By JOHN FORTMEYER
VANCOUVER, Wash. — Sparked in part by the presence of famed author, radio speaker and Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, Mission ConneXion North-west drew what was unmistakably record attendance for the conference’s 11th run Jan. 18 and 19.
Crowds, in fact, were so large that many people had to be turned away.
Bill MacLeod, the event’s executive director, said total aggregate attendance for the conference’s sessions was well more than 20,000. He said Crossroads Community Church, which hosted the event for a second year in a row, estimated that 5,000 people turned out the first night just to hear Zacharias.
“Yet all the parking lots, onsite and offsite shuttle lots were filled and people were turned away by 5 p.m. — two hours before the meeting began,” said MacLeod. “On Saturday morning, the lots filled up by 10:30 a.m. and one attendant said of the weekend that he turned away as many as he allowed in.”
“I reckon from the e-mails and evaluations we’re receiving, that hundreds were turned away, including many, said to say, who came all the way from Seattle, Salem and all points of the compass in-between.”
Sponsored by a wide range of local churches, the free-admission event offered its traditional mix of speakers, 125 workshops on mission topics and about 70 exhibits.
Theme this year was “No Reserves. No Retreats. No Regrets” words of total commitment to the cause of Christ that were found in the Bible of famed missionary to China, William Borden, following his death in 1913.
Zacharias was quick to focus on the need for sincere, strong commitment by individuals to the cause of Christ in order to effectively reach the world.
“Is it possible to walk closely with God, and be totally fuilfilled in your life,?” he said. “That’s the kind of person who will say, ‘No reserves, no retreats, no regrets.’ ’’
Zacharias, who spent more than 200 days on the road this past year for speaking engagements, addressed much of his talk to the countless young people in the audience. He cited the Old Testament account of Daniel, who purposely avoided becoming spoiled by the comforts of the Babylonian culture in order to focus on God.
“He drew the line of resistance by training his appetite,” said Zacharias. Likewise, Zacharias urged youth to avoid getting caught in the snares of a media-saturated society that has, for them, made today’s world a “very difficult” one.
“This huge thing called cyberspace has a huge frontal attack potential on you and me,” said Zacharias. “Be careful what you allow your mind to toy with, because sooner or later it will begin toying with you.”
He said the redemption of God is necessary for people of all ages, and that the “wisdom and the Word of God” is needed to ultimately direct the paths of His people.
A similar call to commitment was made passionately Saturday by Brad Buser, who served 20 years in Papua New Guinea as a missionary among the Iteri people. Buser said Jesus’ call to missions could not have been more clear, when He stated “As the Father, has sent me, so send I you.”
“Those are our marching orders,” said Buser. “This is what our Savior left us behind to do.”
He said Christ purposely did not outline the Great Commission to reach the world in an allegory or parable.
“It’s real easy to understand what He is saying, here,” said Buser. “It’s just the implications that are hard.”
Buser noted that the task is far from over. He said there are still thousands of people, ethnic and language groups that have yet to be touched with the Gospel of Christ.
He called Christian parents to go beyond just raising good kids, but to prepare their sons and daughters to truly impact the world.
“Could we have a moratorium on well-rounded Christian kids?” he said. “We have enough. We need to raise our kids to be soldiers for His cause.”
According to MacLeod, a lot of those “soldiers” were enlisted during the weekend. “It looked like hundreds committed their lives to missions through the invitations that both Ravi Zacharias and Brad Buser gave both nights,” he said.
Also speaking on Saturday was Libby Little, a longtime outreach worker and teacher in Afghanistan whose husband, Tom, was murdered there two years ago.
MacLeod said afterward that the huge growth of the annual missions conference here in the Pacific Northwest is absolutely a result of God answering many prayers.
“We are in awe,” he said. “This has become, we are told, to God’s glory, the largest annual event of any kind in the Portland metro area; the largest annual missions event on the West Coast held in supposedly the most unchurched part of the country. .. we want to give the Lord Jesus all the credit for what He is doing in apparently the most ‘unchurched part of the U.S. A.”
For more information, go to missionconnexion. com.