In June I had the privilege of attending the Seventh International Brethren Conference on Mission (IBCM7) in Rome. As an accountant, it is only proper that I start with some facts and figures.
The theme was ‘You shall be my witnesses’ – Engaging with the world and its Needs. With 900 people and 122 countries represented, it was the biggest conference in the history of IBCM.
The organising committee did an out-standing job in arranging all aspects of the conference, so we received clear practical teaching from Dr John Lennox, a wide range of workshop topics and presenters to interact with, and reports on God’s work from many regions of the world.
As a New Zealander, I often forget the privilege we have to be able to travel freely to a lot of countries, but for many nationalities a visa is needed, and getting them can be hard. One of the big behind the scenes tasks, that the chair of the committee Fares Marzone undertook, was the many letters and emails needed to allow participants to obtain entry visas to Italy. In the two months before IBCM7 Fares alone sent over 3,000 emails to assist in the issuing of visas and on the day before the conference started, we were still praying and seeing God answer with further visas being issued.
Some of the committee members have been involved since its inception and are now stepping aside. They are owed a huge debt of gratitude for their vision and perseverance in taking IBCM to this point.
It was a delight to meet so many people from so many countries. One group were students from Emmaus Bible School in Dubuque, Iowa, USA, who had been on a mission’s trip to Romania and then came to serve at the conference.
I would like to share four of the many highlights from the conference with you.
The first was to be able to spend time before IBCM started with sister organisations to GC3, some new and some old. These two days of meetings raised issues and opportunities that will take prayer and wisdom to work through.
The second was Wednesday. Mark Grace, CCCNZ, had arranged NZ tee shirts for the kiwis in attendance to wear on Wednesday. After lunch, the kiwis got together and heard reports from three NZ mission partners. It was special hearing from three younger ladies about how God is using them.
The third was the evening reports reporting what God was doing in various countries. The reports of work in countries that we would never know of was exciting – God cannot be limited by rulers and leaders.
My final highlight was not one event but the overall atmosphere. I have not really been one to think too much about what heaven will be like – the thought of continuous singing doesn’t appeal (I know my singing voice will be better in heaven), but if I had to describe the conference, I would say it was a foretaste of heaven. Why? Because of the joy of being together with people from so many (not every) countries and languages, all with the same desire to worship, serve and give glory to our great God.
To finish, I am thankful to Lichfield Lands Trust who provided the funding that allowed GC3 and CCCNZ representatives to attend. I believe they have made a hugely valuable investment. I encourage you to please pray for people to step up and form the next committee to organise IBCM8, that is, if we are not all experiencing the real joy of heaven together.
GC3 BOARD CHAIR