Two weeks ago nearly 1800 people gathered in Big Sandy, Texas, to fellowship around the Word of God at the first of four conferences to be held this year with the theme, “Walking in the Light.” Even before the conference began, we heard reports of God at work in the hearts and lives of people preparing to come.
The messages from all our speakers were well received. One new speaker, Don Savell, an evangelist of nearly 50 years, shared a series entitled, “Watching the Weather.” This series turned out to be very appropriate not only with our theme but also with the weather we experienced during the first part of the week. Also speaking for the first time this year was Pastor Darren Myers. Pastor Myers helped the audience walk through the founding documents of our country and understand the freedom we have as well as how to maintain that freedom.
This year, we added the Homeschool Catalyst workshop on Saturday morning. It was well attended and greatly appreciated by many homeschoolers seeking encouragement and direction. Veteran homeschoolers shared insights they had gleaned from their experience, while those needing a little help were able to ask questions. During the session attended by parents, young people had a calligraphy course, and children had a special morning with the Children’s Institute team.
Can there possibly be any happier noise on earth than the sound of 167 children’s voices singing joyful songs about their Heavenly Father? The 2016 Big Sandy Children’s Program staff sure don’t think so! What a joy to watch the eager faces of each of these 3–7-year-olds as they learned about the Kingdom of God.
Yes, parents stayed busy during the conference with a constant flow of excellent teaching. But their children were arguably busier! Character lessons, Bible stories, Scripture memory, singing, crafts, and games filled each of the conference days for these little ones. Every activity centered on the theme of this year—“The Masterwork of God”—which focused on God’s amazing design through His creation. A team of 55 student teachers and staff came together to pour into the lives of the little ones who surrounded them that week. The children learned not only from the lessons that the teachers taught, but also from the example that was set and the love that was shown by each teacher. The week ended with a climactic presentation, as the teachers and staff led the whole group of children on stage to sing three songs for the parents. The children also quoted all nine verses of Psalm 8, which they had memorized during the week, complete with hand motions! Truly, the greatest gift the children took home with them was God’s Word hidden in their hearts.
“Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).
The Pre-Embassy girls focused on being dead to sin and shining God’s light to others. The girls learned about the true account of a pastor’s daughter in a communist country, where both her father and mother died for their faith. Though she was a famous violinist, she was willing to do whatever it took to live for Jesus. She miraculously escaped and continues to share her testimony today about God’s goodness in the midst of the persecution and how her family continued to share the Gospel. As a special treat, we were able to call her and have her share a few words with the girls in large group. Throughout the week, creative object lessons and fun crafts were used to illustrate concepts. After a discussion on salvation, one girl gave her life to Christ!
This year we brought in the ALERT Cadet Leadership team on Monday to give the men a special day of their own to enjoy and to help them prepare for the events of the week. Throughout the week the 13–17-year-olds had two team-building events: building catamarans, and completing the low ropes course—events which pulled them together. Plus, they were stretched by evaluating and acting on a medical scene and a crime scene. The 8–12-year-olds enjoyed several team-building events, such as moving tires and other heavy obstacles, relays, launching water balloons, archery, learning medical skills, and ropes and knots. And both groups did very well on rappelling down the tower. On Friday after lunch we had the opportunity to share the Gospel and answer questions that dealt with salvation, as well as other questions that were on the boys’ hearts. Around 15 asked Christ into their hearts. The ALERT Cadet Leadership team was blessed to be part of Advanced Training Institute in reaching the hearts of the young men.
For the young adults, Student Sessions were a time for growing deeper in Christ and being motivated by fellow Christians to walk in the Light. Following the conference theme of Walking in the Light, the young people were challenged in many ways by powerful messages given by Gabe Cleator, Gil Bates, Jobe Martin, David Waller, Darren Myers, and Joe Norvell. There also was a young lady who shared how she was called to the closed country of Bangladesh, and would be ministering there as a nurse, sharing the Gospel with the patients. Young people learned to seek the Lord continuously, trust God in not only easy circumstances, but difficult circumstances as well, and prepare themselves for the calling of the Lord. At the end of each afternoon, the students were able to spend time in prayer, reflect on their own personal lives, and allow Christ to fill them with His glorious light. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105).
Overall, the conference was a huge blessing to attendees and staff alike. We are looking forward to the remaining three conferences. The next conference, at Toccoa, Georgia, begins next Tuesday, the 17th. Online registration closes at midnight tonight, the 10th. For more information or to register, please visit familyconferences.org.