Every major organization around the world has its most important event of the year, one that is looked forward to with high excitement. The National Football League (NFL) has the Super Bowl. Major League Baseball (MLB) crowns a champion with the World Series. The movie industry celebrates outstanding acting with the Academy Awards. The Recording Academy recognizes outstanding musical achievement with the Grammy’s. College Basketball goes a little mad with March Madness, and the best two professional basketball teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA) play the best of seven in the NBA Finals. Then, of course, there’s the World Cup for soccer and the winter and summer Olympics every four years.
For us at Candlewood, however, we go beyond a sporting or personal achievement event. We look forward to Faithwalkers each December (Dec. 30th to Jan. 2nd). It’s around August of each year that we learn of the year’s theme. There’s been themes such as Defining Moments, Heroes, Jesus: His Life, His Mission, Growing Up, Blessed!, The Disciple, Changing Lives, and Totally Committed, to name the past eight years. This year, The Blueprint looks to encourage believers of Christ, looking to The Bible for God’s will for our lives, no matter where one is in life.
If this is your second, third, fourth, fifth, or tenth year, you know how Faithwalkers works, and you have great memories of years’ past. If this your first time going to Faithwalkers, get ready! Here’s a guide on what to expect (experience may vary by individual):
1) You’ll pack all that you can into a backpack or suitcase, and if you’re like me, you might over pack a bit. This is probably the best time to bring those new clothes you received for Christmas. If you like to sleep with more than one pillow, or you’re afraid someone might take yours, bring an extra one. Bring a blanket as well, in case you get cold or end up on the floor if the beds are taken or would rather sleep without someone kicking you or snoring next to you. Hey, it happens!
2.) You’ll likely carpool at a specified time (talk to your Small Group leader for details). There will be a driver who generously volunteers his/her car for the trip. Bring some cash to contribute for gas. If you like to read, sleep, or listen to music on your own, it probably won’t happen because this is a perfect opportunity to catch up with on life with those in your car. If there’s a person who likes to capture the moment, get ready for a car selfie.
3.) Once you arrive in Des Moines, you’ll either go to your designated hotel room first or go straight to the Iowa Events Center. At the Iowa Events Center, you’ll check in or register (if you procrastinated like me). You’ll get a conference booklet, name tag lanyard where you’ll proudly display your name and write “Candlewood Church” (Note: don’t add Omaha or Lincoln because, after all, we’re one church. Keep it simple.), and you’ll place your meal ticket inside. Now this is important, don’t lose your meal ticket! Then, you’ll go to the Grand Ballroom where you’ll sit with your Small Group in the spot Candlewood typically claims (it’s first-come, first-serve basis), on the first two sides to the left, way at the front.
4.) The first night, right at 6:30pm, starts with worship, a welcome message, and prayer. Let me tell you about worship at Faithwalkers. It’s my one of my favorite aspects of the conference. There’s nothing like 2,000-some singing in unison to their King. I’ve sat there, simply listening, and it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
5.) After worship, you’ll return to your hotel room and aim to get a good night’s sleep for an early morning for breakfast, a Quiet Time, shower/get ready, and head to the Events Center for a full day. Worship and Main Sessions start at 8:30am and run until 11:45am or so, followed by lunch at noon, and the rest of the afternoon, from 2-5pm, is scheduled for seminars that you can choose to go to based on your interest. Dinner runs from 5 to 6:30pm, which is followed by the last Main Sessions for the day going until 8:30pm. Afterwards, you’ll probably have a tie-down with your Small Group to discuss lessons and/or encouragements from the day. And because it’ll be New Year’s Eve on this night, you may stay up to kick-off 2017 with your family of believers.
6.) Day Two is similar to Day 1 (see above, number 5), except for one difference this year. Because the conference ends at noon on Day Three, instead of a seminar, lunch is followed by church tie-downs where church members share lessons and/or encouragements. At the end, Candlewood takes a church photo, both Omaha and Lincoln because, after all, we are one Candlewood Church.
7.) Day Three begins with three Main Sessions at 9am and ends around 11:45am. Since this the first year the conference ends at noon, I’m not entirely sure what happens next. You’ll go home, probably in the same car you came, or you may go out for lunch, or you may go take a nap or a walk. Again, not sure. Best verify the plans for post-Faithwalkers.
Much happens at Faithwalkers, though, and God will use this time in your life. You’ll be encouraged, challenged, and/or convicted. You may cry and/or laugh a lot. You’ll look around the men and women in your life and be thankful for them. You’ll leave with lessons that you can apply for many years to come. Regardless of how God uses this time, don’t miss Him. This is vital. During breaks, meet with the Lord as necessary, pray longer, journal longer, even sit and ponder.
Regardless of your number of years that you have attended Faithwalkers, enjoy the time. Make it count, and you’ll look back and be glad you experienced the once-a-year event we know as Faithwalkers.