A New Year, A New Life

2006: Urbana, Illinois
3 years ago I was at a Urbana, Illinois this very night. A stadium packed with 22,000 fellow brothers and sisters had gathered to learn about the global missions movement and what God’s calling is for our lives.
A New Year, A New Life

Urbana directory Jim Tebbe had opened the convention a few nights earlier with a challenge for us to seek God and have Him shape the direction for our lives. I remember Jim Tebbe announcing that 144 countries were represented there that night. Surely Rev 7:9-10’s reference about a great multitude of every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne, this had to be what the writer John had envisioned.

The night closed as we worshiped and ushered in the new year, eagerly anticipating what 2007 would bring. It was truly a sight to see and surely a lasting memory.
2009: Shanghai, China
3 years later, I find myself in a hotel room lobby of a Pullman Hotel in Shanghai. What started 5 days earlier is now rapidly approaching its end and I find myself wondering how the time has passed so quickly. I’ve hardly had the time to digest what has transpired this week.
David and I are a bit late since we were meeting up with Dr. Y and we make it to the hotel around 11 pm. Still about an hour to go before midnight. The Shanghai Community Fellowship (SCF) that we had attended last sunday is putting on a new year’s worship gathering here tonight.

We walk up to the hotel ballroom and we hear a loud chorus behind shut doors. The door opens slightly as a few people trickle in and out and it is clear the walls and doors are insulated. We chat with a few people outside that we recognize from the small group on wednesday night. One girl was there at Urbana back in ’06. David starts talking about his military stories to a few friends and since I’ve heard a few of them, I head in a little earlier to grab a seat.

I get a glimpse at the gathering here tonight. it’s HUGE. what the heck?! It is freaking hot in this room. This place is packed! The room probably sits a good 300-400 people and there is definitely a lot of people here. A glance around the room and it is as culturally diverse a group as I’ve ever seen. America, Europe, South America, Afria, Asia, Australia…almost all the continents are represented here tonight. The worship reaches a feverish tone and the energy is indescribable. But before I know it, it’s midnight and we sing the Lord’s prayer to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.

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Brothers and sisters who have never met before embrace, wish each other well, and pray for one another. I am dumbfounded at the moment.

I thought 2006/2007 was a once in a lifetime occurrence but merely 3 years later I am having the same experience in a city more than 7,000 miles from the last one. The God I serve is a God of this world and in Him all his creation finds true delight. These two new years eves have been a tiny microcosm of what is to come in eternity. If I was left speechless here tonight, it’ll be a spectacle to behold in heaven one day.
The title of this post is “A New Year, a New Life” and it sort of addresses the motto scrawled all across Shanghai. In preparation for the World Expo this summer, slogans have been plastered all over construction walls promising “A Better City, A Better Life”. It’s a good campaign but perhaps the people here in Shanghai are searching for something more. 

In the face of a global financial crisis, deteriorating families, and a cancerous materialism, these are bleak times and many are looking towards better days. The void and longing these people face can only be met by an all fulfilling God. It is the prayer of some in this room that in this new year the people in Shanghai will learn and accept a Savior that brings new life.
I’m not sure when I’ll be back here in Shanghai, but I have a feeling it will not be too far in the distant future. I eagerly look forward to that day.  

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