If you were praying as we met to vote on the new Executive Director, you were with us in the Upper Room,” literally and figuratively!
We assembled in the attic of our Shalom Hospitality House, a Victorian located a block away from our San Francisco headquarters. It’s not a musty-dusty-spiders-and-old-trunk attic—it’s the brightest room in the house with windows and skylights, and pale blue-gray walls and carpet. Byron Spradlin, the Chairman of our Board of Directors, presided. Our chaplains, Warren and Iva Conrad, were an integral part of the dynamic. There were 30 senior staff members in the room—they had come from all over the world for a meeting that most of us had been thinking and praying about for a very long time.
We began with prayer—wonderful, gut-wrenching prayer. We asked the Lord to help us empty ourselves of self and to help us yield to His Spirit in all we would say and do. We had to be vulnerable—to turn ourselves inside out, as it were, so that sin and self-interest could be dumped at the foot of the cross.
That is no boast of spirituality. God’s grace enabled us to ask for what we needed. Your prayers helped administer that grace to us. God washed and refreshed our hearts. His Spirit was gentle and firm, and present in an extraordinary way throughout the entire proceeding.
After prayer, we opened the meeting for nominations. Four of the seven people who were nominated (and seconded) were Council members, that is, the people responsible for voting! Remember, our mandate was to vote unanimously. Not only did we have seven highly qualified people on the slate, but we also had four Council members, at least three of whom would ultimately have to vote for someone other than themselves.
The discussions: we were inspired by each one’s vision for the ministry and greatly encouraged to hear some of the nominees give the highest praise and most rousing commendations of their fellow nominees. Questions and concerns were expressed with sensitivity and care. All the candidates stated their willingness to serve under whomever was selected. Everyone in the room knew that the Council longed to recognize God’s choice, rather than trying to choose for ourselves.
By 9 p.m., we had discussed and interviewed all seven people on the slate. It was time to adjourn.
Day two: Byron invited people to gather around the table and lay hands on all of the Council members to pray for each of us by name before we cast our ballots. Next, we laid hands on everyone whose name was on the slate and prayed for each of them by name.
It was time to begin voting.
I looked at my blank piece of paper and at the pen in my hand. The responsibility my fellow missionaries had entrusted to me had been weighing so heavily. I wrote a name, folded my paper in half and exhaled with relief.
David Brickner had more votes than anyone else from the very first vote, and names began dropping off the slate quickly. (We narrowed the slate down through a series of votes, dropping the person or persons with the lowest number of ballots after each vote.) Soon David’s was the only name remaining. It was time to vote “yes” or “no.” If the vote was not unanimous, we would reopen discussions and possibly add more people to the slate.
I will never forget watching Byron open each ballot and hearing him say, 1—yes, 2—yes, 3—yes, 4—yes until finally he came to 9…yes! I was a bit dazed, but I know several people shouted, “Hallelujah!”
It was just a little before noon on the second day of a meeting that could have taken much longer. (The Council had been given up to 21 days to deliberate, if needed.) However, all nine of the Council members sensed God’s leading as David emerged as the only candidate—there was something so right about it.
We prayed for David, and the meeting was over. We were exhausted though not uncomfortably so. I felt like something had just gone tearing through me, leaving me limp but happy. We all began hugging each other, each one telling those who weren’t chosen how proud we were to serve with them. No one had suggested it, but we all were still of one accord, and that is truly what was in our hearts.
I thought I’d had a couple of “mountaintop” experiences in my life, but I have never experienced anything like this. The thought of returning to ordinary life did not seem bearable—in fact, it’s difficult to remain dry-eyed as I write this to you. It was a truly monumental experience—one that I hope we all will cherish and remember as we find ourselves being stretched and tried in the days ahead. God does not pour out His grace so that we can sit still and soak it up like rays at the beach. We soak it up all right, but soon we will be “squeezed.” May it be the grace we “soaked up” that comes pouring out of us. Then we can soak up some more!
I wanted you to know about this “Upper Room” experience because it belongs to you who were praying as well as to those of us who gathered there. On behalf of all of us, thank you for praying. Thank you for being our friends. May God bless you for helping to write this phenomenal page of Jews for Jesus history.