Sunday, January 13, 2008

All Staff Conference 2008

In the last three weeks, I have spent time in San Diego (my brother's wedding), Seattle (airport layovers) and Orlando (Young Life's All Staff Conference), just returning from the latter this evening. I just need a reason to visit the great state of Maine and I will have hit all four corners of the continental U.S. in record time.

All Staff was wonderfully relaxing and refreshing. I soaked the beautiful eighty-degree sunshine in through my pores at every opportunity. I also soaked in the words of the conference speakers, the extended prayer time, the corporate worship with 4,000 other like-minded people, the close communion with my husband and the encouragement of fellow staffers from all over the country who have become friends over the years. I tried very hard to put away my normal skepticism and critical, analytical nature and just accept everything that God had for us for the week, be it frivolous or deep; I think I was successful.

We enjoyed time in the hot tub, riding the exterior glass elevator up and down the full twenty-eight stories of the hotel (even though our room was only on the eighth floor), the spectacular meals, splurging on room-service for breakfast in bed one morning, and the warm evening breeze from the chairs on our balcony. We spent our free day riding some of the best roller coasters in the country (the Hulk coaster and Duelling Dragons at Universal Orlando--seriously heart-thumping, scream-worthy rides). And we laughed more freely, more deeply, more convincingly than we have in a very long time. The whole experience felt like healing for our bones.

Young Life likes to keep people on their toes, never knowing what surprises might be coming next, and All Staff was no exception. Our musical guests included Jars of Clay and Nicole C. Mullen. Each did a guest spot in a general session as well as an excellent late-night concert.

In the comedy department, we had a visit from Jeff Foxworthy, a surprisingly solid Christian guy with an amazing wife who attended Young Life clubs and camps all through high school. The two of them are volunteer leaders with Young Life middle schoolers at a school in their town. Who knew? He did quite a bit of stand-up for us and is extremely funny in person, especially in such a relaxed environment where he knows his audience so well. The redneck-alternative, "You might be on Young Life staff" routine will go down in the annals of YL history.

We also had time with Ben Stein (known best as the monotone teacher in Ferris Beuller's Day Off). He was there to present an advance screening of his upcoming film entitled Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which is a shocking exposé of the Darwinian scientific community, their covert black-listing and their refusal to grant even basic freedom of speech to anyone who dares to mention that the Intelligent Design theory might actually be worth looking into, despite the growing body of sound scientific evidence in its favor. I would encourage you to see the movie when it comes out in February.

Our final surprise, on the last night of the conference, came during a mock late night talk show, √° la Letterman or Leno. The final special guest called out was none-other-than Jack Hanna, the animal guy in the classic khaki zoo uniform. Also a Christian guy who is a big supporter of Young Life, he and several assistants brought out animal after animal, just like he does on the big talk shows. Animal guests, of course, rarely follow the scripts and don't pay attention to their cues. I don't know when I have laughed that hard.

It was a great experience, but I am glad to be back home with my kids. Thanks, Grandpa Tom and Auntie Ruth (and friend Brenda!) for watching the kids so we could have this wonderful time away.

Now it's back to work...unless I can find a reason to fly to Maine...


Mister Ed T said...

Glad you had such a relaxinga nd fun time. You needed it! As for a trip to Maine, I can't come up with anything either...
In my prayers.
Uncle Ed

Mister Ed T said...

Aa friend of mine told me Foxworthy was a Christian. Glad to hear they are involved in Y L. What was your favorite "you might be a Young Lifer..." line>

Sherry C said...

Uncle E,

I did like this one:

"If you think the F-word is might be on Young Life staff."

I'm hoping that someone got it on video and will be posting it on You Tube soon. When that happens, I'll put it up here for you to see.

Mister Ed T said...

Super! Have a good day.