KL2020, a gospel conference held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was the last major Christian conference to be held before the COVID-19 pandemic. A year later, we look back and reflect with one participant on how God used the conference to prepare him for the events of the last year.
CP: One year later, how did God use the KL2020 conference to personally equip and prepare you for all that 2020 brought?
I feel like I have an enriched understanding, view, and acceptance of suffering and the way of the cross. I think the way of the cross, or cross-bearing, is such a threat to Western-oriented people. We don’t want suffering. We want to go past it or around it, and also pray that it does not come. But there is joy in the cross, there is a connection with Christ that can and should occur when we bear the cross.
This understanding was cemented in my mind and heart by experiencing true gospel brotherhood during the second to last night in Kuala Lumpur. Tim Keller was about to deliver his third talk, and I stood in the front row next to a Chinese pastor and his wife who have become dear friends in the past several years. They and their congregation are continually facing persecution and trials of many kinds, and the husband will likely be in prison in the near future. As we stood next to each other singing, we came to a Dietrich Bonhoeffer hymn called “By Gracious Powers So Wonderfully Sheltered,” which several of us had come to call the anthem and rallying cry of KL2020. Knowing that Bonhoeffer wrote it four months before his death puts this song into a glorious context of suffering for the Lord. This pastor and I put our arms around each other as we sang and cried together. I later found out that several others were also crying during this song. It is a fitting song because of both the continual persecution that Chinese churches have been experiencing since the conference, but also the collective global suffering brought on by COVID-19.
Here are some of the lyrics I find particularly awe-inspiring:
Would You Pray With Us Today?
By gracious powers so wonderfully sheltered,
And confidently waiting come what may,
We know that God is with us night and morning
And never fails to greet us each new day.
And when this cup you give is filled to brimming
With bitter suffering, hard to understand,
We take it thankfully and without trembling,
Out of so good, and so beloved, a hand.
Yet when again, in this same world, you give us
The joy we had, the brightness of your sun,
We shall remember all the days we lived through,
And our whole life shall then be yours alone.
Christ is with us. Christ is for us. And Christ will never leave his bride alone. When we face the darkness of the night and trials of the day, we have a great high priest who understands the pain and sorrow found in this world. If we allow him to, he can and will fix our eyes on him and comfort us with his presence. With this I can say that I am “confidently waiting come what may.”
CP: Were there any special experiences to share of your travels to and from conference?
Coming back from Kuala Lumpur was nerve-wracking. Since it was known that COVID-19 could spread through asymptomatic people, and that incubation can take ten to fourteen days, there was a waiting period to know if anyone had contracted the virus at the conference. There was much prayer and waiting during those two weeks. I even quarantined at a hotel right after returning to New York City as we awaited word on a person who had started to show symptoms, to then find out that person was negative.
I am saddened to see how the virus has spread throughout the world. I remember telling some people in March how my worst fears were starting to come true with the virus taking off in NYC. It is extremely sad to see how much suffering so many people have had to endure this past year and will continue to experience in 2021 due to COVID-19. May the God of all comfort be with his people, and may God open the ears of people around us to hear the call of the Good Shepherd, calling his sheep to return to and find life in him.