On Friday afternoon we piled into cars and took the one hour or so drive from Parma up into the mountains to an area called One-Hundred Lakes. Actually, we were quite high (3,000 meters) with a five hour hike taking the almost twenty men up to the summit (I slept!!!) to Lago Santo in the rain. I am told that it is beautiful once you make it that far. I suppose I’ll never know if this is true or not. I was, however, very impressed with the size of the trees and the immensity of the forest all around me. I just don’t think of Italy in this way.
Anyway, we booked into the facility and got settled into our rooms in the lodge on the hillside. I was in room with four others, Mattieu, Ivo and Francesco.
There was only one problem person, Ivo who didn’t snore but wanted to stay up all night praying so he went in and out of the room and his bunk at various intervals, taking the night watches that no one signed up for. I prefer to stay with people who aren’t very spirtual : ).
I had four ninty minute (with translation) presentations beginning on Friday evening and going until Sunday morning. Normally, preaching this much is not a problem. Preaching is just four distinct messages on whatever you feel led to talk on. Conferences are different. First of all, they have to be crafted to a specific theme (in the case, Ambassadors and Men) so finding something that scratches their itch isn’t all that easy.
We started later than planned (What’s different about this? It’s Italy for goodness sakes).
We had planned to have our first session at no later than 9PM (everything starts later in Italy and it is worse in Spain) but as it turned out we didn’t get organized until ten. By eleven most everybody was already drifting in and out of a half-witted coma. I went to bed feeling discouraged, not sure that my weeks of preparation were relevant. I slept fitfully, waking up with worry about where to go with this and uttering prayers of something like, “Oh, God…oh, God… oh, no God… What now?” Anyhow, in the morning after breakfast and sleep, and not changing a thing it seemed that things went seamlessly from Friday into the other sessions and we came away from the weekend impacted by the word and presence of God.
These are a great bunch of guys.
On Sunday morning another carload showed up for the morning service. They all opted to do it again in the spring and inviting others to come. The theme will be, “Strengthened by the Fire.”