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Reflections on Singapore Leadership Conference, July 2009

Posted on July 28th, 2009

Geri and I have just begun our yearly, summer “sabbatical” rest (our old term was “vacation”). We are in Thailand, beginning to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Yet we wanted to take a few moments and share with you several highlights from our time in Singapore at the Eagles Leadership Conference where we spent the last 6 days. 1375 delegates (pastors and leaders) from 19 countries attended this very well-run, powerful conference. Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand were the top four countries represented. Geri and I did a plenary session around our story and the main insights of EHS. This was followed by a full day workshop for around 200 leaders, and then 2 shorter workshops around “The Leader’s Spouse (by Geri) and Insights of Monasticism for the 21st Century (me) on the final day.  We were very well-received and felt greatly honored. We also learned quite a bit. The following are a few of them: 1. Amazing People.  We had dinner the first night with the a number of amazing people, one of which was David Wang from Hong Kong,  the foremost expert on Christianity in China. We also had a meal with Tan Koon Swan, a wealthy business person who was expected to be President of Malaysia in the 80’s, but ended up imprisoned and bankrupt. He was at the conference to share his trauma of failure, suffering, pain and God’s redemption of his life as he faced the person who prosecuted him and put him in prison. Peter Chao and John Ng from Singapore also brought great maturity, experience and breath through their forty year ministry throughout Asia. It was a gift to simply be around them. 2.  China. David Wang, a 40 year veteran of the church in China also had a thing or two to teach us. During my (Pete’s) first conversation with him, he let us know that just as China has developed a model of capitalism over the past 25 years that has outpaced the USA, they are now growing an explosive Christianity without Western cultural trappings. He kindly asked that I (we) stay away! Along with the underground church and the state run church, there is a fast-growing, urban church that has exploded among professionals in China since 1989.  Nonetheless, David Wang sent his leaders from China to our all-day workshop. His plenary address was one of the best messages I have heard in years. Without doubt, China is a global superpower in many ways. Their size and influence was everywhere. David Wang endeared himself to us and we hope our paths cross again. I (Pete) am also highly motivated to understand the different movements of Chinese coming into Queens as their 32 different provinces each contain enormous ethnic and cultural diversity. 3. Hospitality. We were challenged, overwhelmed and convicted by Sinaporean hospitality as expressed through Eagles Communications, our host.  Compared to typical American hospitality, it was a bit embarrassing. For us, this event was not just about the conference but about a relationship with new friends from the Eagles Ministry, one that we expect will continue. 4. Asian Spiritual Vitality. God is alive and moving powerfully in places like Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore. It was good to experience Asians on their turf. They led. We followed.  5. Our Struggles, Pains, and Yearnings are Universal among Pastors/Leaders.  Whether it was a pastor from Myanmar (Burma), Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Nepal, Australia, or Thailand, the challenges of leadership, emotional health, expectations, marriage and the balancing activity and contemplation remain similar. We had many intimate, tender conversations around people’s genograms and the unique applications of emotionally healthy skills in their contexts. 6. The Interpreters. It was a new experience to work with a team of interpreters representing about four different countries. During the sessions, they were in soundproof booths in the back of room working very hard. Their passion to convey our message accurately was humbling and admirable. We learned I (Pete) speaks 120 words per minute and Geri about 100 words per minute. The ideal, we learned is about 80 words per minute!  I have a long way to go. Overall, people are immensely hungry for emotionally healthy spirituality. The integration of leadership, marriage and family touches a deep chord here. I don’t think I can recall any conference where our EHS materials sold more briskly. An organization is already planning to translate and distribute the EHS small group and church-wide materials throughout Asia. Thank you for your prayers. We will see you soon.

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