There are some weeks in life that are truly unforgettable and this past week was one of those for me. If I had a “bucket list”, I would have now have something to check off as a memory of a lifetime. Every four years, the leaders of CLC countries all over the world meet for planning, celebration, fellowship and training and this time we met in Panama. Our theme for the week was “Making the Message Global” and our focus was on all of the challenging and exciting issues that face us in the digital age of Social Media and E-books. We were blessed to have devotional sessions with Felipe Train everyday and excellent leadership training from Elba Carrizo that I will be mulling over for weeks to come.
Early in the week, Elba spent time discussing the importance of organizational excellence and how we as leaders can work to instill this in each of our teams. On our day of “tourism”, we got to visit both of the CLC stores in Panama City and saw real life examples of excellence in store location, layout and customer service. In a culture that is not always known for excellence in customer service, our team stands out. Even though we invaded their beautiful downtown store with over 30 delegates to the conference, I noticed that they payed careful attention to the “real” customers in the store and were busy helping them while also being great hosts to us. This store was clearly a vital resource to the Christian community as we saw several pastors and church leaders coming and going from the store in the brief time that we were there.
As always at these kinds of events I meet CLC leaders that I have been praying for, but never met in person and get to hear great stories of God’s faithfulness to our ministry in the far flung corners of the world. I was particularly fortunate to have Carlos Cunha as my roommate from CLC Portugal. Early in the week, I nick named him “superman” after realizing that he is the only CLC worker in the Portugal ministry at this time (he works with a number of key volunteers and has a great board of directors) and yet still does many events outside the store. Not only is he excited about what God is doing in Portugal, but he has lots of ideas about how CLC can grow in the years to come. I am not sure if I have ever met someone in our ministry who has accomplished so much with so few resources and with no complaints. Instead, he always seemed to have a smile and exuded a true joy that was infectious.
My major takeaway from this week is that while many of the obstacles we face may seem insurmountable, God always provides the resources when we need them and had done so for 70+ years. A good example of this was the phenomenal presentation from our CLC Italy team about their use of Social Media and the growth of their website. They now have over 5,000 Facebook fans and their website sales have grown so fast that it is larger in sales than some of their brick and mortar stores. Another representation of God’s faithfulness to CLC in this highly technological world was the presence of three “techies” at this conference that are members of the ministry in various parts of the world and are applying their gifts in creative ways to help us stay relevant and effective.
As I return to my normal responsibilities this week, I am motivated to lead my own team in new and fresh ways as we deal with the challenges and opportunities that face us. What a blessing to know that we do not face them alone and that the large and diverse CLC family is both an example to us and a reminder of why what we do is so important. Making the message of the gospel relevant and accessible globally is a big, daunting goal and one that will certainly motivate me and my team for years to come.