I have just returned from three days at the Southeast Tourism Society's Domestic Showcase where destination marketers, journalists, and tour operators met to learn, network, and make plans.
On Monday I toured Burritt on the Mountain, the Weeden House, Harrison Brothers Hardware, the Orion Amphitheatre, Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment, and the Huntsville Museum of Art, then had a delicious Italian dinner at Mazzara Vinoteca on Gates Avenue. (I must add here that the Huntsville Convention and Visitors Bureau did a stellar job of hosting this year's event. Every writer I talked to had great things to say about their impressions of Huntsville and North Alabama in general. Yay, us!!) I followed that up with 37 one-on-one meetings with destination representatives throughout the Southeast on Tuesday and Wednesday. Think of it as Speed Dating for Travel Writers. . . . but better. :)
I did not encounter a single unenthusiastic person in the whole three days. I learned about Louisiana's River Parishes, Lafayette, LA's Cajun Food Tours, Southall Farm & Inn in Franklin, TN, The Sessions Hotel in Bristol, VA, the Duck Drop in Monroe, LA, The Crooked Letter shop in Meridian, MS, the Crystal Coast of NC, the origin of Tupelo Honey in Gulf County, FL, the Purple People Bridge in Northern Kentucky, Yadda on Franklin in Clarksville, TN, the Reynolda House in Winston-Salem, NC, the Quilt Museum in Paducah, KY and a hundred more fascinating places and attractions. Every person was positive about what their location had to offer. They ignited a genuine desire in me to visit every one of them.
The majority of the time when I began a session with a destination, my mind was a completely blank slate. I knew nothing about the place or its assets. Without exception, by the time our appointment was completed, I was eager to get a visit on my calendar.
That has led me to think about the value of enthusiasm when it comes to Kingdom things. What would it be like if every time a new family moved into our area all of the churches gathered in a similar setting? What would be the result if that new family could go from booth to booth and hear from members of each church about the wonderful worship, fellowship, and ministry opportunities they offered? What a difference it could make if that new family left with the thought of "How will we ever be able to pick one with so many great choices?" because of the presenters' passion rather than lamenting the lack of appealing options.
Even more basic and better yet, what if a seeker, a person who was trying to decide about following Jesus, walked into a roomful of Christians and had a chance to interview each one with questions such as "What made you decide to become a Christian?" "What difference has Jesus made in your life?" "I'm a good person. Why do I need Jesus?" If that seeker could hear testimony after testimony of God's redemption, His faithfulness, His love, His power, I believe the chances are great that he/she would eagerly choose to become a follower too.
In reality, isn't that what is happening on a daily basis? Aren't we surrounded by seekers who are observing Christians, listening to our words, watching our actions, and desiring to hear our stories of God's goodness?
Matthew 5:16 -- "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
And the verses that precede it -- Matthew 5:13-15 -- "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house."