I'm not sure what I expected. The words "Global Leadership Summit" were slightly intimidating. I knew I'd hear a lot of "successful business/ministry" advice. I knew I'd glean a lot of wisdom from people smarter than I am. And I did, and it was awesome, and I have a lot to process from many of the sessions.
But there was one session I will never forget.
Mama Maggie Gobran took the stage during the first session Friday morning. She was introduced by a well-done and brief documentary that explained who she was and what she does - I'm not sure you can see it anywhere, but you can learn about her work in this article or visit her website - Stephen's Children. People began clapping as she took the stage - but then, they didn't stop.
She was given a standing ovation before she even said a word.
It was mind-blowing and overwhelming. I knew within moments that I was standing in the presence of true greatness. It resonated within my spirit: this is a woman who knows and loves God, and serves Him with real humility.
Mama Maggie has been serving the poorest of the poor in Cairo for over 20 years. Day after day, she walks the streets and garbage dumps of the city, seeking out children who need someone to look after them. She gives them so much more than food and clothing - she gives them love, dignity, and hope.
She has poured her entire life - her time, her resources, everything - into caring for the poor. It is a difficult calling, but in spite of the hardship, she would not trade it. And the secret to finding the strength to face all the heartbreak that she faces every day, and to keep on, in the hardest times, doing all that she can to make a difference? "The secret is silence," she said. "Silence your body to listen to your words. Silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts. Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart beating. Silence your heart to listen to your spirit. Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit."
She began her message with words from Mary's Magnificat - "He has done great things for me" - and her attitude was so authentically that of Mary's. Who am I that He would call me? I am the least of all women. But He has called, and so I say yes...
Really, words can't convey what it was like, watching Mama Maggie deliver her message so humbly and so quietly. But the point hit home. You can't do what you're called to do unless you are as deeply in God as the salt is in the ocean. You need to dissolve. And the power and the strength that you find when you do is amazing. Lose everything. On purpose. And you will find Him. It isn't easy, she confessed. But it is worth it.
Even now, trying and failing miserably to communicate the awesomeness of what I know was a life-transforming experience (tho where it will lead, I don't know!), I am close to tears (again). Simply being in the presence of someone who doesn't just believe the gospel, but lives it out was incredibly humbling. Please hear me that I am not berating myself for falling so short, but the truth is, I am. I can be so selfish and stupid, and to be near someone who was once like me - someone who loved nice clothes and traveling to Europe and all the privileges of social status - but who gave them up and found something of far more substance and value in serving others- was convicting. I'm not going to sell everything I own and move to Cairo - but there's a piece of me that wants to. ;)
I know, tho, that God is writing my story differently - at least for now - and if nothing else, hearing Mama Maggie speak has sparked in me an even deeper longing to know and be known by the God who loves all He created, and to a desire to seek more intentionally after the things He would have me do with my time daily, rather than living so much on my own agenda. Who knows what opportunities I may find to share the love of Christ, if I would only pay a little more attention, and take a little more time to listen for His voice?
I spent time yesterday in the presence of true greatness: a woman after His own heart, who would not allow a standing ovation to go to her head. Instead, it brought her to her knees. God grant that I may be that kind of woman someday.
Create in me a pure heart and renew a right spirit within me. Teach me this kind of humility; create it in me. Amen.