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Leader's Comments for Edinburgh # 9

Praise the Lord God Almighty!

From the very start of this adventure, prayers have been lifted from so many sources. From the start of Team Meeting #1 on July 13th to the end of the closing ceremony on September 29th, the presence and power of God have been welcomed and joyfully received! Our key Scripture directing us for Edinburgh #9 is 1 Cor. 13:13. "So faith, hope, love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love!"

The reason this verse resonated with us is the desired impact on our 24 participants to be long-term, even eternal. We believe that indeed has happened. All 24 men starting the weekend with us, stayed the entire weekend and received crosses and Bibles. Some met individually with team members for prayer and counsel, but all participated in their family groups. A change in the participants by Sunday was evidenced by smiles, sharing, singing, praying, and hugs seen throughout the entire room. Several men shared at an open mic, closing, or shared personally how they have experienced the love of God in a wonderful way.

At our Instructional gathering, those men were sharing and looking forward to Prayer and Share! Let me testify about the impact on this team leader. This group of men exhibited a willingness to be used by God that left me humbled. With each request made to the team members, the response was ALWAYS, "Whatever you need, Mark." Two team members were not permitted at this time to go inside the prison but assisted in team meetings, running, wrote letters, and clean up. A brother who was willing to share a meeting's scriptural focuses but with great anxiety moved us all by his testimony. Academy Award nominations are expected for the skits shared. Team covenant, praying with Jesus, handwashing ceremony, and building an altar led by different team members created a deeply spiritual bond. Our Advising Leader set up a special email account for team communication created our web page and updated it with every training meeting (for this leader without computer and email). He insisted that I wrestle with "Why I do Kairos?" for our webpage. It was profitable for me to wrestle while leading. Our head servant and team were always prepared with chapel set up and meals. We enjoyed the cake decorated with "Edinburgh #9" every team meeting! Our music leader led us to the throne of grace with each song. Our food coordinator fed us like our future heavenly banquet! Some tangible reminders of this weekend is the beautiful Hands of Jesus poster signed by all the participants and team members shared by our Institutional Liason, and the wooden cross inscribed with 1 Cor.13:13 and Matthew 11:28 from our music leader, that I have carried since receiving it at Team Meeting #1. One brother has been renamed Barnabas (Son of Encouragement) for his repeated calls asking if there was anything I needed! This is our band of brothers prepared to advance the kingdom of God together! We were blessed with two brand new members going inside and with the Ad Council's Recruitment Gathering there are additional men that expressed interest and we hope will join us in future walks. Two brothers faced surgeries and God blessed us with His touch of healing so both served on our weekend!

Based on past experience with extreme heat, we requested for the first time, the use of the adjoining air-conditioned classroom for our chapel. And for times that we did not have access to this room, an outdoor chapel was set up. This worked perfectly, giving relief from the heat in the community room and aiding in hearing the chapel speakers without distraction from noisy fans or conversations in the community room. Thanks to our Institutional Liason for securing the classroom! We continue to work on our forgiveness ceremony and we believe it was very effective (as a participant shared its impact at our Institutional gathering.)

An unexpected challenge came Friday at 11:20 a.m. when the prison warden shared that all participants and angels would be required to report back to their dorms for 2 hours from noon to 2 p.m. Our head servant, with his dream team, had just received lunch from our runner.  Within 10 minutes, our participants and angels were feasting on lunch and returning to their dorms on time as requested. This was followed by a participant being sent to the medical unit for one hour. Three hours needed to be rearranged as far as our schedule. The observing leader, advising leader, and insider coordinator was up to the task, as they demonstrated the entire weekend with their patience and skills with prison staff and participants.

Our speakers for the Talks all shared personally and profoundly. Our 4th Day Speaker at closing moved the hearts of participants, guests, graduates, and team with a message centered on Hope! God showed up and moved among us! He is faithful and gets all the glory! May His blessings ABIDE

Mark Vanhook

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