The Chicago Regional Baha’i Conference. (Read this first!!)
I am so overwhelmed with the beauty and love of these conferences. I have been struggling to write this blog entry for several days now, wondering how I would put into words the experience. Then I decided to just capture the moments. The moments I experienced might be similar to other people’s experiences, or completely different. A number of friends from around the world have been asking for anecdotes from the Chicago conference, so I thought it best to just write it here.
-Registration on Friday night…watching my fellow volunteers prepare for the arrival of the attendees, and then greeting each person, checking off their names. Having lived in the Midwestern region for 17 years, I recognized so many people and names. Everyone was so happy to see each other, and sometimes there were reunions of 15 years gone by right in front of my table.
-Saturday morning, helping with a few things here and there, and then sitting in the main hall for the start of the conference. Facilitating workshops with large groups of people during the course of the weekend…and they were all so excited, so eager to contribute, and the entire ballroom was full of people like this. The entire conference was full of people that did not want to miss sessions. People would go outside the rooms, grab a cup of coffee, and run back inside, explaining that “I’m so happy to see you, but I can’t miss this!” They were offering their skills, their prayers, their homes, their lives for service, and it nearly makes me cry now just thinking about it.
-Rushed meals in meetings, laughter, explanations, and sharing the learning.
-I saw a hundred people I dearly missed, and missed seeing even more because there were 2,300 people there. I heard that friends of mine were there, but I just did not ever see them. Reuniting with friends was a nice bonus if it happened, but everyone seemed to agree that it wasn’t really the point. The conferences were called by the Universal House of Justice for a specific reason, and everyone seemed to be on the same page. It was especially wonderful to see friends that I had served with in Haifa.
-Driving to and from the convention center in horrible weather conditions. Chicago blessed us with all of her wintery wrath, and it was 4 degrees F (-15 C), with a minor blizzard on Saturday morning that made the drive twice as long. Having not driven in snow for nearly 2 years (since I was serving in Haifa, and it definitely didn’t snow there!) made me very nervous.
-Laughter. My face hurt from how happy I was.
-Watching a man sign his Baha’i declaration card and become a Baha’i, right in front of my eyes, on Sunday afternoon. I had never met him, but it was powerful.
-Knowing that I was taking part in something historic…I can’t even count how many times I got the shivers, knowing that this was unprecedented and that I will tell my children about it.
I can’t wait to hear about the rest of the conferences.