by A.C.S. Bird
I had considered attending the OCW summer conference for many years, but always the cost or timing prevented my participation. This year, however, after years of freelance writing and editing, my yearning for fellowship and collaboration outweighed financial concerns. Providentially, my last-minute investigation into conference dates revealedthat they lined up ideally with the family schedule.
I was not disappointed. A multitude of encounters, from the first day to the last, reminded me that, at least in spirit, I work alongside a host of brothers and sisters who share my desire to worship through wordcraft. The following is one such situation.
At lunch on Monday, I sat down across from Nick Harrison and beside another attendee. The three of us enjoyed conversation on sundry topics until Nick excused himself and my neighbor and I turned to one another. We each said words to the effect of, “You look familiar.”
A quick retracing of our individual histories led us back to a scene in my fellow writer’s living room twenty-five years ago. (From here on I must rely on her memory, as neither I nor my husband retains any recollection of this event.) She and her housemate were hosting a party for the Cedar Mill Bible Church singles group. The housemate was dating an Afghan who, uncertain of his reception among this group of Christian Americans, lingered outside in his car for quite some time.
At last, however, he was persuaded to venture inside. According to my co-conversant, the three of us—the Afghan, my husband, and I—shortly fell into conversation. Two years previously I had returned from a two-year stint teaching English to Afghan refugees and learning their dialect of Persian. It was, in fact, that experience that brought my husband and me together. He had studied Persian at Portland State University, and we had met at a Persian-language Iranian church in Portland. At the time of the party, we had been married a matter of months.
The three of us talked through most of the evening. None of us knows what became of the Afghan guest. I hope he left with the impression that people who love Jesus are both hospitable and welcoming. It seems clear, in any case, that it was God who put us all together there that evening. The fact that neither I nor my husband remembers the event exemplifies to me God’s power to work amongst us, even—perhaps most often—without our knowledge. It’s probably better that way; no opportunity to feed the ego. The hostess and her housemate opened their home. My husband and I showed up.
Who knows what will come of the connections, conversations, and encouragement that took place at this year’s conference? What words will be written because someone was empowered by teaching or inspiration, and where those words will go? That’s the nature of the Spirit’s mysterious moving—unseen but inconceivably powerful.
A.C.S Bird is a freelance writer and editor living outside Eugene with her husband, teen daughter, and various international housemates. Her work has appeared in Fathom, Ekstasis, Christianity Today, Dappled Things, and Literary Mama. She reviews books on her blog and on the Story Warren website. Her work in progress is a historical novel set in 1908 Central Asia.