Archive | June, 2013

General Assembly

28 Jun

In his heart a man plans his course,
but the LORD determines his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

Me and Linda Clark

Me and Linda Clark

Within moments of my delayed arrival, I made my way to the registration desk, where I picked up my visitor bag full of information and found my dear friend, Linda.  Linda’s husband pastors a church on the SWO district, and we have been friends since my days at Higher Ground Conference and Retreat Center.  She was one of the few people I had made specific plans to spend time with, so we sat down to visit as we ate our food court pizza.  Having a friendship that is based on long-distance communication and not personal interaction, it was a special treat to get to actually spend time with her.  Since an unexpected trip to the ER with my mother was the alternate activity of the morning, the time together with Linda went by too quickly.

After Linda and I said good-bye, I headed back into the building that had already been haunting me with memories from 8 and 12 years ago when Tim and I were there as official exhibitors, experiencing the ‘other side’ of General Assembly.  Feelings of the heart began to surface as I walked around by myself for a little while, running into friends, acquaintances, and colleagues from our former lives when we worked for Nazarene Indian Bible College and the General Church.  There was a hint of sadness in my spirit as I remembered the multitudes of visitors that came by our NIBC booth in 2001, many of them we had worked side by side with as their Work and Witness teams had come to Albuquerque to work at NIBC. Those were extremely long and exhausting days at General Assembly, but oh how wonderful!   Every evening, we went out to eat with someone new … often including our friends Rusty and Nancy Bellomy as well.  Oh, how life has changed since then.  As I strolled through the World Missions side of the exhibit hall, my already-wounded heart took another leap back into time … remembering back to 2005 when Tim climbed up on tall ladders as he literally helped to construct the large exhibit.  Our then USA/CANADA Work & Witness booth was visited by our former W&W team members, along with others who were excited to work in various areas of the country.  And yes, life has changed so much since then.  Before leaving the area, I saw John Cunningham, a former colleague who knew first hand the passion and calling I had for missions … it did my heart good to stand and visit with him for a few moments.  We spoke of family and grandchildren.  That conversation brought me back to reality and where God has placed me now.  I was able to walk out of the exhibit hall with a smile inside.

Several weeks before, I put a post on Facebook asking my Nazarene friends if any of them were coming to Indianapolis for the Assembly.  I received a few comments, which I noted, but I also made some phone calls to friends who didn’t respond.  I was greatly disappointed that my friends Becky and Nancy were not coming from Louisiana and Nebraska, as well as Jenee Noriega and her family from New Mexico.  Since my flight into Indy was bringing me out for several days and there were few friends on my priority list, my mom and I planned for a two-day trip to West Virginia to visit my bed-fast uncle.  (Another story for another blog).  In the mean time, little hints were beginning to be dropped on Facebook of a possible upcoming surprise.  After begging to be told, my heart soared into the Heavens to find out that Jenee Noriega and her brood was coming to Indianapolis!  MY Jenee in MY Indianapolis!!  I don’t expect most of you to understand the depth of my heart here, but I could literally write an entire book about this young woman and how God miraculously transformed her 19 year drug-addicted life and sin-ravaged heart into something brand new!  Jenee was the tangible and personal answer to a prayer prayed by two friends in ministry who desperately wanted to help the addicted.  Clean and sober now for nearly 10 years, Jenee and Stevie have a testimony that is exciting, vibrant, and relevant still to this day.  Knowing that I wasn’t going to see them until Saturday, even as I walked off of my plane Wednesday evening, I smiled as I took deep breaths, knowing that I was breathing the same air as my precious friend and her family! As I traveled to West Virginia the following day with my mom, and I saw the pictures that Jenee was posting on Facebook of her family already at the Assembly, I told story after story to my mom about Jenee and her previously messed-up life.  It has now been 7 long years since we said good-bye in Albuquerque … since I have seen her face-to-face, since I have held her precious children in my arms, and since I have hugged that big man-of-a-husband we all fondly call Stevie.

Jayla & Destanee with Scottie Albuquerque 2005

Jayla & Destanee with Scottie
Albuquerque 2005

Anxious to finally find them, Jenee and her family left the Kidz Zone and I my nostalgic walk in the past … and we met in the wide hall way among hundreds of people going this way and that way – but it didn’t matter to us!!  Hugs and kisses, laughing and crying, smiles and quizzical looks from the children, taking pictures and more pictures!   As I held Jayla and then Destanee in my arms and squeezed them tight, my heart nearly burst as I realized that these two girls had no idea who I was, but I knew them!!  I brought out a picture of the two of them sitting on my back porch swing beside Scottie … they were out watching the hummingbirds play around the feeder that morning.  This was a picture I no doubt printed out at the time and mailed to their momma, who was in the Bernalillo County Jail.  Tim and I, along with others, were helping Stevie take care of their girls while Jenee was in jail for relapsing on cocaine.  The girls laughed at the sight of themselves so many years ago, but had no memory of the moment.  Bre’ Asia will soon be 7 years old … I was there and was one of the first to get to hold her after she was born.  I still say that she was the whitest black baby I’ve even seen!  And now there is Davion … born on Sept 4, 2007 – this was my first time meeting this handsome young man who looks so much like his daddy.  What a joy beyond words … a joy that took away the sadness and replaced it with a grateful heart.  The remainder of my attendance at the General Assembly was accompanied by this precious family.  The girls were ushers Saturday evening, so this allowed us special seating, which was a nice perk.  An added treat to the night was to stop and visit with Pastor Gregg and Robin, Kristen and her two little girls, and Grandma!  After the evening service, hungry tummies of all ages were satisfied as we enjoyed hamburgers and milkshakes at Steak & Shake.   It was so nice to be able to hug them all good-night, knowing I would see them again the following morning!

Stevie, Jenee Jayla, Davion, Destanee & Bre' Asia

Stevie, Jenee
Jayla, Davion, Destanee & Bre’ Asia

Once back to my childhood home, with a heart that was full to the brim, I crawled in bed beside my mom and talked and talked and talked.  I once again told story after story, this time, current ones from today…how the Joy of Jesus so radiates from Jenee and Stevie’s hearts that It literally overflows onto whoever will listen!  My favorite listener was my own Pastor Bud, for in those brief but jam-packed moments, Jenee and Stevie shared their testimony, excitement, and gratefulness to a God who delivered them from addictions and sin.  I finally wound down long enough to sleep a few hours before heading downtown again for the morning worship/communion service.  This time, Mom and I went together in a van with Bill Denny and a few others from my beloved Southport Church … conveniently dropped off at the front entrance.  After finding seats and saving more for Jenee and Stevie’s family, I stole away for a few moments to mingle with the crowds and to give hugs to Sandia friends, Cynthia and Pete, Julia, Therese and a few others.  Later as I sat between my mom and Jenee, sharing the experience of communion with both, along with thousands of Nazarenes world wide who love Jesus, my heart tried to absorb every morsel of that moment.

Me and Cynthia Myers

Me and Cynthia Myers

Good-byes were necessary that early afternoon as I climbed back into that church van and mom and I headed home.  Just as I was reminded by my brief chat with John Cunningham, life is full of a lot of things these days.  Family is most definitely at the top of the list.  For the final few hours I had left with my mom, we spent it enjoying family…eating together, laughing, watching the antics of my brother’s 16-month old grandson, and simply loving life and thanking God for His gifts.

The Church of the Nazarene has General Assembly every 4 years.  Church business meetings, elections, worship services, workshops, reunions, and wonderful fellowship always takes place.  It has been in Indianapolis 5 times since my first attendance in 1989. Once again, my own personal trip to General Assembly was full and overflowing!  I have come back home with a refreshed heart!  Sometimes the distance seems so far and the miles so many, but God reminded me that He always has my best interest and His plan at work.  I am deeply grateful!  Won’t you join me in thanking God for His plan?

Until next time,
Debbie

Many are the plans in a man’s heart,
but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

 

“God’s purposes are bigger than our hearts”
~ Still written across the top of my computer ~

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me,
and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13