More than a thousand people gathered May 26-29 to attend the Nashville Family Conference. Fathers, mothers, children and young adults came to be encouraged to “Draw Near to God.” A young couple on their way home from their honeymoon made it a priority to stop by on the final day of the conference. They wrote a note of gratefulness and stated in it: “I truly hope we can come for a full conference next time! My husband and I heard Gil Bates speak on wise counsel and following God above all else. I really enjoyed it. We heard him briefly touch on trusting God for the number of children and being newlyweds it caught our curiosity.”
One speaker shared with the ALERT Cadets about the importance of making wise choices. The most important decision each person will make is whether or not to place one’s faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. The young men were very responsive, and approximately a dozen cadets spoke with their team leaders about salvation. Two placed their faith and trust in Christ for the first time, while others recommitted their lives to Him. One young man wrote, “I learned more about servant leadership by watching my unit leader serve with excitement even when he was tired.” Another wrote, “Teamwork is more important than winning a competition. Humble leadership is the way to be. Understanding the strengths of your squad [members] and being sensitive to weaknesses are important to learn quickly.”
Nearly eighty girls attended the Pre-Embassy program. One mom whose daughters were attending for the first time said she really sensed God’s presence and was very grateful for the team leaders investing in the girls. During small group time, team leaders used iodine, water, and sodium hyposulfate (“hypo”) to illustrate Jesus taking our sins away. Girls eagerly watched as the dark iodine solution representing sin became clear when the water/hypo solution representing the sacrifice of Jesus was poured into the cup of “sin.” A girl returned one morning, excited to tell the other girls on her team what had happened to her the previous night. “Last night Mr. Harmon was talking about Jesus dying for our sins,” she said. Afterward she prayed to receive Christ as her Savior. “Now I’m God’s child!” she exclaimed.
COMMIT focused on following God’s will for one’s life instead of yielding to the world’s pressure to conform or worrying about the future. Laura Oliverio spoke to the girls, sharing that God’s will is not an occupation, location, or education — it is to know and love God so that others will want to know and love Him, too. Another COMMIT speaker shared her personal testimony and about how friendships fit into God’s plan. Whether we have many friends or none at all, God uses these different seasons of friendships to show us that Christ is our true fulfillment and to keep our focus on Him. One leader commented, “I really enjoyed leading COMMIT this year. The sessions were great, especially the one about friendships. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a session like that before, and that surprises me now because it is such an important topic.”
One of the main themes for this year’s student sessions is that Christ is our very life. The students took a fresh look at what it means that the Word of God is not just a study on Christ: Christ is the living Word of God. Thus, the life of Christ grows in us as we meditate on God’s Word. After hearing a short, practical message on how to meditate, students were given the opportunity to silently put this into practice for fifteen minutes. One speaker eagerly shared how thrilling it was for her to see a room full of hundreds of young people, some for the first time, grasping the reality of meditation on the Word of God.
The Children’s Institute was an active program with twenty-two volunteer teachers and about ninety children during the week. The children’s eagerness to learn and their enthusiasm for life was channeled using instructive stories, supporting illustrations, related crafts, and group games. This year’s theme was The Armor of God which focused on different aspects of the Christian’s armor and what it means to be a “soldier of Christ.” The children learned several verses from Ephesians 6 and enjoyed singing the songs Armor of God and Bright Arrows. It was exciting to hear children sharing verses and songs with their parents throughout the week. “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
One attending father who heard Bob Newhouse’s earlier session said, “Just listening to that message alone made the whole conference worth the effort!” The Sacramento Family Conference (June 30-July 3) is fast approaching and the final conference in the Twin Cities of Minnesota (July 21-24) is right on its heels. Don’t miss out! Register early to receive the discounted rate.