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After five days away from family and a 10 hours of airplanes, layovers, and delays, I’m finally back from the TGC Conference ’13 in Orlando.  I could not have predicted the grace God would show us through RAAN and the blessings with which He would shower us.  I’d like to share a recap of the event with our RAANetwork family and give you a few reflections.

A Step of Faith
My fellow co-founder, Phillip Holmes, and I organized an event called the “RAAN Meet & Greet”.  Going through with the event was a big step of faith for us.  We committed to doing it before we had funding or a clear plan.  But God provided us with $1000 donation to buy the food and another donation for Phillip to get a plane ticket and travel here.  Even the hotel room didn’t cost any extra for an additional person.  On top of that, many others from The Gospel Coalition and other organizations took the initiative to help procure books, CDs, and help with the logistics.  All the arrangements, though last minute, went exceedingly well.

As the day of the event approached, we realized just how much RAAN had riding on this.  It seemed like our one shot to demonstrate the vision for RAAN and our own integrity and passion for the ministry.  God was faithful here, too.

The Meet & Greet
In the planning leading up to the meet & greet we were praying for at least 25 people to attend.  But the morning of the event, Tuesday, April 9, came and for once, I wasn’t worried about numbers.  I felt a brief pang of worry at 7:45 a.m., as I remembered how easy it is to slap the “snooze” button and stay in bed.  But then a few people started trickling in and soon we had enough to get started.  I guess I got caught up in the execution because when I first spoke many of the chairs were filled, but when I looked up about half-way through our presentation the people were lined along the walls of three sides of the room and several people were standing outside! An e-mail from an attendee after the event said 75 people showed up.

During the program Phillip and I both shared our journey into the Christian faith and into the Reformed tradition.  I began learning about this theological body of knowledge through John Piper’s book, Desiring God, and Phillip learned about it through ministers of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) at his college.

The Moment I Nearly Cried 

The most memorable moment for me came when I nearly cried.  I hadn’t planned on it.  The emotions spontaneously overwhelmed me.  My task was to talk about the founding of RAAN and our goals.  But, as Phillip often reminds me to do, I tried to let attendees to see my “heart” for RAAN.

I simply wanted to convey my personal burden for the propagation of multi-ethnic churches teaching solid, biblical theology in the Reformed tradition. But as I spoke I felt a tingle and a warmth cascade down my features. I paused thinking it would go away.  But then my throat choked up. I struggled to push out the next few sentences, and the episode thankfully passed without actual tears spilling out.

Those few seconds of raw, unfettered emotion broke into people’s hearts, I think.  Several brothers and sisters approached me throughout the day and said my testimony resonated with their own experiences.  Most importantly, I believe my prayers were answered.  People began to see that for me and Phillip RAAN isn’t just a ministry, it’s a mission.

I should mention the marvelous synergy playing between Phillip and me.  His humor and unique testimony complimented my sobriety and personal journey.  Humanly speaking, RAAN would not be possible without him.  I also want to say a special thank you to future author, blogger, RAAN contributor, Board member, friend, and sister in Christ, Trillia Newbell.  It was her idea to ask about doing an event at this conference.  We would never have conceived of this plan without her.

A few more general reflections before I close…

RAAN Is Multi-Ethnic
Even though RAAN focuses specifically on African Americans it is not exclusively for African Americans. You have to be amazed at the diversity represented in the room.  Honestly, there weren’t many Blacks.  But that doesn’t concern me because there weren’t many Blacks at the conference overall.  Nevertheless, Whites, Hispanics, urban, young, old, male, and female gathered at that early hour to hear the vision for this ministry.

People with Influence Are Noticing RAAN
God is no respecter of persons, but several individuals who attended the meet and greet had significant influence.  The Christian Hip-Hop artist, Shai Linne, was there to speak a brief word about his new album and give away a few free CDs. African American pastor and author, Voddie Baucham, joined us.  As did scholar and writer, Eric Redmond.  Justin Taylor, the blogger and editor at Crossway, came.  Collin Hansen, the editor for TGC, and Tony Reinke an editor for Desiring God also came out.  The most well-known attendee was undoubtedly Dr. John Piper, recently retired pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, prolific author, and one of the most godly and theologically insightful men of our time.

RAAN Provides a Touchpoint for Questions and Connections
After the meeting Phillip and I spent 30-40 minutes conversing with brothers and sisters of different racial and ethnic backgrounds about questions they had.  Most of their queries centered around how their churches or ministries could engage with diverse people in their local context.

As we returned to the exhibitor hall a particularly sweet trend began to occur.  African Americans who had been to the session, most of whom we had never met, began coming up to us and starting conversations.  Many of them didn’t have any particular question to ask or topic to discuss.  They just wanted to connect with someone who in their estimation “understood.”

Unfolding Blessings
Even though we’ve already witnessed many blessings as a result of the meet & greet, I suspect the full import of this occasion will continue to unfold in the coming days and weeks.  We’ll see more as we follow up with people and flesh out ideas.  As Phillip and I discuss plans for the future.  As the people we met go back to their normal lives and begin sharing this (in my opinion) extraordinary event.  That’s when we’ll have a clearer picture of what God was up to when He blessed us in a remarkable way during that brief hour of the RAAN meet & greet.  I can hardly wait to see what He’s going to do next.

Discussion Question:  What would you like to see from RAAN in the next 6-12 months?

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