Roddy Chong and me at Gathering. Photo by Steve Adams

(To listen to my interview of Roddy Chong, click here.)

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to host Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle and interview special guest Roddy Chong. The interesting thing about the day? A week before I had no idea I’d be doing either. Here’s how it all happened.

As you know I use social media a lot. One of the things I try to do is connect with people in the Omaha area. Someone I connected with on Twitter is Kirsten Case-Penrod. At the time, she was working for the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. A year ago, she tweeted out that she was looking for churches to visit. I responded back that she should visit Christ Community Church. She came to visit on a Sunday morning, along with her daughter, and I showed them around. They enjoyed their time, and Kirsten and I have stayed connected since then.
I did baby dedications on August 29, and I thought my Sundays would be calm for awhile. The following Tuesday, I got a message from Kirsten asking if CCC would be interested in hosting Mayor Jim Suttle if he visited the coming Sunday (September 5). I told her he would be welcome, and that I’d be the one to host the mayor. Kirsten and I made plans to connect with a member of the mayor’s team at the Delivering Happiness event the following day.
Later that Tuesday afternoon, Tim Perry asked me if I’d be interested in interviewing Roddy Chong at Gathering. (Gathering is an informal Q&A that happens after most Sunday services.) I was interested, but I told Tim I wasn’t sure why I was being asked. I didn’t know Roddy at all, and I am not that involved with music anymore. Tim thought I’d be good because I’m creative, thoughtful, and can handle myself well on stage. So, I agreed to do it. (Even if it meant meeting with Roddy Saturday night to go over things and subsequently missing the Huskers season opener!)

(Who is Roddy Chong? A violinist who has played with Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Lonestar, Jars of Clay, Twila Paris and more. He currently has a prominent role with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He’s also an actor, dancer and speaker.)

On Wednesday, I attended the Delivering Happiness event and connected with Kirsten. She introduced me to Nikola Jordan, who handles the mayor’s schedule. We touched based about the mayor coming to visit and exchanged cards. I told her we’d like to have the mayor, but the coming Sunday wouldn’t be a typical service with Roddy performing and speaking. It didn’t matter, she was glad we responded to her request. (She had told me she had reached out to another evangelical church as well, but they hadn’t responded in any way to her.) The mayor tries to visit area churches on Sundays, and he’s already visited 100. He hopes to do another 100, and CCC was his first church on this next 100.
I semi-joked with Nikola that with hosting the mayor I could run interference in case anyone tried to instigate something with him. She told me the mayor loves talking to people and that people could approach to talk to him about anything.
Later that day, I started developing some questions I could ask Roddy at Gathering. I did some research on him as well.
Thursday morning, I met with Tim Perry and Tim Anstead to go over the Gathering Q&A. There wasn’t a set plan, but they had their own ideas with how it should go. Lead Pastor Mark emailed me later with his ideas as well. I figured it would come together, but I wasn’t sure how. I thought I’d have some leads after talking to Roddy on Saturday night.
Later that day, Nikola and I emailed one another and set things up for the mayor’s visit. He’d be attending the 10:45 AM service, which provided the mayor with the rare opportunity to get some extra sleep. Word had gotten around the staff about the mayor visiting, and some were concerned about how he might be received by people in the service. We hoped it wouldn’t be a big deal. I didn’t think it would be, but with the local budget being a hot button item with a number of people you just didn’t know.
Friday was low key. Strange as it may sound, I was more anxious about doing baby dedications than I was hosting the mayor and interviewing Roddy.
Saturday I showed up at CCC during Roddy’s rehearsal with the Connections band. I wanted to watch a bit before Mark, Roddy and I went off to have dinner and talk about the interview. It was great to watch Roddy perform.
Roddy Chong rehearsing Saturday night.
After rehearsal, Mark, Roddy and I went to dinner. Great conversation. I told Jana later I was disappointed I had to go over some of the interview questions with him because I would’ve enjoyed just shooting the breeze with him. We talked about Jim Collins, the music industry, Howard Schultz, discipline, faith, art and more. (Well worth missing the T-Magic show at the Huskers game. Thanks to Steve Yost for texting me updates!)

Sunday was finally here. Jana and I went to the 9 AM service and it was packed. The band, with Roddy accompanying them, were great. Roddy did a good job sharing and played some as well. It was good. The only downside? He didn’t have more time to share. I was spoiled from my conversation with him the night before.

Near the end of the 9 AM service, I got a call saying the mayor was there. He was there earlier than expected, so I bolted out of the service to greet him. He was in the Atrium just talking with people. He was completely at ease. I introduced myself and we started talking. We had some time before the 10:45 AM service, so I showed him around CCC a bit. When we weren’t talking, he was greeting people with a smile. A number of people in the halls did a double take when they saw him. One time, Mayor Suttle stopped to talk to a boy who was sitting on the ground in the hall by himself. He asked how he was doing. His mother came over to say her son wasn’t feeling well, and her eyes got a bit wide when she realized it was the mayor who was checking in on her son. The mayor talked to the boy for a few minutes, and when it was done the boy was smiling.

We walked through the Kids Connect area, and then did a quick walkthrough of the Worship Center. We wound up back in the Atrium, and there I was able to connect him with Mark. The two of them were able to talk for a few minutes. Mayor Suttle asked a lot of questions and was interested in what CCC was doing, primarily Double Your Impact.

We then headed in for the service and took our seats. The service went well, Roddy did another great job. Mayor Suttle leaned over to me at the end of it and said it was amazing.

The mayor decided to stay a little while longer and come over to Gathering for a bit. This was great, but I wasn’t able to do some last minute prep for the interview since I was hosting him. I figured I’d be winging it a bit more than I wanted. Jana, the boys and I had lunch with the mayor and his security person. Good conversation. The mayor is a good man who likes to interact with people and has a passion for Omaha.

Roddy came over to Gathering, and the mayor chatted with him briefly. Then, Mayor Suttle had to leave. He thanked me for hosting him. He left, and then I had a few seconds to talk to Roddy before we took the stage for the interview.

I usually don’t go to Gathering because Liam and Duncan take naps. Still, I thought the proceedings went extremely well. Roddy really went in-depth on a few topics. I won’t go into all the details, since you can listen to it. One thing I enjoyed discussing with him was chasing down opportunities. He used the word “hustle”, so we kept referring to it as “hustling”. It made me laugh a bit because it reminded me of Gary Vaynerchuk at Big Omaha.

(Please check out Roddy and I’s conversation by clicking here.)

The interview finished, and then Roddy played one more song. Jana and the boys came back in to listen to Roddy play, and Liam liked it. Afterward, he told Roddy that he was good at the violin. I chatted briefly with Roddy, thanked him, and then headed home with my family.

When it was all said and done, I had a smile on my face. It was a great day that was all sorts of fun for me. I know I’ll have many more adventures in life, but I don’t know if I’ll have a day quite like that again.

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