By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (November 17, 2010) – Whether they were working behind the scenes from early morning to late at night, helping lead events from the stage, or simply attending, Covenanters at the Third Lausanne World Congress on Evangelization say it was an overwhelming experience that left a lasting impact.
More than 4,000 people attended the gathering in Cape Town, South Africa, October 16-25. Covenanters who helped organize or lead portions of the massive event included Lon Allison, director of the Billy Graham Center and a member of the executive committee of the USA Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization; Brenda Salter McNeil, president and founder of Salter McNeil & Associates, a Christian company that partners with organizations to transform them into reconciling communities; Celina Camarillo, events manager for the Evangelical Covenant Church; and Noé Paz, pastor of Iglesia del Pacto La Central in Soledad, Colombia.
Salter McNeil served as emcee during morning events, Camarillo oversaw the management of breakout dialogue sessions, and Paz was a member of the international worship team. Paz initially joined the team for one session when one of the Latin singers failed to show up, but then was asked to help lead worship for the rest of the congress.
Other Covenant clergy attending included Curt Peterson, executive minister of the Department of World Mission; missionary Leonid Regheta; Al Tizon, associate professor of holistic ministry at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University; Adam Edgerly, lead pastor of Newsong Los Angeles Covenant Church; and Adam Philips, faith relations manager for ONE, an anti-poverty organization. The accompanying photo shows Philips (left) and Regheta.
Held in a country once infamous for apartheid, McNeil said history inspired her. She was able to travel to Stellenbosch School of Theology where the idea of apartheid was developed. “Now that university is a place where the children of the oppressed and the oppressor study in the same classes!” she said.
Philips and Peterson note that the Lausanne Movement always has struggled with balancing social action and personal evangelism, but say they were impressed at the strides that have been made. Many of the plenary and other sessions focused on issues such as AIDS, poverty, reconciliation, and other justice issues as well as reaching out to different world religions and the importance of personal evangelism.
The gathering affirmed “the good news of Jesus Christ is a holistic story of life amidst the world and its powers of death,” Philips says.
“I was moved by the call to suffering and sacrifice, especially as I looked out and saw people from places where I knew they were dealing with persecution and poverty, and yet their faith was unwavering,” says Curt Peterson, who was the official representative of the Evangelical Covenant Church.
Peterson said the gathering at one of the general sessions was moved by the story told by an 18-year-old from North Korea whose family fled to China when she was six years old because her father was experiencing political persecution.
He became a Christian in China after being ministered to by South Korean and American missionaries. China sent him back to North Korea, where he was imprisoned for three years before being released. He was able to flee with his family to South Korea. He returned to North Korea, however, because he felt the call to evangelize. He was never heard from again and is believed to have been executed. (To read more of her story, click here.)
A Bible study on Ephesians was held each day – participants broke into smaller groups to discuss passages with three or four other attendees. Peterson says he not only developed a richer understanding of the scriptures, he also got a geography lesson. One of the people in his group included a minister from Vanuatu, an island nation about the size of Connecticut located 1,090 miles east of northern Australia.
“The closing worship service was an awesome expression of our commitment to Christ and our unity in the Lord,” Regheta said, adding that participating in worship with Christian leaders from 198 nations who were singing, praying, and having communion together is something he will never forget.
Camarillo was able to attend the opening and closing worship services, but little in between. She led an international team of staff and volunteers, working each day from 8 a.m. to midnight beginning a week before the conference even started. “Any time I got to go to a general session was so rich,” she says.
“There were times I didn’t even remember how I got back to my bed,” she said. “I just hit it hard.” She slept nearly the entire flight back to Chicago.
Participation was by invitation only. Peterson says that having so many Covenanters attend as well as hold leadership positions was noteworthy.