From all across the United States and several other countries, families gathered April 21-24 in Big Sandy, Texas, to enjoy uplifting fellowship with other believers and to be challenged from God’s Word to draw near to Him. Some speakers were conference favorites from recent years, including Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar, Paul & Jenny Speed, Ken Pierpont, Chris Hogan, Gil Bates, and several others. Other speakers such as Gary Fraley, Bob Newhouse, and S.M. Davis joined us for the first time since the Knoxville conference days over ten years ago.
Almost three hundred fun-loving 4-7 year olds with open hearts participated in the Big Sandy Children’s Institute. God showed Himself faithful as He heard and answered the prayers of the sixty-one CI staff and teachers. One teacher prayed God might bring five children to salvation during the week. In direct answer to prayer, five children called upon Jesus to be their Lord and Savior! It was a privilege to work with children who are at such a tender and moldable age. After watching “The Mud Melon,” a skit which illustrated the fruit we produce when we are connected to Jesus Christ as described in John 15, a child shared, “Seeing the watermelon cut open with juicy red fruit but also oozing with mud [showed me] what my heart looks like. I only sometimes obey Jesus.”
Pre-Embassy, the program for girls ages 8-11, focused on the attributes of God and how they apply to their daily lives. Lessons included learning about God’s care in rescuing and protecting us, and that He is a God Who sees, hears, and knows us and desires to be personally involved in our lives. Although these truths are very basic, it is often the simplest truths that are the most impactful. It was encouraging to see lives impacted, no matter their level of maturity. Several team leaders commented on how they themselves were blessed by the depth of the lessons.
COMMIT sessions were held in the mornings for young ladies aged 12–15. Messages given by Laura Oliverio, Rebekah Houser, Anna Duggar, and Priscilla Waller encouraged the young ladies to draw near to God as they look to the future, to understand who God has made them to be, and to daily interact with family and friends. Small group time is always a highlight of COMMIT as teams discuss material presented in the sessions and ways to practically apply it. Participants decorated picture frames featuring a verse to take home as a reminder of the lessons they learned.
Always an active, exuberant group, the ALERT Cadets (young men aged 8-17) were challenged through object lessons, illustrations, physical activities, and action-packed events to be “Strong to Overcome.” The focus during the week was on 2 Timothy 2:1. “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Several guest speakers challenged the cadets, including Chad Christiansen, Ken Pierpont, and David and Jason Benham. The messages encouraged the participants to rise to the challenges of our day as men who are strong in God’s grace.
The student sessions were well-attended by approximately 350 young people. There was a sense of God drawing them near to Him as they focused on the theme of learning to live for a great cause based on Nehemiah chapter 2, verse 18: “Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; … And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” Young people heard how to know God personally as well as the necessity to be involved in the lives of others and to invest their lives in God’s kingdom. Dynamic speakers such as Tom Harmon, Dr. Jobe Martin, and David and Jason Benham shared from the Word of God and from their own life experiences. Each afternoon ended with a time of prayer and personal reflection, encouraging the young people to allow the life of Christ to transform them in each area.
This year’s conference introduced two new tracks: one for new couples and the other for pastors. Chris Hogan, Gary Fraley, and other speakers challenged young couples who are either courting, engaged, or recently married to build their relationships upon the Word of God and to make wise decisions they will not later regret. A special pastor’s session was attended by nearly thirty pastors. At the conclusion of one message, a pastor looked up and told a staff member, “That was the most encouraging message I have ever heard for me as a pastor.”
Many attendees were overheard saying it was a wonderful conference and a time enjoyed by the entire family. One young father shared that he and his wife had watched Embassy Institute for two years, but this was their first conference to attend in person. “We really don’t want to leave,” he added.
Meanwhile, three more conferences are scheduled for this year. Registration is still open. Come join us at one of the remaining conferences: Nashville, TN, May 26-29; Sacramento, CA, June 30-July 3; or the Twin Cities, MN, July 21-24.