Thomas, a volunteer photographer, summed it up perfectly in our conversation when he said, "You just seem to blunder into these things don't you?" I thought back to how this trip and many adventures before had come about....and simply nodded. The Peace and Justice Studies Association Conference for 2014 was held at the University of San Diego, a gorgeous campus of stucco buildings and mosaic tile fountains. The Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice hosted the event, appropriately themed, "A Courageous Presence; Shifting Stories and Practices of Peace." Attendees came from all around the world to talk about difficult topics ranging from current wars to environmental issues and everything in between.
The conference kicked off Thursday night with an opening plenary of many introductions, a "grounding" exercise (imagine your feet as roots anyone?) and a tad bit rambling speaker, who spoke with passion, but also mixed many, many messages into a short time that involved many calls for shouting and the occasional standing up to hug your neighbor.......
I went into the conference knowing that I would likely feel a bit out of my element, this being my first "academic conference", but as we made friends and had real, engaging conversations with other attenders, I settled in to knowing that this was an opportunity to share my heart and what God has done and is doing.
And as I quickly learned, at a conference where there are 18 options to choose in the breakout sessions, the average workshop boasts only a handful of people. But intimate crowds are what I love, and before my time came, we pushed all the boardroom tables to the outside of the room, pulled the chairs in close, and had ourselves a house concert.
And friends, we had church. In a semi likely place, at a quite unlikely time. A few people who decided they had had enough of the "head stuff" and came seeking a time of hope and encouragement. As one attender, Jack said to me afterwards, "Thank you for being courageous enough to share Christ in a place that doesn't always include Him.".....well, he said it in a much more "academic way". :o)