Two of the worst days of my working life happened at a seaside town in Belgium, a night before and the opening day of an international conference. I was organizing the conference for top executives of a group of companies I was employed in. It was a real young, brave, commitment accepted in naivete and trust – a folly of an enthusiastic, energetic rookie just one month into my new job. It was only after those two days that I knew the meaning of “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”.
So many times during that assignment I was reminded that I had the forever by- my- side Lord and Saviour and the best, first-class boss in the world. Both were tough task masters to those who reported to them, expecting the highest standard in quality and performance. The attendees were top executives of the Group from affiliates and associates, invited for their positions and sterling corporate performances. Each was to give an account of their performance for the previous year to their boss, peers and their wives and each with the aim of blowing their trumpet to trump the others.
There were in total about two hundred attendees – boss and his wife and top executives and their wives, and young me trying to implement a carefully crafted plan for the conference organization from Singapore, in a foreign hotel in a place I had never been to (chosen by my hands-on boss) with staff speaking in a foreign language which I did not know, much less understood, trusting prior email communications with the conference hotel site manager. Now in retrospect, how did I dare to do it?
First sign of trouble came when I arrived at the hotel after a long flight from Singapore and found that the hotel, although confirmed, did not have the number of rooms of the quality and standard promised for the conferees. As the Group Chairman had recommended and chosen the venue, and as he was standing right beside me when I checked in and faced my first trouble, he was able to resolve it in a jiffy. Thank You, Lord.
The boss preempted trouble I would face with potential accusations of favoritism of room assignments by asking for the rooming list and assigning them himself. That done, he passed the list to me. Thank God! Little did I know what a commotion I would have on my hands as conferees and their wives arrived, checked in and compared the various rooms assigned to them.
Shhhhh! Thank God, I could say “the boss made the room assignments.”
I focused my efforts on the conference facilities even before checking into my own hotel room. It started with the facilities – seemed alright – podium, vugraph projectors (no laptops those days), lighting, VIP seating on stage, curtains, conferees’ seating arrangements, secretariat table and seating notifications, conference package and souvenirs, name tags. Checked refreshment facilities and rest-rooms. Confirmed conference schedule with the hotel staff counterpart – settled and checked into my room. Wow! what a breather. Took a shower, it was just before lunch.
Corporate cost control was in vogue – participants began arriving from noon onwards from around the world. The requirement was that each participant would have their presentation practice run on arrival, and have handouts of presentations copied at the hotel. Arrivals would be from lunchtime to the early hours of next morning as conferees would arrive in Brussels and travel by car to the conference site, several hours away.
While the technical equipment co-operated from noon to midnight, they started to trip after midnight. First it was the overhead projecters, bulbs replaced and restarted. Then projectors replaced till they ran out of spares. Sound system was functioning very well at the beginning but one by one the secondary systems tripped due over-heating.(a hint of how long ago all this took place) or whatever other reasons. Copiers for handouts duplication ran out of paper or failed to print. The conference was to begin at nine in the morning after all were properly seated by eight fifty five – no room for late-comers was the performance standard. At four-thirty early next morning, I was knocking the Hotel Operations Manager’s accommodation room door for assistance to get his back-up contingency crew out to ensure prompt start of conference as there were still a few speakers who had not yet rehearsed, delayed because of equipment breakdowns.
Nail-biting, and praying hard, it was eight fifty five in the morning and all were seated. Greeted boss and wife at the door at eight fifty six and ushered them to their seats. Eight fifty eight he rises and walks to the podium, and approaches the lectern. He reaches to switch on the lectern light – it failed to come on!. Electricians scurrrying to the rescue .. Phew, the light came on. ..what a relief! Microphones had been tested at eight thirty that morning. At nine there was just silence! Some more scrambling by electricians. Conference started at five past nine. One by one, presentations were made to cheers and encores as performance targets were exceeded. Then came the break time in a side-room. After break the conference dimmer room lights would not come on! Prayers and electricians were at work as conferees fidgeted in their seats and the presentations continued nevertheless. When full lights came on at two fifteen, in answer to prayers, perhaps a few wished it did not, after a full lunch. At just half an hour before the business reviews came to the end for the day, the air-conditioning failed!
We were to be feted at a well-known restaurant that night and transportation arrangements had been made for five private buses to bring participants to the beautifully sited dinner venue overlooking the sunset and sea. One bus-load of participants missed the sunset as one bus broke down. What could I have said or done in a foreign land?
Enjoyed dinner and the entertainment provided and all retired to the hotel….just to find that the air-conditioning in the hotel was not performing as it should that night. I did not sleep that night. Just praying, waiting, watching what would happen the next day at the two-day conference. Thankfully, everything and everybody co-operated and I did not have any nail-biting incidents..
“They also serve who only stand (and sit) and wait (and wait some more)” .(John Milton)
Thank You, Lord for the privilege of serving. Some of us in the kingdom of God are called to help, facilitate and let others perform and it could mean just standing and waiting on others. – Ushers, set up technicians, projectionists, stewards who collect offerings or distribute the bread and cup at communion services, counsellors, those who fill the pews at evangelistic rallies in support of evangelistic teams, those who have sent out the handbills and tracts in evangelistic outreach, maintenance crews, logistics crews who prepare for the worst and expect the best and those who pray. Thank You Lord, for everyone who is in Your service in the back operations or front operations – we are all indispensables in the fight of winning souls to the Lord and from the devil’s clutches. .