our convention in argentina ended well sunday night. the spirit of the event was as joyous and electric as usual. youth workers in the states are often (certainly not always) a bit jaded and skeptical. but this is not the case here in latin america — they are, 100%, expectant and engaged. this makes every aspect of the event a total blast.
the event had a handful of behind-the-scenes problems this year — nothing the participants would have known about. but it had lucas and the organizers a bit stressed. earlier in the week, during a time of prayer, lucas had felt god impress on his heart that he should speak in the closing session, that he should have german ortiz (pronounced “herman”, or “hair-mon” in spanish) speak. german and lucas started a grass-roots youth organization called lagram when they were 17 years old, and german still leads this organization.
then there was the high maintanance worship leader.
a super-popular spanish worship leader was one of the “big deal” presenters this year. he was set to give a general session talk sunday morning, then lead worship sunday night. his people called early sunday and said he didn’t want to take the flight we’d arranged from buenos aires, and that someone had arranged to bring him and his band over to mendoza on a private jet. problem was: the jet wasn’t available exactly when we needed him there. we pushed back that we have the schedule all arranged, and we need him there on time. his people said he was really tired, and needed the private jet to rest. so we reshuffled things in that session a bit, and had a bus waiting for him and his band at the airport.
but the private jet was late. lucas went to plan b and had german give the talk sunday morning (on 10 minutes notice). german hit it out of the park, and all was good at the convention. but when the noted worship leader dude arrived, he and his band were ticked. then, some of his band members complained that they didn’t have enough sound check time in the afternoon, and refused to play. so the dude phoned in a time of worship leading with a partial band (and, a female singer who was supposed to do a few songs backed by his band refused to sing without his full band — geez!).
add all this up, and lucas had a quandry on his hands. german had already spoken in the morning session, and the worship leader dude wasn’t going to speak; and only did a reasonably short set or worship songs (with his eyes closed the entire time, i might add).
while the session was already in motion, lucas wasn’t sure what to do. he said to me, “i’m thinking of doing a shane claiborne.”
for those who don’t know… last fall at our national youth workers convention in atlanta, shane clairborne was to speak. and we all expected a great talk about justice and the poor. but shane took the stage, talked a bit about how he’d wondered what he could do that would match the production of the event, did some fire-breathing thing, then said he was going to bring “the best sermon ever given.” he proceeded to open a bible, and read the entire sermon on the mount. then he closed with a short prayer, and walked off the stage. it was stunning — the word of god, unencumbered. really, a very beautiful and memorable moment.
well, lucas played that card. he did the exact same thing (minus the fire-breathing). he said he wondered how he could close this event in a way that would really be powerful, say something that would really have an impact. then he said he’d decided to bring the best sermon ever given. and he read. and read. and read.
after he finished reading, though, he still had to close the event (it was the last 10 or 15 minutes of the whole thing). so he had two or three of the bands that had stuck around through the whole thing (not the noted worship dude – he’d already left, with bodyguards) come out on stage, and invited all of us who participated in some way (the organizers and speakers) on stage, and we all sang the hymn, “there is power in the blood.” i was the token gringo, so i was singing in english; but 3000 youth workers were singing their lungs out in spanish. the band kicked it into a total jam groove, and lucas — seriously, with some boost of the holy spirit or adrenaline or both — morphed into steve martin’s character from the movie “leap of faith”! lucas was leading the singing, but he was dancing around the front of the stage like the best pentecostal tent preacher ever. somehow it worked. maybe it was the context. but it didn’t seem like a show — it was a massive joyous praise fest to god. i could hardly supress my laughter (and didn’t more than once).