A Most Peculiar Conference Precursor

As many of you are no doubt aware, I am coordinating Chi Alpha’s San Diego winter conference.

Now it is virtually axiomatic that everything goes crazy prior to a Chi Alpha conference. For example, last year I got a ticket for running a stop sign as I was preparing to head up to our Lake Tahoe winter conference. For the record, I still dispute the legitimacy of that ticket. I think the cop was asleep and was startled into consciousness by the vibrant hue of my car. But I digress…

This year things have been crazy as well. Let me highlight one thread of our conference preparations–the worship.

This year we parted with tradition and booked an outside band instead of asking one of our Chi Alpha groups to lead worship. An unexpected consequence was that unlike our Chi Alpha groups, the band doesn’t normally bring their own sound system with them.

Now as anyone who has ministered to collegians will attest, having a good sound system is fairly important. Most students are audiophiles or pretend to be, and so getting the right gear makes a difference.

It is also ridiculously expensive. We found a competent sound guy who also works with equipment rentals and he did some research and found us the low, low price of $4,500.

That’s more than our entire conference budget (excluding housing).

So we went back to the drawing board.

I should mention that I was stranded in Louisiana without cell phone coverage most of the time that we were trying to fix this. I seem to be allergic to the entire state of Lousiana, because every time I go home I get major allergy attacks. So I’m grumpy from my allergies and unable to call anyone to make alternate plans for the sound equipment.

Eventually we got back home and I started working hard to find a backup sound system. We accosted Chi Alpha ministries, churches, and random passerby to no avail.

Finally my good friend Jeff Devoll came through for us. Jeff has got one of the nicest sound systems I’ve ever seen and is also one of the nicest (and sharpest) guys I’ve ever met. So we were able to get an outrageously good system as a very reasonable price.

Now we had the problem of transporting this sound system the 500 miles from Sacramento down to San Diego.

Instant success–our ministry in Sacramento has a trailer for transporting sound gear.

The heady swell of success was soon dashed on the hard rocks of reality. We had a trailer but no means to haul it.

So we called every single Chi Alpha ministry in northern California to see who had a pickup truck or an SUV or even a tow-capable van.

No one. None of the staff and none of their students have anything suitable.

This is in marked contrast to my years of ministry in Springfield, MO. Finding tow vehicles was easy. Limiting myself to female acquaintances alone I could have drummed up a truck in under five minutes. But in this ecotopia no one seems to own anything significantly larger than a chipmunk.

At this point, I should mention that I’m still sick and unable to think as clearly as I would like. And the “this point” that I’m referencing is Christmas day.

That’s right–I’m calling people on Christmas day to find a hauler. “Merry Christmas! Do you have a truck I can borrow?”

Alas, there were to be no tow-capable Christmas gifts for me.

On the day after Christmas we decide we have no choice but to rent an exorbitantly priced and uncomfortable moving truck (we attempted to rent a pickup truck first, but no company was willing to rent us a pickup to haul a trailer–I guess towing is considered a Bad Thing).

Now in order to rent a truck you need a driver. I thought I had one lined up, but he didn’t work out. I then thought I had a couple lined up, but they didn’t work out. I thought I had another guy lined up but he was heading to Tahoe to spend time with his family prior to conference. I finally called my ace in the hole and he was driving to Tahoe to spend time with his fiancee priot to conference.

What can I say? Tahoe is popular.

To make things even more tumultuous, the kindly Mr. Devoll is in the midst of moving and has left a crucial piece of sound equipment at his old place in Napa.

It is now Sunday December 26th and Paula and I are flying out at 10:00am tomorrow. We need to get this taken care of pronto.

To our horror, we learn that all the rental places close at noon on Sunday. Even if we find a driver we’re hosed–we’ll be on a plane before we get a chance to rent a vehicle.

It’s around 1:00PM Sunday afternoon, the equipment has to leave tomorrow, parts are still in Napa, we have no driver, and we have no truck.

And then the magic happened.

Tahoe boy (with fiancee) is passing right next to Napa on his way to Tahoe. So he and his fiancee drive to Napa and rummage through Jeff’s garage looking for a 24-channel mixer and a box of microphones and cables. I coach them through the process by looking at a Microsoft Word sketch of Jeff’s house marked the likely location of the equipment which he sent me in the wee hours of the morning. It takes a while but they finally find it.

And then we discover that our sound guy (the $4,500 sound system guy) is going to be driving a truck full of music instruments down to San Diego in a rental truck anyway and is happy to bring our sound system as well.

And then we discover that the sound guy is going to be hanging out that night across the street from the Tahoe couple who have the extra sound equipment, so the handoff will be easy.

And that’s the way it always happens. Everything goes nuts and then everything works out. To wrench 2 Corinthians 4:8–9 from its context:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Relieved, Paula and I turn to preparing for our trip tomorrow morning and discover that we misbooked our tickets and are leaving at 9pm instead of 9am, which messes up several parts of our schedule down south.


To add insult to injury, I’m getting a prominent facial pimple in the first time in forever. That’s right–take another look at the photo on th e top right. See the blemish next to my nose?

Also, I’ve spent much time on my cell phone today that if cell phones really do cause cancer I’ll be growing a blue ribbon tumor out of my ear by tomorrow morning.

At least I’m not sick anymore.

But things will work out–the magic will happen and the conference will be a smashing success.

In fact, it’s a generally accepted principle that the more hectic the pre-conference brouhaha is the better the conference winds up being.

Based on our sound system problems alone we’re expecting either global revival to break out or the rapture to occur. We’re not sure which one, but be ready just in case either comes to pass next week.

3 thoughts on “A Most Peculiar Conference Precursor”

  1. Woohoo for God! Woah, I felt like I was going crazy just readin’ that story! I had a feeling things would get fixed though. On another note, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I miss and love you guys, and I should have called you Christmas Day, but now I’m thinking that was probably not a good idea. I got blessed majorly this Christmas by another California Campus ministry couple, Curt and Kelly, and it reminded me of you and how much you guys have taken care of me over the years. So thank you! I miss you. Give Dana Marie a huge smooch for me!

  2. Wow glen,
    I must say that you did you good job not letting on to all the stress you were facing. If you had’nt mentioned the problem i would have had no idea that there was anything at all. Man, God Rocks. Ya’ll have a great conferance and an awesome new year.

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