After attending her regional convention, my wonderful soon-to-be mother-in-law said, “Make sure you don’t miss the Friday morning session. There is something very special, but prepare yourself.” Weeks later, my fiancee, Karina [Hola, Loro!], attended her regional convention. She told me, “You may need some tissue on the first day.”
…Finally! I left work Thursday at noon, ready to make a trip to Atlanta, GA for one of the 2014 international conventions held throughout the U.S. My mom and I were already packed, so we loaded up and made our way to downtown ATL. We arrived to find many other friends checking in to hotels and preparing for the next day’s events. As I was taking our luggage to to the room, I took an elevator with a middle-aged brother wearing his convention badge. Trying to read his badge, I asked, “Where are you visiting from?” He said, “I’m from Camden, AL.” I raised one eyebrow, saying “Oh, really?!” Years before I was born, my Dad moved from NY to Camden to serve in that congregation. I told the brother if he was from Camden, he probably knew my Dad, James Ward. He said, “Yeeaaah, I remember meeting Bro. Ward back in the 90’s. He gave me some encouraging words.” So, I’m standing there in amazement, like I just drove 2+ hours from my home to the “NY of the South” to check-in to a hotel and end up on an elevator at the same time as a brother that knew my Dad. Are you kidding me?! True story.
For the evening, my mom and I jumped on the MARTA headed to Buckhead to meet a friend for dinner (I had excellent salmon on a bed of cous cous). My friend had a privilege of being part of the entertainment for the visiting delegates. Saxophone talent.
Friday, 7.18.14, and my 7 a.m. alarm was ringing. Time to get up, get ready and make the crowded MARTA adventure to the Georgia Dome. As we were getting off of the train, a volunteer sister providing directions, said “Get your tissue ready!” Huh??
As the trail of brothers and sisters poured out of the station, we walked undeterred past a man barking his opinions at us. Once inside the Dome, it was like a safe haven to around so many brothers and sisters from different nations, cultures and racial backgrounds. I also saw friends from Montgomery and friends that I had not seen in years. The morning session contained great pieces of spiritual food and experiences from missionaries of Malawi, Nigeria and Bangladesh. But I also found out why the earlier expressions of needing tissue. Very touching…
It was nice to meet delegates from Finland and Japan. I met a couple from Miyako. Do you recall the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011? Do you remember the news video of dark water pouring over a floodwall and carrying cars and a ship inland? That was Miyako.
Our Friday attendance was 30,692. During the course of the day, we had 18 regional conventions tie-in to listen and view certain discourses. The total then reached 106,233 people giving attention to the need mentioned at Matthew 5:3.