity in Their Hearts, Peace Child, Lords of the Earth, Secrets of the Koran, Acting Without Agony and Unhidden)

And finally, a photo of Kelly standing in front of our Expo table, sharing about our ministry with fellow church member, Armand. (Kelly is wearing his Indonesian batik shirt and a black felt cap, or peci, as the Indonesians call it.)

Mission Accomplished

One of our goals was to create an atmosphere that would help make missions more touchable for the people.  The encouraging part was the great turn out of volunteers helping bring it all together.  It was a lot of work, but it was all worth it. It was a fun time for all.


With the start of a new year, many of us are reflecting on the past year as we look to ‘what’s next’. I’m thinking back over three main events from the last 3 months of 2009.

The first event happened in October when we broke our record for ‘the number of new missionary going through our training program in one year’.  Our 5th and last orientation program for the year had 29 new candidates bringing the years total to 158.

OCT COP 2009

The second event was hosting this group of pastors and church leaders (shown below) for our November Church Partner Forum.

Even though it takes a lot of hard work to put it all together, it’s one of my most favorite events. The positive response and feed back from the participants makes it all worth while.

Church Partner Forum November 2009

Church Partner Forum November 2009

The third event, that just ended on New Year’s Eve, was Urbana 2009. What? You’ve never heard of Urbana?

Urbana logo

Upwards to 20,000 young people (ages 17-30) attend this student missions conference sponsored every 3 years by InterVaristy Christian Fellowship. It started in 1946, and from 1948 to 2003 was held at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana… thus the name “Urbana”. Since 2006 it has been held at the St. Louis Conference Center in Missouri.

It’s amazing to see this many young people give up 5 days of their Christmas break for the opportunity to see, hear and respond to God’s global mission.

Kelly and I had the privilege to attend back in 1991, and were amazed by the zeal and commitment of these young people whose hearts are turned toward God and missions.

PI Urbana 2009

Pioneers sent a team from our office to represent our agency. The photo above was taken by one of our co-worker showing our world globe and Pioneers’ sign hanging over the heads of the participants.

Yes, 2009 has been a great year and we have great expectations for 2010. Our prayer for you is that 2010 will be a blessed year for you and your family. Happy New Year!

4 Home Again In Indiana

Pumpkins on door stoops, fall colors of red and orange and willy-worms slowly crawling across the country roads, yes it was Indiana in October. And, I hardly noticed the low 40 and 50 degree temperatures. Well that may not be totally true, but it did feel like “home”. That’s because our Bicknell friends at Word of Life Church always treat us like family.

Kelly with our hostess Aunt Rita.

Kelly with our hostess Aunt Rita. We ate at the Kerusso Coffee Shop, an outreach ministry of the church.

The missions conference was great, and we’re definitely a good 6 lbs heavier from all the down home cooking of Aunt Rita and the other great cooks from the church.

The theme for their conference was “Show Them Jesus” and the youth did an outstanding job with several dramas.

Some of the youth with their youth leader

Here are some of the Youth Drama Team called, "Impact"!

Getting to know our friends better

Getting to know our friends better

Even though it was a short trip we got to spend a little bit of time with Kelly’s mom and some friends of the family. Kelly’s brother and sisters will appreciate these photos since they didn’t get to join us.

Best Friends (Kelly's Mom and the Birthday Girl)

Best Friends (Kelly's Mom and the Birthday Girl in Blue)

Bezy grp photo (2)

It's the Birthday Girl and her Daughter "Ice Cream Cake for Everyone"

It's the Birthday Girl and her Daughter, "Ice Cream Cake for Everyone"

More family friends

All in all, it was a great trip. Of course, Kelly says the one thing that really topped it off was our flight home by way of Chicago O’Hare Airport. Why? Because he got to eat his Chicago Style Hot Dog, and he loved enjoyed every bite.

Kelly Enjoys His Chicago Style Hot Dog

1 Could You Pass This Test?

1) Where is the largest church in the world? 2) What continent has the most evangelical Christians? 3) What is the largest mission association in the world? 4) Which country sends out the most missionaries per Christian?

The answers may surprise you because, “The Center of Christianity Has Shifted”. This was the topic of our most recent Church Partner Forum held on PIONEERS campus. Our featured speaker was Scott Moreau; author, Professor of Missions & International Studies at Wheaton College and editor of Evangelical Missions Quarterly.

If you’re interested in this subject you can read: The Changing Face of World Missions and Engaging Contemporary Issues and Trends from a series written by Scott Moreau called, Engaging Missions.

Oh yes, the answers to those questions above are:
1) Korea [830,000 members (2007)]
2) Asia
3) India Missions Association
4) Singapore

The theme for our banquet was “International Market,” so we transformed the recreation hall with a few treasures several us have brought back from our time serving in various countries.


Of course no mission trip is complete without the traditional “trunk” to contain all of your possessions.


And, the best mode of transportation for those narrow streets in Asia is the bicycle rickshaw.


This was our International Market Street which lead on around to the street-side night café shown below.


Candle lights on the tables and strands of hanging lights enhanced the night time street café feel.


Without a doubt, our “food affair” was international all the way.

We added to this international atmosphere by having those who could, dress for the occasion in the cultural dress of a country (or they could go “Hawaiian/Floridian”).  We had a wide range of countries represented:


Of course, Kelly and I dressed in our Indonesian Batik, as did several others.


Africa was represented by several, including Denny and Nancy (above).


We even had the Middle East attire…thank you Art.


But by far, Tom’s dress was the best…Mongolia!


This is what our group looked like in “normal” dress. It was another successful Church Partner Forum.



Are we “asleep in the bottom of the boat” like Jonah, and “is the church failing in our mandate“?

Missions Cost God His Son was the theme for our “Global Impact Celebration” missions’ conference held at Pine Castle United Methodist Church, where Kelly and I are members. (See photos at end of this posting.) Keynote Speaker J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, author, award-winning journalist, and ordained minister delivered a challenging and thought provoking message from Jonah 1: 1-5.


Rev. Grady spoke about Jonah being in a deep sleep in the bottom of a ship, when God sent a violent storm that threatened to break up that ship. He shared that the storm came, because of a disobedient servant (Jonah). Rev. Grady related this to; ‘We are in a storm today, not just because of the politicians & Wall Street, but also because the church is asleep in the bottom of the boat’.


He explained that the church has been given the Words of Life – life saving equipment – and we are failing in our mandate to take it out to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria & the Ends of the Earth. We are keeping it to ourselves. God wants our GPS systems to be reprogrammed so we can be heading in the right direction. If we obey, we will see our ship taken to the shore of Nineveh and we will take life to the people.


Rev. Grady’s serman ties in with a webinar Kelly listened to about Significant Facts & Trends in the North American Missions Movement (NAMM). The researcher was Michael Jaffarian, Senior Research Associate for Operation World. Here is just one area that he spoke about:


The NAMM is a $6 billion industry with 822 separate organizations;
Those 822 divide into 5 major kinds of mission agencies:
Founder  Based
Task Based
Mom & Pop
International Expansion of North American Ministries


  • There are about 43,000 N. American long-term missionaries, numbers growing, modestly. (Length of service-more than 4 years.)
  • There are about 8,000 N. American middle-term missionaries, numbers may be declining. (Length of service-less than 4 years.)
  • There are about 150,000 N. American short-term missionaries, numbers growing strongly. (length of service-two weeks up to one year.)


The best estimate of the number of American short term mission-trip participants: 1.5 million. (length: 2 weeks or shorter)

The North American churches are sending more than sixty times as many mission-trip participants overseas as long-term missionaries.

Imagine, if an average of $2,000 is spent to send those 1.5 million: that = $300 billion compared to $6 billion given toward long-term workers. Would we consider this a good use of our missions funds?



Strong growth in short-term missions & mission trips has not produced strong growth in long-term missions. (The number of long-term missionaries is not even keeping up with the rate of national growth.)


It was thought short-term trips might give participants a heart to give to the missions’ program. Research shows that those who are giving, are giving to others going on short-term trips. Again, long-term missions has not benefited from this program.

Mr Jaffarian ended on a positive note: “Trend is not destiny.”       The direction of God trumps the direction of trends.”

This webinar was sponsored by: The Mission Exchange

Photos below are from our Global Impact Celebration – Missions Conference:

Children in Parade of Flags Opening Ceremony Wed. Night

Children in Parade of Flags Opening Ceremony Wed. Night

Wed Night Children's Program

Wed Night Children's Program

Children in Tradional Dress Performing Their Songs

Children in Tradional Dress Performing Their Songs

Youth Skit: Missionary Sharing Her "LIGHT" with the Lost World

Youth Skit: Missionary Sharing Her "LIGHT" with the Lost World

Congregation Visting With Missionaries at Their Display Booths

Congregation Visting With Missionaries at Their Display Booths

Kelly & Connie in Traditional Dress with their display booth set up in the "Missionary Hall"

Kelly & Connie in Indonesian Traditional Dress with their display booth set up in the "Missionary Hall"

3 Jaclyn says: “YAY…YYYYYYYYY!!! STORY’08 WAS AWESOME!!!”

Christa says: “WOW! Last night was amazing! I never felt that close to God. It was the ideal way to start off the New Year! I loved Story ’08! It was great to hear from all these different missionaries and to meet new people.”

Those are quotes or “reviews” from a couple of attendees at Story ’08 which I have copied from our  Story 08 Facebook page.


The main sessions were held in the sanctuary where a world globe helped us all focus on the needs of the world. Worship was sweet and the speakers were great.

Sanctuary with World Globe

Pine Castle United Methodist Sanctuary with World Globe

The crowd was great, some 300+ in attendance with the majority coming from out of state. Just take a look at the young people in these photos:

The crowd gathering in the lobby between sessions.

The crowd gathering in the lobby between sessions.

College students come to Orlando for the conference.

College students come to Orlando for the conference.

The Lobby Is a Great Gathering Place

The Lobby Is a Great Gathering Place

Kelly and I were in charge of book sales and they were brisk. It looks like we sold over $8000 in mission’s books and resources.

One such book table full of resource material

One such book table full of resource material

Kelly runs the cash register

Kelly runs the cash register

The Line Gets Longer as Kelly Adds up Sales

The Line Gets Longer as Kelly Adds up Sales

Taking A Break Between Sessions

Taking A Break Between Sessions

We finished the event off by bringing in the New Year with a “Concert of Worship and Prayer.” It started at 9 PM and closed at 12:30 AM on Jan 1st.

Concert of Worship & Prayer New Year's Eve

Concert of Worship & Prayer New Year's Eve

We took the globe off its stand and everyone gathered around to pray for the world.

Praying For The World

Praying For The World

Then, just before midnight we started passing the air-filled globe from one side to the other. It was a blast. It was also “heavier” than I thought it would be.

The Globe Goes Up and Over The Heads

The Globe Goes Up and Over The Heads

Hands Go Up and Globe Is Passed Overhead

Hands Go Up and All Join in as the Globe Is Passed Overhead

Here are a few more quotes:

Lesley: What an amazing week! Thank you, Pioneers, and all the people who worked to pull it off! What a great way to ring in the New Year…thanks for the experience. I hope there is a Story 09!

Irma from NY: STORY ’08 was awesome. I’ve been so blessed this week and am glad I came to the conference. Thank you Pioneers!!! God bless~

Emily (student at TCU): Thank you so much, Story’08 Crew!!! I know it was a ton of work, and it was such a blessing for me to learn from y’all and watch your example lived out in front of us. Thank you so much for the incredible amount of yourselves you poured out for us!! It was such a privilege to be around you, and I’m challenged to pray and seek hard to follow your examples in Christ. THANK YOU.

Ted (Valencia Com. College) Story 09…… Story 09….. Story 09…..

I don’t know if there will be a “Story 09”, only time will tell.  Kelly and I were exhausted when it was all over, but it was worth it!

1 STORY 08 Carbon Footprint VS Spiritual Footprint

What footprint will you leave on this earth when you are gone? As I looked at this promotional add for our Story 08 Mission Conference, these thoughts ran through my mind: First I thought of the poem, “Footprints in the Sand”. (I like thinking of God’s footprints appearing beside mine as I walk through life, it’s very comforting.) Then, carbon footprints popped into my mind and that made me think of spiritual footprints vs carbon footprints..

If you goggle “carbon footprint” you can read about; “calculating your carbon footprint,” and “learn how to reduce your carbon footprint”. Here is Wikipedia’s definition: the carbon footprint is a “measure of the impact that human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide.”

What about our “spiritual footprint”? Consider this definition: the spiritual footprint is a “measure of the impact that your Christian (witness) activities have on mankind (your neighbor, family, friends and even strangers) in terms of the amount of “fruit” produced in units of lost souls that are saved.”

Can we “calculate” our spiritual footprint? If the above definition holds, we definitely wouldn’t want to “reduce” our spiritual footprint…on the contrary we would want to expand it. That is what Story 08 is all about…expanding our spiritual footprints in this world. Acts 1:8 “…and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

One of my favorite quotes is from Jim Elliot (missionary to Ecuador 1927-1956): “Missionaries are very human folks, just doing what they are asked. Simply a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt Somebody.”

Now, a few words from our Story 08 website:


Creative, unpredictable, entrepreneurial, unconventional? If those words describe you, you may be well-suited to answer the casting call for a drama that God has been writing for 6,000 years. The risks are high, but the rewards are unlimited. Whatever stage you are at on your life journey, you will come away from Story’08 with tools for making connections with the unreached.

Discover your role in God’s global drama at Story ’08—a mission conference for people who don’t like conferences.

Story’08 is an event that will connect you with the least-reached people on the planet, by giving you a first-hand glimpse of the global needs, joining you with others who share your passions and helping you discover the next step to glorifying God among the nations.

Pray for us, we start this Sunday and go through Wednesday evening with sessions starting at 9:00 am and going to 12:00 pm each day.


What lasts for 3 days, takes place only in the state of Florida, gathers a diverse crowd from other states, produces a network of contacts and resources, and focuses on God’s heart for the Nations? PIONEERS’ Church Partner Forum in Orlando.

Here We Are For Our Group Photo

Here We Are For Our Group Photo

Yes that is right! We’ve wrapped up another successful Church Partner Forum event on our campus at PIONEERS. Kelly and I are very pleased with how well the event was viewed by those in attendance.

We ask our guest to fill out an evaluation of the forum. Here is one of the questions and the answer we got:

What is your overall assessment of the value of this event?

“I was “so” close to burn-out you could smell the smoke…The rest, the hospitality, the care, the pampering, the HELPFUL focusing…it was all great- we’ll be back –you’ll have to ban me from the campus J !”

The weather was a bit “cool” but we did provide the sunshine that we had promised. We actually hit a night time low of 39 degrees while our guests were here, a record for this time of the year.

Some Of Our First Arrivals

Some Of Our First Arrivals

As for us, we are the most rested after one of these events than ever before. Why less stress and weariness? Our team has grown and matured to the point that the two of us, as leaders, could step back and watch them take on more of the program responsibilities and details. It was great! We were freed up to interact on a more relaxed scale with our guest, which was enjoyable and very satisfying .

Greeting Our Guests The First Evening

Greeting Our Guests The First Evening

Everyone Arrives & We Mingle With The Guests

Everyone Arrives - We Mingle and Get to Know One Another

Kelly Getting To Konw Our Guests

Kelly & Ted (Kelly's boss on left) Getting To Know Our Guest (on right)

As for our guest, they were very engaged and full of questions. It was encouraging for us to see their passion for missions expressed in a variety of ways. We had a very diverse group of churches represented. Here is a random example:

  • A rural American Baptist Church (ABC) from Ohio with a congregation about 300 in size. (Sr. Pastor & Missions Pastor attended)
  • An Independent Baptist Church of Virginia founded in 1913 with an attendance of about 750 today. (Global Missions Pastor attended)
  • From Charlotte, NC a new church plant started in 2002 by 2 members of John Piper’s Bethlehem Baptist Church. These 70 faithful members already have 4 of their own sent out as missionaries. (Assoc. Pastor & 2 of their Missions Team attended)
  • A First Presbyterian Church here in Florida, founded in 1876 by 11 members has grown to 4,800 today. (Executive Pastor attended)
  • An Evangelical Free suburban church from the Twin Cities of MN with approx 3,000 members (Director of Global Ministries & his wife)
  • Another Ohio church founded in 1985 by a team of Liberty University grads that now has 1800 attending (Missions Director attended)
  • An independent 50 year old Fresno, CA church with about 4,000 people, they also have a Spanish language congregation and host a Farsi-speaking Persian church (Assoc. Pastor & wife attended)
  • A Southern Baptist Church (SBC) from St Charles, MO with a ministry staff of 13 and a support staff 16 (Missions Director attended)
  • And a Porter Ranch, CA church that became non-denominational as a result of a merger of a SBC and a Christian Church 10 years ago and now has 7000 members (2 Missions staff attended this year after their Pastor and Missions Director attended last year)
    Churches Sharing With Churches

    Churches Sharing With Churches

On Wednesday & Thursday we have sessions that allow for a lot of interaction among the churches. As they share what works or doesn’t work for them in their church, they are networking, building relationships and helping one another with issues that matter to them.

Kelly & Connie Lead the Opening Session

Kelly & Connie Lead the Opening Session

Kelly Gives the Group Instructions

Kelly Gives the Group Instructions

Our Guest Listen to the Instructions before Discussion

Our Guest Listen to the Instructions before Discussion

Interactive Discussions Around The Tables

Interactive Discussions Around The Tables

It’s not all sitting and talking. There is free time factored in to allow everyone a chance to relax and soak in our Florida sun, shop at our craft store or tour our facilities if they choose.

Connie Gives the Pastor & His Wife A Tour of Our Facilities

Connie Gives the Pastor & His Wife A Tour of Our Facilities

Each of these churches are partners with us to send and support their missionaries on the field. So, the relationship doesn’t stop when they return to their respective churches. We will continue to work together in partnership for the sake of their workers on the field. PIONEERS has about 2500 active churches supporting our workers, so we keep pretty busy, and love every minute of it.

This Is The Season…

…the mission season that is.

Our ACMC team has 4 conferences happening this month, one every weekend (MD/VA, NY/NJ, NE/CT & OH) . Attendance at two of them has been around 160 each, with the attendees coming from a whole host of churches in their areas. So, even though economy issues are being felt in our church communities (which has been reflected in a lower than usual attendance), we are excited to see that turn out was still good. Churches want to know how” to do missions and do it better, so that they are effective and make a difference in a world that is hurting.

You may ask, “What do they do at these conferences?”

They usually open with a general session for a time of worship.

General Session - Praising the Lord in song
General Session – Praising the Lord

Then, an informative and inspiring message from the keynote speaker helps everyone to focus on the task at hand. Next, everyone chooses from a list of workshops to attend in the morning and afternoon.

Food and Fellowship During Lunch Break
Food and Fellowship During Lunch Break

There is a break for lunch which allows for some great fellowship.

A Church Gym Provides A Good Lunch Space
A Church Gym Provides A Good Lunch Space

And, there’s a breakout time for networking with other churches.

Church Cafe: Great For Networking
Church Cafe: Great For Networking

You may ask, “Why attend these conferences on missions?”

  • To learn trends & issues in missions
  • To gain new vision and perspective
  • To be encouraged by movements of God throughout the world.
  • To be re-invigorated for ministry
  • To discover successful strategies used by other churches
  • To learn practical, how-to ideas
  • To meet people who can help you

And the list goes on…

At one of the conferences, Kelly will be leading a workshop on “Rapid Response Preparedness.”

Kelly's Workshop "Rapid Response"

He will be helping churches think through a variety of steps to put in place now, to be ready for the next tsunami or devastating earthquake. We all felt like we were caught “flat-footed” during the Indonesian Tsunami and Katrina. Here is where the old adage: “a stitch in time, saves nine” says it all.

Back in Orlando…

Twenty-eight new workers, plus their children, just finished the last of their missions training before heading to the field. Some are departing this next week, others within the next couple of months. Their excitement is high with anticipation. They have shared their stories with churches that will support their work. Their tickets are in their hands, and they have placed unnecessary possessions in long-term storage.

Now their thoughts have turned to: What will our home look like “over there”? Will I learn the language quickly? Will the people accept me, or like me. Will God really be able to use ME??? What will it all look like? Will our church back home remember to pray for us after we been gone for a while?


I will be your tour guide on this trip. Bring your name tag for the team meetings, an appetite for Uno’s Pizza, your best exhibitor’s smile for the conference and your suntan oil for a nature walk on the beach

30+ New Missionary Candidates

The week before our church festival, (mentioned in the previous post) we had a full week at work. It was our 5th and final Candidate Orientation Program (COP) for the year. This was The another large COP group, 30+ candidates. So once again, we needed 5 committees to cover all the personal interviews. I facilitated committee number 3 and was really excited about the caliber of young people going through the orientation. All 30+ received and accepted an appointment with Pioneers.

Aug 2008 Candidate Group Photo
Aug 2008 Candidate Group Photo

We had our full Church Partnership Team in for the week to meet with the new candidates. When we weren’t meeting with new candidates we were having team meetings, until Kelly was just about meeting-ed out. We were glad to see Friday come even though we knew we had a full weekend coming up.

Mission Conference On The West Coast

As soon as we finished our Saturday volunteer work at PCUMC’s “Pioneer Days Festival,” we headed home to pack for our next trip. One of our PIONEERS’ church partners in New Port Richey, Fl had invited Kelly and I to participate in their mission conference. All display tables had to be set up Sunday morning at 7 AM (ugh!) before the 1st of their 3 church services started. Since it was a couple of hours drive to the west coast, we decided to get there Saturday evening.

On the way over to the gulf coast, we stopped to have pizza with a pastor and his wife who were friends of ours from Bible school. It was great to see them and catch up on their news.

Kathy & Marty Meet us for Pizza; Uno’s is Connie’s Favorite
Kathy & Marty Meet us for Pizza; Uno’s is Connie’s Favorite restaurant

A Very Full Conference Schedule

The mission conference at CCWC lasted through Thursday so we were prepared for a full week of activities. The church also has a Bible School and the Missions Pastor, Dave, had asked Kelly to speak to the students during their Monday evening class. Wednesday evening we met at the Dave’s house. He wanted us to meet with a select group of church members who had a specific interest in missions. They were able to ask more in depth questions in this setting and we all had a great time.

Mission Conference Evening Service Jamieson & Kelly - East Meets West
Mission Conference Evening Service Jameson & Kelly – East Meets West (We’re actually old friends)

A Break In The Action

On Tuesday we had a break in the schedule and Kelly treated me to a trip to the beach. Those of you who know Kelly well, know that relaxing at the beach is truly out of character for him. As a matter of fact, in the 4 years we have lived in Florida we have been to the beach probably 2 times and not for longer than a half hour each time. But Kelly surprised me, and maybe himself…we spent the whole morning at the beach.

Classic Beach Photo:  Dipping Your Toes In The Water
Classic Beach Photo: Dipping Your Toes In The Water

A Tarpan Is A Coastal Fish

To reach the beach we drove south of Tarpon Springs; a city of just under 25,000 that is known for having more Greek-Americans than any other city in the U.S. These Greek immigrants came to dive for the prolific sponges offshore. The Sponge Boats line the marina and traditional Greek restaurants can be found everywhere.

The Fisherman and The Sea
The Fisherman and The Sea

Our destination was Honeymoon Island State Park which is part of Caladesi Island. The weather was ideal, the four miles of gorgeous sandy beach was sparsely populated by sunbathers. There were more shells along the shore than we had ever seen in one place. It was perfect. One can stroll along nature trails, kayak through the mangroves, hop a ferry boat on over to Caladesi Island (named America’s #1 beach in 2008) or scout out the exhibits at the Nature Center.

Where’s My Easel and Paint Brush
Where’s My Easel and Paint Brush (Edith, lets paint the ocean!)

A Taste of New York

Kelly actually went 36 hours without checking his email even once. Now that is a record! On the way back to the church we found a great restaurant called, Lucky Dill Deli. It is a New York style Deli and we had the best corned beef Rueben sandwiches ever!

Two Crab Eyes Looking At You
Two Crab Eyes Looking At You

We wrapped everything up on Thursday and took a leisurely drive back to Orlando using the back roads. This week we are back at it in the office, but with a spring in our step…that one Tuesday morning at the beach was a real rejuvenator.

You Gotta Love This Little Guy
You Gotta Love This Little Guy