Bismillah, was salaatu was salaam ala rasool Allah.
I’ll start with some background, and you may or may not find the story interesting🙂
So it was about three weeks before ISNA, and I received an email eliciting volunteers to help out. I knew that most of my time at ISNA would be spent volunteering and setting up stuff at the AlMaghrib Booth, but I went ahead and signed up for the Guest Relations Committee, letting the coordinator know that my schedule would be a little tight but that I’d like to help with pickup and drop offs when I could. The majority of speakers from out of town were coming to Washington National Airport for pickup, and that was only about 10 minutes from the Convention Center so the task of picking up and dropping off was a relatively simple one. Up until Saturday I was tasked with two separate pickups, each went smooth as the speakers were picked up promptly from their gates and then taken directly to their hotel for check in.
On Saturday morning, I was approached by the committee head with a special request- I was asked to pick up Pastor Rick Warren. Candidly, I knew Rick Warren had resided over President Obama’s Inauguration, but never knew what he looked like. I accepted the request, but suggested that an ISNA representative meet the Pastor along with myself at the airport, if for no other reason than to show professionalism. That suggestion soon spiraled into a tailwind of who knows what, and within a matter of two hours I was going through enough debriefings to make you think Obama himself was being picked up. The idea about bringing along an ISNA rep was scrapped and another SUV followed me containing a full security detail.
On top of all that, the Pastor was flying in to IAD (Dulles Airport), which is roughly 45 minutes from the DC Convention Center without traffic. I’m not entirely sure who plans the itinerary for these guys, but flying in to IAD on the 4th of July at 4:45PM expecting to make it in time for a 7PM speech was not the best display of scheduling. The majority of the roads in DC had been blocked off due to the 4th of July Fireworks, and navigating my way through DC with a security detail following me was nerve wracking to say the least. Alhamdulillah, eventually we got out of DC and made it to the airport in good timing, and within an hour or so we found the Pastor.
Pastor Warren is probably the first pastor that I’ve ever come in contact with for an extended period of time. My first impression of him was one of likability- I didnt see him frown the entire time we were together (or even waver from his generally kind demeanor), he loved to engage in conversation, and had a way of showing interest in minor things affecting your life. We went to Ravi Kabob (lol) and the owners of the restaurant sat with him and told him the story of how Ravi Kabob first began. Pastor Warren sat listening intently, and at the end of it took pictures with the owners and gave them copies of his book for free and signed the books as well. I didnt speak too much to Pastor Warren, but it was enough to witness his charisma and interactions with others to gain an idea of why he’s become so popular.
He spoke later that night during the main session at ISNA, and though I didnt get to hear it, others told me the speech was ‘okay.’ I guess one thing I took away from the day was the power of manners, and how when someone displays themself as a person of religion and backs it up with the character associated with that title, people respect it, irrespective of theology or creed. w’Allahu Ta’ala A’alem.