For some reason many believe to be strange, I chose to commute to Annual Conference this year. That's 260 miles round trip for each of the 4 business days. So my keister is dragging.
I got to AC right as the morning devotion was beginning. This year we have a special musical group sharing music with us. A group from Africa University is singing at some of the worship services.
Our first ballot yesterday was declared invalid. Basically because of human error and technical malfunction the votes for yesterday were null and void. So this morning we took the first official ballot. Just to give you a clue of what we are working with, there are 1,950 voting members at this Annual Conference.
This was the first day for reports from the different ministry organizations that are a part of the conference. On today's schedule there were three of the most moving reports at any Annual Conference: VIM (Volunteers in Mission), CJAMM (Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries), and Circle of Care.
VIM is responsible for sending teams of volunteers (see, that's part of the name) literally around the world to assist and work with people. We sent teams to Mexico, Bolivia, South Africa as well as Louisiana and around Oklahoma, to name just a few. We have a special relationship with Bolivia. The indigenous peoples of Bolivia have accepted Methodism as their faith tradition because of the support and assistance United Methodists have provided them through their struggles for recognition in their own home land. David Stewart is an Oklahoma pastor who has a special passion for Bolivia.
He also has a special way about showing that passion.
In Mexico, there is one ongoing mission project at Rio Bravo. Last year we sent 101 teams to Rio Bravo to work on cassitas, churches, in medical clinics, and in vacation bible school settings.
CJAMM is a ministry to persons and families of persons who are incarcerated. We have many ways to connect with people in the correctional system and when they come out. Exodus House is a half-way house for those transitioning back into mainstream society. There are 4 Redemption Churches across Oklahoma that minister with openness to persons who are in prison (and able to come by permission of the facility) or who have come out. New Day Camp is a camp just for children who have one or both parents in prison. The report of this committee is always filled with transformation and the power of God's love for those who many may have given up on because of the choices they have made.
Circle of Care is our ministry with children and youth who face challenges of social or family nature. We have campuses across Oklahoma to provide a place for children and youth to be nurtured and cared for in a structured environment. They are able to find the skills to succeed in life where they may not have gotten them in their home setting.
We also heard about Oklahoma City University (our United Methodist heritage university) developing a partnership with St. Paul's School of Theology to bring a full Master of Divinity program to Oklahoma.
Today we also elected 7 clergy to General Conference and 3 lay delegates.
Finally, the restaurant reviews: QT, Friday's, Chik-fil-A. I want to say that QT has fantastic coffee. And right now, for a limited time, they have Kona. I love Kona coffee. One slight problem - the first half-and-half dispenser was dispensing bad cream. And I mean B-A-A-A-D cream. Blach!
At Friday's I enjoyed lunch with some dear friends and one of their fathers (who is also a minister). There were many laughs at hearing stories of family life growing up in that household. Thanks George, Dane, and Shannon for great lunch fellowship. The food was fair as I had the Jack Daniel's Burger. Not a burger with Jack Daniel's mind you. It was a regular burger with provolone cheese and bacon and Jack Daniel's sauce (not straight) to smother it in. The burger was mediocre, nothing special. But that sauce is yuMMMy!
And Chik-fil-A - well. Nothing else needs to be said. It's the best. Chik-fil-A sandwich with waffle fries. If you have never eaten at Chik-fil-A then you have missed out on the best chicken sandwich that the world has been offered. And to top it off, the company is respectful of Christian faith and tradition.
Now I am home enjoying my soft couch and trying not to fall asleep too soon. But I'll be back up at 5:15 in the morning and off for the next day. 'Til then - peace.