Why I Attended a Men’s Christian Conference (& What I Learned)
Back in May, I knew it was time to leave Hong Kong. The next question was when. That September would mark 7 years in Hong Kong — should I stay until then and apply for PR? That would take a few months and so I’d probably be in Hong Kong until the end of 2022 at least. Also where? Should I go to London or Taipei? Or go back to Canada and finally pursue the MBET degree I’d been thinking about doing for years? And if the MBET, should I do it full-time or part-time? Should I live in Waterloo or Toronto? A million questions and, as I prayed through it, pleading with God to give me the roadmap for my life, I felt him say I could decide yet because he hadn’t yet given me all the necessary pieces. That as I walked with him, things would become clearer, bit by bit.
Fairly quickly, I believed Canada was the next step. I wanted to prioritize family — after not seeing them for three years straight (COVID and HK-related restrictions), I was homesick like never before and wanted to be stuck to my mom like glue haha. Mom became a pastor after I left for Singapore, so she’d been a pastor for over 10 years at that point and I’d never had the opportunity to really serve with or support her in this area. So with my MBET application in, I was on the phone with my mom, and she mentioned an upcoming family vacation to LA. Why didn’t I join them? Uh, because it was in July, which meant wrapping up 11+ years of expat life in less than two months. Was that even possible? I dismissed the idea, but the next day I felt a strong desire to go. Why *couldn’t* I wrap things up in two months? Did I really want to miss another family milestone?
So while many things were still to be determined, after some more prayer I decided to move back to Canada in July and then head to LA for a family trip to attend… a Christian men’s conference (with a quick day trip before to Universal Studios!).
The Full Gospel Men’s Ministry
My dad is part of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI) ministry, the largest network of Christian businessmen in the world with chapters in over 85 countries.
1. To reach men in all nations for Jesus Christ
2. To call men back to God
3. To help believers to be baptized in The Holy Spirit and to grow spiritually
4. To train and equip men to fulfill the Great Commission
5. To provide an opportunity for Christian fellowship
6. To bring unity among all people in the body of Christ
Here’s a bit about their history, taken from Oral Roberts University:
In the early 1950's, businessman, Demos Shakarian, and Oral Roberts discussed the vision of starting a layman's fellowship of businessmen who would help introduce business people to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and to help fund the work of God around the world. In 1953, a small chapter of businessmen established a meeting every week in Clifton’s Cafeteria in Los Angeles, California. This quickly grew to local chapters and annual conventions in the US and around the world.
My dad’s worklife has always been really busy and growing up my mom often prayed that he would be a part of a strong spiritual community. FGBMFI was an answer to prayer. Not only did my dad find a spiritual community that he connected and served with but these were real God-fearing, Holy Spirit-loving men. This past July, the organization celebrated their 70 year anniversary in Los Angeles and we decided to go with dad. I didn’t know what to expect, being with my family was reason enough for me, but God did.
The 70th Anniversary Conference
To be honest, I hadn’t really researched the conference before I went. But quickly I realized that a large part of what FGBMFI is about is testimonies.
They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony (Revelation 12:11)
The first session on the conference schedule was testimonies from Asian Nations. Before the testimonies began, there was a beautiful session of prayer and worship with men joyfully praising the Lord, blowing shofars, even dancing. For a daughter to see her dad and his friends praising the Lord with all their hearts… it was very touching and inspirational. I mean, David is perhaps the most obvious example of a man who danced before the Lord with all his might (to the chagrin of his wife lol). And his epic response that “I will be even more undignified than this” (2 Samuel 6:22) aka "I will praise the Lord with all my might no matter what anyone thinks" (my paraphrase). Awesome. But while we have this example, perhaps it's not very common to actually see men dancing before the Lord (women too). It would be great if it was and to see an example of it here… I pray for more men, women, future generations, especially in Asia to be able to enjoy praising the Lord in this way too.
As for the testimonies, two stuck out to me. One was from a man who had built a very successful yacht company. When I hear testimonies of people who have built 9-figure businesses, I’m not sure it always registers. Like that is an incredible success, how does one even do that?! But the focus of this man’s testimony wasn't his business skills but the importance of keeping God at the centre of his business. That in the middle of his shipyard was a large cross. In his office was an area where he often prayed and worshipped. I think he said that there had been a period of struggle where he’d almost lost everything (the testimony was in Mandarin, I caught 60% of it…) and it was by God’s grace and leading that the business had become what it is today. That whatever we did in whatever field, the most important thing is to remember to work for the Lord.
Another was from a man who owned a successful construction business but had also become a pastor. He and his team put together an epic video that was very prophetic (resonated with other prophecies I’d heard around that time) with a strong focus on praying for revival in Asian nations. Amen, there are so many unreached places. Praying, hoping, awaiting for the love of God to impact many more lives in Asia. Pray with us!
The Women’s Session
On the second day, there was a breakout session focused on women (largely the wives and daughters of the men attending, but also some business women). There were testimonies from the country representatives — my main takeaway from them was the encouragement that God has called us to shine, that if we think God is leading us to start a business then do it. Run! Glorify God. Don’t retreat.
And then it was time for the keynote speaker. The organizer had originally felt God suggest a specific woman for the session, but then learned of her passing. Her husband led the session instead and it blew me away. For the rest of the conference, I’d run into other women and we’d speak of how powerful that session was. Just so many truths wrapping around our wounds and sharp edges. Here are some of my notes:
The next time you begin to worry, worship God. Sometimes you need to let things go to let better things come into your life.
You’re braver than you believe. You’re smarter than you think. You’re stronger than you know. You are twice as beautiful than you ever realized.
A bad attitude is like a flat tire. You can’t go anywhere until you change it. Don’t let the noise of the world keep you from hearing the word of God.
As warriors, we need to forgive those who insult, offend, belittle us. Also forgive yourself for allowing them to hurt you.
Warriors are women of faith not greed. Faith is daring to go beyond what the eye can see.
Tell a woman she’s beautiful and she’ll remember for a moment. Tell her she’s ugly and she’ll remember forever. Be careful what words you listen to. What labels people try to put on you. Only want what God has called you: a beautiful queen.
Let your words heal not wound. A wrong tone causes wounds when there needs to be peace.
God has a plan for your life. The enemy also does. Warriors are ready for both. Know which to fight and which to embrace. Not all battles are worth fighting — it’s not in the flesh, it’s in the spirit and in prayers.
Learn this fact: the first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest. If we remember this we will win/survive the spiritual battle. We must cherish all those who hold us up.
Until you’re broken, you’ll never know what’s on the inside.
You choose what you let into your life. You choose how you let it affect you. Happiness or sadness stems from that. It’s your choice.
“Don’t give up. I’m still working on you. And in you. Those who walk with me reach their destination: eternal life with the king.”
Unfortunately I didn’t catch his name and it wasn't on the programme, an older gentleman and I think someone said he was from Iran? But I am so thankful for another example of a man who took the time to share his heart and encourage a group of women for no reason other than to serve the Lord. These sessions aren’t heavily promoted on social media, speakers aren’t tagged etc. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I think it’s what I’m used to now, but I think the lack of heavy social media promotion reminded me that God is doing so much work in so many places. We can all preach and testify — an online presence is not a qualification! May we — all of us — continue to testify boldly, honestly of what God has done for our souls (Psalm 66:16).
A Divine Encounter
When I attended the conference, I was just one week into the move back home. There was so much to sort through emotionally — leaving Asia after 11 years, but also having done so during a period of burnout. I was so looking forward to this conference, being with my family and just in open-hearted expectation at what God might do. But I was on autopilot sometimes, not being as observant and people-watchy as I usually am on vacation. However… praise God that we are part of his family!
On day 2 of the conference, I was washing my hands in the restroom when a woman approached my sister. She said she’d noticed us at breakfast, and now that we were running into each other in the restroom, perhaps the Holy Spirit wanted us to meet. In a conference of 1,000 people, what were the chances? So she said hello. I think we were just making small talk, asking each other where we were from and so on. But all I remember is that she started testifying!
Keota started telling us about her business, Moukda Production, an animation company focused on children ages 3-6 (the exact area that I was thinking about focusing my business on — to start). How it had been a real God thing, as she had somehow found out about a Masters in Entrepreneurship (the exact degree I was thinking about doing, hers at HEC Paris) and how she had been worried about the tuition (the exact thing I was worrying about) and how it was 17k (the exact amount of my tuition!) but God had provided, etc. I’d been speaking with my sister about these things, so when this woman started sharing her testimony — we looked at each other like… only God. Too coincidental.
Shocked and happy, we went back out to our respective groups. But God wasn’t done yet.
The next morning, we left our hotel room and headed down to breakfast. Again, I was in my own world and didn’t really notice the lady outside of our door, picking something out of her purse. But my sister did, and lo and behold it was Keota! She and her roommate were staying in the room directly across from us. They had already started to head down to breakfast but her roommate had forgotten her pass and so they came back to get it — and then we met. So we all headed down to breakfast and the testifying continued. I think I asked about how she came to know the Lord, and she shared about her family life (a Laotian family in Paris) as well as a painful breakup where what seemed like a fairytale prince charming situation had crumbled unexpectedly but God used the pain to basically move her into a new season of creating for his glory… and there were so many parallels to my own story that again I just marvelled at God.
This was perhaps the first instance this summer where I felt God confirm that I was to go after my God-given dream. No hedging. When I started the conference, I’d accepted my offer into the MBET program but was still unsure if I really had enough courage to go for it. By the end of the conference, through conversations like this and through hearing testimonies through the women’s session, my courage had grown to the point where I could start to openly tell people in our Asian delegation that this was what I hoped to pursue next. And then a week later, I was receiving prayer at Westside Church in Vancouver — I’d gone up to pray about this — and felt God pour out confirmation that left me in tears. I went back to my seat and through tears explained to my brother that pursuing this God dream was so dang scary but I would if God was saying to do it. A breakthrough moment. And I’ll always remember my sweet baby brother holding my hand and comforting me in this moment!
Prayer Changes Things… Keep Praying
As I reflect on this post, I realize how many testimonies had to do with answered prayer. Sometimes it was an answer to our prayers. Other times it was an answer to prayers others have prayed over us. And what a blessing that is. We are part of God’s family. When we’re weak, God uses others to encourage and support us. When we’re strong, God may provide more opportunities to serve and testify to others.
I don’t think we’ll ever look back and be able to put all the puzzle pieces together — instances of where God worked and how and what that affected. Not in this lifetime at least? It sounds kind of tiring to even try haha, and makes me thankful, again, at how blessed we are to be children of the greatest God. We are so cared for and loved. Amidst life changes, we can always rest in the fact that it’s not about us. Life should be all about loving God and doing his will. He guides us, provides for us, heals and forgives us, and loves us more than we could ever possibly comprehend. What is testifying but sharing about how wonderful God is right? We all need him! When he does something, let us share and pray others will want to rely on him more too. Because we all need encouragement. No matter how long we’ve been a Christian, God prunes and tests us for our benefit. We’re not always strong. Neither are we always struggling. But we have a God who is the same yesterday, today, and always.
At this point, I feel like my future is wide open. Honestly I still regularly think about life a year from now. What will be done, where will I go, will I stay, etc. So many things could change… or stay the same. But as I bring this to God, he’s reminded me not to skip this chapter. That where I am now is a place I’d only dreamed about and wondered if it would ever be possible. He’s blessed me! I’m here! I shouldn’t say thanks and then ignore this adventure because I’m onto dreaming about the next thing. Anyone else ever feel like this?
God is with us. He is working on us — and oh how we need him to, amen? (Lord, help us be more like you.) I pray that we will continue to share regularly, where we are, without feeling only qualified to speak when we’ve sorted everything out. May we take chances to testify whenever we sense the Holy Spirit might be saying o. After all, we never know when God will us a testimony/sermon/keynote/podcast/random in-person conversation to impact someone else’s season. Help us to speak life, Lord. We want to enjoy your love and pass it on.