To live is to give. To max out your living, max out your giving. The Lausanne Movement’s Younger Leaders Gathering 2016 is one condensed and very intense experience for me to experience and live out this maxim. I was recruited 8 days before YLG2016 began to be involved as a volunteer. My task? To get its “1-on-1” consultation sessions (a series of 40-minute private meetups) between senior leaders and younger leaders off the ground. This is my reflection on these 10 rich days that have incredibly enriched my life.
The YLG2016 was to take place on 3-10 August 2016, attended by 1,000 younger leaders from over 160 countries, as an official document states it. I was asked to come a day early, on 2 August, and stay until 11 August, the day after it ends. Little did anyone realize the extent of the effort it would take to get the event off the ground. About 1,200 meetups were supposed to take place across 8 days. With only 24 hours in my hand from the moment the first file was handed out to me until the event was to begin, I had to sort out which younger leaders have registered for the 1-on-1 consultation, which senior leader they want to meet, where they will meet, and how all these people can know these information so the meetup would actually take place at the designated time and place.
It was easy but rather astonishing to point out the original sins of the problems: the database wasn’t designed and no one in the structure had a sense of owning this program, so none actually thought this through – either properly or improperly. As for the database, it just happened to take shape as it did by the mercy of whichever software happened to be used. It’s very telling that participants aren’t assigned any identification number. Every one has been identified by their name and/or email address. You get the idea of the extent of all hilarities that would ensue from these.
As for me, it definitely broke my resolute calm. As much as Guangzhou has changed me, I ended up scolding three people on days 1 and 2. It wasn’t good and it wasn’t the best way of communication, but I got to get things done. Properly and in time.
1-on-1 did take off. At the appointed time, against all odds, the venue was ready, people knew where they should go, and day and night hundreds upon hundreds of consultation sessions took place as intended. It was a great joy for me to see that huge lounge we prepared were in good use and people found the system we used to be easy and helpful. That’s just the beginning, though.
I had a wonderful team who worked tirelessly and contributed immensely to deliver the best 1-on-1 experience anyone could have ever expected. At the start of 1-on-1, our task was to guide the lost ones to the venue, introduce them on how to use the system we put in place, and to guide them to their designated meetup table. As the event repeat, our role evolved. We started recognizing people and as they approached we could call them by name and provided a more personalized guidance, such as how to reschedule appointments with particular people and how to effectively make impromptu consultation sessions with senior leaders who were in high demand.
What’s even more exciting was the trickle-down effect. There were 1,250 meetups available through our 1-on-1 platform across 8 days of events. But this is a very small number, considering the presence of 1,000 younger leaders and 200 senior ones at the event. With that 1,250 though, people started realizing, “What a wonderful opportunity that is!” and it practically spread out to the whole conference that the younger leaders started coming to us, asking for guidance to setup their own 1-on-1 sessions and during some of our own sessions, we had more people coming to our lounge for their self-initiated 1-on-1 than those we scheduled. At night, even though we only scheduled these 1-on-1 to until 10pm, many more self-initiated sessions actually took place starting at 10pm, since the lounge was free by then.
We operated from 12:00pm to 10:00pm with the first 1-on-1 sessions started at 12:40pm and the last ones ended at 10:00pm. This meant the 1-on-1 lounge was one of the venue where participants could come and for sure would find someone on duty. As we got to know more people by name, people also got to know the 1-on-1 lounge to be a place where they could get help in time when help was nowhere else to be found, since there wasn’t a help desk at the event. During the course of 8 days, my team mates ended up doing not only 1-on-1 operations but also helping people get around the facility, teach them how to use the event’s app to check their own schedule, how to navigate the confusing and headache-inducing transportation arrangements, how to check out from their hotel, how to get to the airport, etc. It was tiring, but joyfully so, being able to put smiles on people’s face as they successfully navigate through a maze of confusions, health and diet issues, not to mention culture shock and time-zone differences with their home and loved ones.
Me being me, there were also moments of unease with some of the participants. There were those who treated my team and me in a not-so-kind and degrading way. I also struggled with people from some particular cultures who repeatedly behave in a way that I felt edging too close on being barbaric. But then again, probably these are merely my culturally biased prejudices.
When it came to personal encounter, I do realize that I’m not so much of a people person. People clearly preferred to consult my team mates as they were really good with people – and in tangent to that, when I couldn’t grab dinner in time, on three separate days during the YLG2016 I ended up having to go out at 10:30pm to find dinner by myself while many had their late night get-togethers with photos surfacing everywhere. Quite a sobering vindication, I suppose. This is another reminder for me to focus on my strength while allocating reasonable effort to work on my rough edges.
One great blessing of being in 1-on-1 team is that we got to meet almost all the senior leaders and mentors who were present, coming from all around the world, with their colorful CV’s and accolades, attested by time, as they had been doing what they did for tens of years. I had several very enlightening sessions myself and I did encourage my team mates and the volunteers at large to take advantage of the senior leaders who had to wait for their 1-on-1 session in the lounge, either because they came too early or their appoinment showed up late.
At the end of my sabbatical year, these encounters and the whole YLG2016 have been greatly instructional. I was exposed to so many people, so many problems, tight deadlines, very long days that started as early as 7:00am and often won’t finish before 10:00pm (on the last day I had to stay awake until 3:00am of the next day). At the same time, I have been also exposed to some of the greatest teachers of our time – to mention a few: Anne Zaki, Becky Pippert, David Platt, Os Guinness, Pranitha Timothy, Prashan De Visser, Ravi Zacharias, Richard Chin – among whom I’m especially blessed by Anne Zaki and Richard Chin who have stretched my mind with their huge overarching comprehension of the Bible and clear perspectives of our time, not to mention the mind-boggling art team that consists of pastor/teacher/director Alison Siewert; pastors/teachers/actors Steve & Larissa Marks and Erik & Rachel Bobbitt, Galvin Mathis; dancer Min-Soo Kang (I think I’ve left someone here …) who have struck me with the beauty of their interpretation of the Bible, so rich and deep and intense and captivating that my heart and mind was challenged and blessed and enriched again and again. It was incredibly awesome.
Present also were also numerous great witnesses of faith who’ve lived courageously for the Lord in many corners of the world. Their lives brought back memories from my childhood readings in a different way. I’ve been emboldened and blessed by their testimony to which words won’t do justice and many should not have been uttered at all. God knows His and He is at work and on this side of heaven, that should suffice.
These past 10 days have been mentally and physically exhausting for me, while at the same time it’s been priceless and instructive. The way I’ve been exposed to Lausanne, the YLG2016, the opportunity to volunteer, and all its ramifications have simply been astounding. God’s been great at work through all this. I’m greatly impressed by the tapestry of Christianity through which God is working, not the least through our community of volunteers made up of many UPH students and graduates. It’s just marvelous to be a part of a vibrant Christian community, to give away oneself in all its totality into God’s hand and entrust Him with whatever may come out of it.