I heard a story from the Extravaganza that I need to share with you. It’s pretty amazing.
If you were there, you know that we rented a Segway for use during the “segue” moments on the main stage. We rented from a local St. Louis company, who would bring the Segway before each general session, would hang around, and then would take it with them at the end of every general session. (hmmm…perhaps they didn’t trust us with it? Ok, can’t blame them.)
They were loading the Segway out of their van into the hotel when Pastor Manuel Retamoza, a member of the Extravaganza Team, was heading out to make an airport run. Dawn, one of the other team members said to Manuel, “could you chat with this gentleman? He has some questions about our church.” “Sure,” said Manuel. Manuel grew up in an American/Southern Baptist tradition, and we were in St. Louis. So he stepped into the conversation carefully. They talked about our theology, our emphasis on grace, infant baptism, and our strong focus on service of those in need. The Segway guy said “what can you tell me about your marital rights?” Oh boy. Manuel, again carefully, described our approach to marriage. It was a pleasant, respectful conversation, and about ten minutes later, they went on their respective ways.
The Segue guy sits in the back of the ballroom, waiting for each general session to come to a close, to take the Segue back to its nest (or wherever they keep it.) So the next day, during the session when Rev. Brenda Bos was speaking about how we in the church welcome LGBTQ young people (Remember? “How do you welcome a LGBTQ young person into the church? You say ‘Welcome to the church.’”). After Brenda had finished speaking Manuel was walking through the back of the ballroom, saw the Segway guy, and made eye contact. He then realized that the Segway guy, while not crying, was obviously emotional. His eyes were filled with tears. Manuel walked over to check on him.
“I’ve been in a committed relationship for over 17 years, and I’ve not been in a church in that time. I’ve never heard this message before and I think it’s time for us to find a church home.”
This is the power of the Word of God, shared in love and grace. It happens in places you don’t expect. It happens in ways you don’t anticipate. The Extravaganza is framed for those who come for our congregations. But maybe…just maybe…at this general session, it was also for framed for someone else.
It was for the Segway guy.
Todd, this will preach! Thanks for sharing it. Reminds me of a conversation that I had with a vet who works for my son’s company, Orthopets.com. Very similar story, and one of relief and joy to discover a church that actually lived into the radical grace proclaimed by Christ.
Thank you for sharing this story, and thanks to Manuel whose presence and words spoke to this man and helped him feel safe enough to enter into this kind of dialogue. The timing of Brenda’s presentation couldn’t have been better!
Reading this story brought tears to my eyes again, as it did when I originally heard it. Brenda’s presentation was superb but the Holy Spirit took it to the next level. Thanks be to God!