“Tomorrow, nearly 25,000 young adults from more than fifty nations will gather in Kansas City to seek the heart of the Lord in worship, prayer, teaching, and ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our cost to host this “free” event, our tenth annual onething conference, will be close to $700,000. And while we are passionate about continuing to host this conference at no charge to the attendees, it still costs nearly $30 for each person in attendance.”
That was an email I got December, 27th 2010. The two points to make is that they had a venue that fit 25,000 people. This event costs $700,000, and they don’t charge anyone to come.
Anyhow, I decided I had to see this event for myself. I wrote a post about my visit in October, and while in KC, I heard much about this event in December. Hey, what better than to celebrate my B-Day with 25,000 others! This trip was longer and with far more stories to tell, so bear with me.
Nina picked me up from the airport; in the car was a familiar face, AK. I met AK my first trip two months prior. Nina was yet another last minute hook-up from my friend, who’d finished his internship, and had gone home. I was a bit unsure of the living situation, but I’m flexible and God is good, so I wasn’t worried. That night, Nina made me an awesome dinner of random stuff and I found these guys before bedtime (don’t they look so innocent on my blue sleeping bag?).
Nina is on staff at IHOP and works with video/media. She is one of the sweetest gals I’d ever met. We connected on so many levels. I so rarely connect with women, and this trip I met some of the most amazing sisters. It seems that I am only compatible with women who are humble, sincere, and transparent. Haha, I should try harder to be those things.
I, of course, had many questions about IHOP, as I’m still trying to understand what it is. She had many stories, but the one that stuck with me most was one about how God had revealed to her a grief that she never mourned. What would such a sweet girl be mourning about?… She explained that during her college years that there was a deep loneliness from feeling disconnected to other Christians. I interpreted her story to say that she had a deep desire to know God in ways that other people didn’t understand.
Now, she is so sweet and nice that she’d be the last person to feel that sort of loneliness. I, on the other hand, am weird and uncomfortable, and people typically expect that I’ll be rejected… haha. In addition to all the interesting stories about how people from home don’t quite “get” what IHOP is about, I felt like she was the first person to articulate the sort of grief and loneliness that I have carried around. If IHOP helps cultivate people like Nina– that is a +1 from me.
THE CONFERENCE CENTER
So, the next day, Nina drops me off at the convention center, and I just hang around. The place was HUGE. There were concessions that sold overpriced food, a giant bookstore with mostly IHOP books, but other very reasonably priced stuff. Booths lined one side of the bookstore with all types of ministries that run out of IHOP. If you want to know what IHOP does then this conference is how you can find out everything at once. This is how early I was…
The last time I was at a conference this big was the InterVarsity conference at UIUC– with 20,000 students back in 2003. In comparing the two events, this one seemed more cohesive, maybe b/c I came here by myself and was more attentive to what was going on overall. For sure, I was able to make many friends.
What I appreciate about this movement, is that they know how to use the talents and passions of their people. They are transparent, original, and bold. Christianity seems too often spineless, manipulative, and shallow. If this is what it’s like to be in a cult, than I’d rather be here in a house of devotion than in a clubhouse of posers.
A friend from home points out how they have a section on identifying cults in the conference materials. I think it’s funny that they have to do that. As limiting as any phobia, heresy-phobia will keep you spiritually dumb and maybe even faithless. So what if there are shirts that show people getting out of wheel-chairs? I kinda like the aesthetic, but I’m sure it offends somebody. If not, then probably this sign below might offend someone:
Next year, I’m going to go to that session… That is a sure way to see if their theology lines up with mine. They don’t really teach on healing or miracles, they give testimonies of such things, but they almost exclusively teach on devotion and faith. Now Bethel teaches much on healings and miracles to give some contrast.
I’d really only heard a couple IHOP speakers, but their message is basically the same each time. I’d heard Bickle speak 2 times already, with all the same testimonies. The music was great, the huge rock concert that it was. My favorite song from that trip is, “Shekinah.”
People came from all over the world to be here, with seats sectioned off for people of particular countries. That week was definitely an overload of numbers for Kansas City, as mealtimes were chaotic and getting home took forever. The shuttle to take you back to the prayer room in Grandview runs nonstop for hours. The lines grew overwhelming at times.
Before the end of the first night, I caught up with a friend from UCSF. Johanna is another one of my favorite sisters, as she has such a pure heart and yet I see her as a fierce leader in the making. She’s in dental school and we met when I first adventured into their retreat the Spring before. It’s cool to share this experience with her, as we are part of this bay-area network of rising experts and professionals, and I felt that we both knew it’d be hard to explain what this conference would be like to the others.
MEETING THE GANG
That night I got to stay at the “dorms” for IHOP, that Nina had hooked me up with. I knew that other people were going to show up, but I didn’t know any of them. I ended up spending a whole week with these awesome people. The person I wanted to write about was this Brazilian girl named Pabla.
Her every waking moment is passionate and energetic, and since she didn’t want to miss any part of the conference, I went with her to catch the shuttle early that morning while her friend rested. I don’t remember all her stories or how she told them, but that they were unbelievable.
God speaks to Pabla in dreams in the most mind-blowing ways. By then, I’d met people who hear from God in prayer and visions, but never stories of someone who’d so regularly dream things of the future. It’s like meeting another superhero with an ability I had not encountered before. Her X-Man card is worth holding onto, as she’d get great storylines in the comics. Again, it’s just so unlikely for her to make all this up.
She was a Brazilian immigrant, and about to go home when God told her to buy a restaurant and start a business. She soon found herself without money to even buy “pohtaytoes.” The way she said potato was so animated, that I remember so clearly her saying, “I had no money… I couldn’t even buy pohTAYtoes!” in her Brazilian accent. That day, a woman comes into her business and hands her a check for $400. Again and again, she’d receive money and favor against the odds.
She tells me more than once, that she could not have done any of this herself, that only God could do it. That God tells her what to do in her dreams and she does it. She just opened her second restaurant in Boston. I feel bad that I cannot remember all her stories, but this is one fearless woman of God who has numerous amazing stories about how God speaks in dreams.
Before knowing about IHOP’s onething conference, she had dreamed that God wanted her to go on a trip, and shortly after, was she called by her friend about this event. What’s funny is that she was curious about how God gives me visions, but not as much as I was about her dreams.
I also ran into a couple people from the east coast part of my life. Pastor Dewey from a college fellowship at Delaware. What a faithful servant of the Lord, who works with so much wisdom and compassion. I also hung out with Yonnie’s sister.
In regards to Yoonie’s sis, I had a vision of her sitting at God’s table, pointing and asking permission to touch or eat several items at the table. It’s funny that we’d ask God permission for what he’s already given us, and even if we wanted to put peanut butter on our turkey, I don’t think God would care. So, that’s the word I had for her.
When I’d see her next, she was asking about the gift of tongues and wondering if she’s seeking the gifts too much. Like she felt bad for wanting to experience God through supernatural means, when she should just be happy sitting at the table with God. If this “vision” was a word from God, then I suppose he’s saying that she doesn’t need permission to receive these gifts, that they’ve already been given. So, we should be ok with dipping our celery in the gravy.
On one of the last days, Nina introduces me to her friend, who’d served with Heidi Baker in Mozambique, and currently lives in Jersey. He kept insisting that we’d met before until he remembered that I had asked him to pray for Yoonie to receive the gift of tongues back when Chris and I went to IHOP in Jersey the past Summer. It only made sense that he’d also pray with Yoonie’s sister too as a coincidence 6 months later! Haha, funny when that happens.
AK was taking a trip to Israel and missing the end of the conference. Nina and I went out to eat with him at the best place for affordable convenient food– that grocery store 4 blocks away. You know, one thing I really appreciate about “onething” is being surrounded by people who love to pray and prayed for. We did a lot of that!
Remember this guy?… You know, the new friend I made on my adventure to Knoxville back in October. After a number of texts, I finally caught him on the last day of the conference. It was that last day that the urge to volunteer kicked in. I decided to help out in what I found was a poorly organized volunteer program. The whole, “we don’t really know how to do this, but the volunteers should just tough it out and serve” is disappointing, b/c I’ve served in so many big events that handle things much better. I tried to offer help, but it came off more like criticism, and they were like, “no thanks, we don’t want any of that.” Ok, I’ll just put on my yellow vest and guard the escalator for an indefinite amount of time.
I’d been there over an hour, but being stationary it was easy for Jason to find me. Here’s a nugget of wisdom: if you want to find people at an 25,000 person event, assign yourself the duty of people inspection at one of the choke points for entry… and wear a bright yellow vest. I convinced him to wear my vest as I used the restroom and went to let the coordinators know that I was done.
Jason is well networked into the IHOP world as his parents had him and his bro going to IHOP events ever since they were little. He said it was one of the best things his parents did for him. As a result, they had family friends there who he was supposed to bring bags of clothes for. We carried bags of clothes in “restricted areas” of the convention center and I got to meet techies and security guards a long the way. I know I heard some great stories from this one security person I spoke with, but I can’t remember them anymore.
Behind the scenes I got to meet their media and social media team. Two of my tweets from onething was:
I feel convicted to tweet bc i feel that xtians are so technophobic that they wont use #onething2010, but i have no internet, so i dont kno.
Not digging the social media hate. I find it counter-productive. The rhetoric could be so more functional. Im eating a cookie. #onething2010
I did get into a tweet discussion with someone who thought I was messed up to call Christians technophobes.. (but they ARE!) I mean, the opening session was about how video games are the enemy and, later, on telling people to get out of the stupid room. I don’t think the room is stupid; I think, probably, the room is beautiful and amazing– it’s the people who are stupid.
Here’s what I learned from behind the curtain:
On the other side of the curtain, you’ll find slides advertising the twitter hashtag rolling through the projector screens right after the session where they tell us to get off facebook. Now I know what they mean, as one tweeter pointed out to me, but I’m unappreciative of the rhetoric they are using, that’s all.
For most of my time in KC, I stayed at Pastor Min’s house. I met them in October when I visited the first time, and it was so good to see them again. I almost didn’t have a place to stay, but P. Min said, “you must pray a lot, b/c God gave you a bed.”
I made some drive-by new friends. What is in the photo above is who I call the “Starbucks Door Guard.” 15 minutes before Starbucks closes, this guy closes the door and only lets people out. You see the people standing at the door wondering why they can’t get in. He doesn’t work for Starbucks, but he was regularly there reading all week. I talked to him a bit and made sure I went back to give him some conference books. If you look past the glare, you can see him reading the book that I gave him.
It was the last day and I’d promised to get the people I was hanging with dinner. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline to reserve conference food (and it was KC BBQ!) I was so mad and tried my best to work my charm and get us food. A bit bitter, I cut out early from the conference in search for food. On the way to the usual place, I ran into these two guys asking for money, Terrence and Carl. I don’t know if they’re homeless or not; I mean, you never know, but I offerred to buy them dinner.
As a girl, alone in the city, I was a little scared… sure, but it turned a bitter situation into a more purposeful endeavor. I had them pick out whatever they wanted and then paid for it. Somehow, I also convinced them to register for IHOP and come to our New Years eve celebration.
On the way back, we talked about their lives and, of course, jazz music. When we got to the conference center, we got in line, got them bracelets, as I told the woman at the desk that, these guys, my friends just got here. Carl and Terrance ate dinner with us.
Pabla noticed that there was a woman at our table prophesying for a girl. She eagerly asked for prayer herself. After that, I asked them to pray for Carl and Terrance. We prayed some powerful stuff over them. Let’s just say that they got more than dinner that night– a new chapter for a new year.
The woman prayed for me too. I don’t remember everything she said, just something about open heavens and a ladder for angels.
BACK TO BUSINESS
Those are most of the side-quests of this event. This leaves a few more things to mention about onething. They relocated the prayer room to be closer to the conference center. I know Nina was on nightwatch back in Grandview at another location, because this many people would overwhelm the usual prayer space.
The photo below is at another Q&A session with all of IHOP’s leaders. I, of course, took the opportunity to speak with the movers of this movement. I’ve learned to take my stories, print them out, to hand to people, instead of trying to articulate ALL the details. I saw Mike Bickle and he remembered me. I gave him a quick update and left him to do all he needed for the other people waiting to ask him questions. I also handed copies to Lou Engle, Sarah Sun Kim, and a many others.
The conference likes to highlight and distinguish the different cultures and ethnicities. Of course, Israel is regularly a big one. Another was their focus on Black and African Americans, or the lack of them in this movement. Does some of it seem racist or sexist?… Yes, but I’d say that Bethel can come off far more “ignorant.” They say things that would offend the progressive and well-educated circles, but only out of ignorance, not intentionally. The group that I went up for was, of course, Asian Americans.
Things that I didn’t expect? Well, there’s two… 1) spontaneous jam sessions! WooooOOOO! After the conference, there was a big drum circle outside with freestyle, flowing, breakdancing, and song. 2) Really, if you needed one reason to come to Kansas City over New Years, it’s for this alone… The countdown to the new year.
Omg this is so ridiculous… This is the craziest party ive ever been too… Everyone is dancing around.. Tens of thousands… #onething2010
Somewhere during the last hour did I have this realization of “this is why people get drunk.” My whole life, I’ve thought that drinking was one of the dumbest things a person could waste their time and money doing. It’s like social steroids or something, you know? Go to a doctor, if you need something to help drop your inhibitions. Stop self-medicating with alcohol… haha.
In another tweet, I said something along the lines of having given more high-fives in one night than in my entire life. Everyone was so crazy happy, dancing, and celebrating. This is why people drink, to be this “happy” to be alive, to feel like they belong somewhere– where you know everyone there is experiencing that same party.
Haha, maybe they gassed the room or something, but it was unbelievable.
I spent an extra week in KC, and hung out with my new friends. We played games, talked, prayed, ate, and adventured. Mostly, we chilled in the prayer room. In that prayer room, I wrote a prayer for almost everyone who wished my happy birthday on facebook. That was somewhere around 90 prayers typed up. I had to finish those up in the subsequent weeks, b/c 90 prayers is no joke!
I spent the evenings with Pastor Min, his family, and some friends from Korea. The one girl was a composer and just loved the music. She had so many CDs from IHOP. We spent much of our time jamming. I love it when the music never stops!
Pabla bought food to cook for everyone and we all ate sooooo well. She made chicken stuffed with bacon and asparagus and a seafood stew on basmatti rice. No one had ever really had Brazilian food before, and everyone was curious to see what it’d be like.
Abe was an artist, and we, with Pastor Min’s daughter did some drawing, which eventually turned into a prayer meeting. He tried to draw Sparkle, the guinea pig, but it looked like a potato.
Abe and I would joke the whole trip, because there’d be so many dramatic things happening (mostly hot-button theology debates). We’d start laughing and look around the room searching for the cameras that were filming our reality TV experience. Towards the end of our stay, it looked like the gang was having a serious conversation outside the prayer room and so, I took my camera just to snap a photo of this priceless moment.
Pabla is trying to explain to me what the deal is, Kendall is caught off guard, and the others are just amused by my making light of what may have been a serious moment. I remember Kendall saying something to me along the lines of, “I enjoy you.” That’s good, b/c I’m always afraid people think I’m standoffish. Being “enjoyed” was an unusual, but awesome thing for someone to say 🙂
I’m already thinking about next year. I’m so there. Hit me up, if you want to come too! Like I’ve said before, I love it when God chooses my friends. So, as the post title read, what is the worst of IHOP onething?
- Those corny book advertisement videos that they play in between speakers
- The technophobia
- The unintentional sexism and racism
- The lack of gospel music
- The end-times talk (only because I don’t get it) and it’s repetition
- Telling people to get out of the “stupid room”
- The crowd management for the shuttle service, or lack of shuttles
- The food situation
- The volunteer program
To end on yet another random story… I did in fact sing the Korean song to Pastor Min’s adorable daughter. What I learned about her this trip was that she has a DR. BEAT! I haven’t seen a metronome like this since I did marching band. I showed her how to use it… haha. It was just like the ones that our percussion instructors used in high school. They were like $100 back then, if I recall correctly.