The 2013 Light Bearers Convocation is over, but the ripple effects are just beginning. The event was a huge blessing thanks in part to the hard work of various staff and volunteers behind the scenes and primarily to God for the outpouring of His Spirit. Jesus Only was this year’s theme.
Like last year, Ty, David, Jeffrey and I studied one book in particular— the book of Acts, gleaning powerful, practical insights into church life and Christian experience. The Spirit led each of us to powerful pictures of Jesus, while our varied personalities, talents, insight and perspective ministered to a variety of eager listeners, young and old.
Rise Rafferty (my wife of 24 years) spoke on health. Whatever the guys lacked in details, and it wasn’t much, Rise brought in bulk. Her powerful point-by-point insights into how our bodies and brains function definitely kept our attention.
The youth meetings were some of the best ever with Christian Martin, senior pastor in Grants Pass, Oregon, leading the young adults. Leading out in the 5-8 year-olds and 9-12 year-olds were the Katsmas and Hovanskis—two of the best husband/wife teams this side of eternity. “These classes are the best my kids have been to,” one mother said, “and I’ve been to a lot of camp meetings and speaking events.”
The ripple effects are just beginning.
There was one extraordinary way God personally blessed me at this year’s convocation. We four preachers were assigned various chapters/sections covering the entire book of Acts. Most of my presentations were ready, but I was having difficulty with my last section of Acts chapter 21. While twenty-nine years of speaking experience prohibited me from feeling overly anxious, I was a tad uneasy as the convocation kicked off Tuesday night.
Then, on the first full day of the Convocation, one of the attendees, an MD named Pat, began telling me how excited he was about my meetings in particular. Intrigued by the enthusiasm written all over his face I asked him why.
“Because,” he replied, “you get to speak on Acts 6, 7 and 21.”
“Tell me more,” I responded, as I frankly confessed that I had nothing substantial for the presentation on Acts 21.
“Oh,” he said, “Acts 21 is a powerful chapter on forgiveness and closely connected with chapters 6 & 7. That’s where Philip the evangelist, ‘one of the seven’ deacons and likely a close friend of Stephen’s, brings Paul, the very man consenting to Stephen’s death, into his home for ‘many days.’”
I had never made that connection and as I began to study Acts 21 from this perspective, a powerful message developed (thanks Pat). The next day, another attendee, Tamara, also a physician, approached me with an earnest look in her eyes.
A young boy she was playing with in the park threw a rock striking her in the forehead.
“I have a testimony of forgiveness,” she offered, “but I’m not sure if you or any of the speakers would like to share it.”
Tamara then began to share with me an amazing story about how, at eight years of age, a young boy she was playing with in the park threw a rock striking her in the forehead. There was blood, an ER visit and stitches. The wound even became infected leaving a scar, but there was no reconciliation.
Tamara and her family heard nothing from the boy or his parents (likely because he didn’t tell them). That summer Tamara’s family moved from Minnesota. Tamara eventually ended up in Medford, Oregon. It was there, in 2006 (some 30 years later), that God impressed Tamara to begin studying the subject of forgiveness from the Bible. As Tamara read various Bible verses, she simultaneously remembered incidents in her life that offered her practical opportunities to forgive. She realized, for example, that she had never really forgiven this young boy.
The “NEXT DAY,” she was working in the emergency room at her local hospital with a couple involved in a car accident. A sheriff was there to investigate and Tamara looked at his name badge.
“Is your name David?” she asked, “and did you live in Minnesota when you were little?”
Then she asked if he remembered hitting a girl in the head with a rock when he was eight years old.
He said, “Was that you? I have felt bad about that my whole life!”
Then he said, “I’m sorry.”
Tamara responded, “I forgive you!”
This was the message of Acts in a nutshell—forgiveness and the blotting out of sin. The disciples of Christ came together to pray and be of one mind—the mind of Christ. They prayed for the spirit and the heart of Jesus only. For many of the attendee’s, Jesus Only was not just the theme of Light Bearers 2013 Convocation—it was a reality. Amen.
James has spent more than 30 years preaching the gospel around the world in revival seminars and evangelistic meetings. He and his wife Risë have two adult children, Jeiel and Kierra.