- In Michigan, I drove my car from where I live in Holland to where Scott lives in Battle Creek. I made a quick stop to see the lady who is watching our dog while my family lives in ministry transition.
- From Battle Creek, we headed down to Indiana to pick up Brian who's at IWU in Marion.
- After a quick visit in the dorms, we all headed over to Pittsburgh via Indiana-to-Ohio-to-West Virginia. It was here that we made one last stop at a gas station where I saw the saddest example of a stuffed animal machine ever. There was only one stuffed bear in the machine... all by himself. Apparently they gave him a mirror to fool him into thinking he wasn't actually alone. I didn't have the heart to put fifty cents in and make him think I actually wanted him only to then drop him when the crane loosely-grabbed-him-only-to-quickly-let-go-as-these-games-always-do. Poor thing... I think I'm going to call someone.
- Then from West Virgina, we made the final stretch towards Pennsylvania.
We arrived in Pittsburgh somewhere around 3am on Friday morning (gasoline and driving courtesy of Scott). As it turns out, we stayed at the Marriott Courtyard (hotel courtesy of Scott). The hotel is amazing but - I'm not kidding when I say this - the room we stayed in had like a 15 foot ceiling or something. In fact, I would argue that Goliath could have enjoyed these accomodations and felt quite at home jumping on the bed. I grabbed some sound sleep before waking up later in the morning to pick up my registration and badge (conference for me courtesy of Marko - anyone noticing a trend here?).
The vendors were open right away, and so of course I did the annual moving and shaking to try to get all the free stuff (i.e. t-shirts, hats, trinkets, candy, junior high students, etc.) I could while signing up for as many "WE'RE GIVING AWAY A FREE iPOD BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE PRESENT TO WIN" contests. That said, though, I noticed again that this year I've grown more in my concern to see the vendors as "people" instead of just seeing them as the means to satisfy my greed. For instance, I found myself making equal eye contact and conversation with the guy who gave me three shirts as much as the gal in the Mexico missions booth who wasn't giving away anything but a chance to share her heart. Hmm... maybe that's a good sign of something God is continuing to grow in my heart.
As I joined my buds set up some of the free stuff on chairs, I made a new friend in the back of the room - Lilly Lewin (this is an important thing to remember for a later post). I helped her create a set of interactive stations in the back based on the JUMP theme. She mentioned she needed some help the next day at noon with a seminar set-up deal, but not knowing my lunch plans I had to run it by the guys. I told her I'd call her to let her know.
A quick run back to the hotel for some sandwiches out of the ice cooler and we were ready for General Session #1.