My friend Tabitha and I drove to Chicago last weekend to attend the Lead Like Jesus Facilitators’ Reconnect. Part of the program was devoted to the work we did in Uganda last October, so I was invited to attend even though I’m not yet a fully-trained facilitator.

We arrived at the hotel around noon, but weren’t able to check in because our room wasn’t ready yet. So we went to the café next door to have some lunch. As we approached the restaurant, I could see two members of our Uganda team who were seated at a table next to the window. I ran up to the window, stooped down to get at eye level, and made a face at them through the glass. They looked up and laughed, and as they did I got a look at the other two people sitting at the table with them. I had never met either of them before, but I recognized one of them instantly – and immediately realized that I had just stuck my tongue out at the president and CEO of Lead Like Jesus.

By the time I got inside the restaurant, she had learned who I was, and she greeted me at the door with a hug and a smile. Because of Uganda – and some of the writing about it that I’ve done since then – she knew me by name, if not by face. And she told me that as soon as she saw me, she said to the others, “I have no idea who that is, but should I be making a face back at her?”

I’m pretty sure that for the rest of my life, I will always remember the day I met the woman who leads “Lead Like Jesus.”

You might expect that there would be a lot of praying and singing at the conference of an organization named “Lead Like Jesus.” And you would be correct. But there was also a lot of laughing, hugging, and story-telling throughout the weekend. It was an especially warm reunion for those of us who were in Uganda together, but I also found it exciting to meet in person some of the people whom I had known only by name or reputation, or as a voice on a conference call.

“Reconnect” was a good name for the conference, but it didn’t begin to do justice to all the connections that were made and strengthened, or the relationships that were built or begun during the weekend’s events. “Revelation” – no pun intended – would have been an accurate description as well, because even though there were people at the conference from all over the United States and as far away as Singapore, I kept hearing stories of people who discovered at some point that they had worshipped at the same church, or they had friends in common, or similar paths and associations in one way or another.

One of my favorite stories on that subject goes back to when we were in Uganda and discovered one morning that two members of our team – who were from totally different backgrounds and regions – had been in the same first grade class in Logan, Ohio. We had joked then that they were having a class reunion in Uganda but that they were the only two who showed up. They were now having another class reunion at the Reconnect – and even though Chicago was a lot closer to Ohio than Uganda was, they were still the only ones who showed up.

The conference wasn’t just about reconnecting, of course. We spent a full day with Dr. Jim Dennison, author of “Radical Islam: What You Need to Know.” I learned from him many things I truly did need to know, not only about radical Islam but about my own faith, and about cultures, values, beliefs and motivations – those at work here in the United States and in countries around the world. And in myself, as well. And during the rest of the weekend, I learned other things that are going to help me in virtually every area of my life – both personal and professional.

A delightful bonus was that by attending the conference I got to spend some extra time with Tabitha, who is not only a good friend but one of the most interesting and inspiring people I know. Of course, that may be why she’s such a good friend.

All in all, it was an amazing weekend, reminding me and reinforcing what it means to be like Jesus and to lead like Jesus. It’s a lifelong journey, and I’m happy to be on it, whether it takes me to places like Chicago and Atlanta or to Singapore and Uganda. Or to the windows of restaurants and cafés, where I can make faces and friends with the people on the other side.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on May 3, 2012.
© Betty Liedtke, 2012