We've made a great deal of progress on all three fronts. Pastors Paul and Sonja and I have been meeting with pastorate leaders, conducting trainings, getting leadership teams in place. Now the trained leaders will be consecrated on Sunday in the large celebration worship. They'll then spend Lent (the 40 days before Easter) praying for and having conversations about the pastorate they will launch. Their initial gatherings will take place in April, and then the pastorates will hopefully be functional starting in May. We have eight leadership teams, so given our target size for these groups at 25-35 people, that means we will have between 200 and 280 people involved in pastorates if everything goes according to plan.
Alpha started Saturday evening. We had about 40 guests, a whole bunch of volunteers, and lots of excitement. It was quite clear that God was already working, even that first evening! A new Alpha is always exciting. It is so fun to anticipate the work God is going to do in people's lives during the coming ten weeks. I don't even wonder "if" anymore -- I just wonder "what"! There is no question in my mind that many people who were at Central on Saturday evening will look back at the winter of 2012 as the time when God really made significant changes in their lives.
For the Philippines, we have now purchased tickets and figured out a solution to the incredible maze of flights and schedules between Minneapolis and Iloilo City. Along the way God even answered prayers for the cost of flights to go down, just in time! It had looked like the airfares were going to be about $300 per person higher than we thought, but instead they came in about $100 lower. What a gift! I've also been in the midst of a flurry of emails back and forth trying to arrange lodging, schedules, and such. We are so blessed to have a few people on the ground in the Philippines who are making arrangements for us. The team on this end has divided up the various talks and responsibilities for our seminars, and we are running through, practicing, and getting ready for those presentations.
There are a few other odds and ends, like getting ready to teach a week long Spiritual Formation class at CLBI in Camrose, Alberta; prepping for my World Religions class, trying to figure out how best to encourage high school students to take an interest in other religions; and getting ready for a miniature staff retreat on Thursday and Friday with our coach, Terry Walling.
Life is full!