Why Do They Attend?
by Rosalie A. van Putten
Why do people plan ahead and save their money for years in order to attend a General Conference Session? What are they expecting when they come, and what are they looking for? These questions were posed to a number of the attendees at the 57th General Conference Session of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. These individuals were there not to work or to be delegates, but just to attend, and the responses varied.
Milagros Stephenson, a member of the Coney Island church in Brooklyn, New York, made arrangements one year in advance to attend the session. She views the event as a spiritual retreat, stating that the sermons touch her heart. She also loves hearing reports on the growth of the church. She enjoys the international flavor of the Church’s membership.
Benson Mpama, a member of the Springfield Gardens church in Queens, New York, is attending General Conference Session for the first time. He was baptized seven years ago and now serves as the head elder in his church. In addition to the spiritual aspect of the conference, he was most interested in how the business sessions were conducted. He stated that he was keenly observing the differences between how business is conducted on a global basis versus how it is conducted in the local church. He appreciated the decorum that was demonstrated in the business sessions. He was taking copious notes, and noted ways in which the business sessions on a local level could be improved. Being a native Nigerian, he also enjoyed the cultural diversity of the church that was greatly manifested in the international attendance at the session. He saved up for several months to attend the Session with his wife and children.
Betty Stephenson, who describes herself as a “want-to-be Adventist,” hails from the island of Jamaica, West Indies. Although not a baptized member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, she feels most comfortable among Adventists. She made plans to attend the session over one year ago, and attended with three of her Adventist friends. She was most impressed with the response of the elected officials of Toronto, Ontario regarding the General Conference and the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. She especially enjoyed the speech made by the Mayor of Toronto, as well as the unveiling of the commemorative stamp by the Canadian Postal Service.
Overall, in speaking with dozens of attendees, everyone said that they were spiritually charged by the nightly mission reports. Indeed, many of the young people said that they realized at the General Conference Session just how much the Lord is really working, and particularly enjoyed the personal testimonies and the evidence of miracles in the lives of His people. Many particularly mentioned the unique ways in which people came to know the Lord. Everyone appreciated the feeling of “oneness” they experienced, the feeling of truly belonging to a worldwide church that is progressing in the name of Jesus. The phrase “I can’t wait to get to heaven” was echoed throughout the SkyDome. Yes, what a day of rejoicing that will be!
Rosalie A. van Putten is a constituent of the Northeastern Conference and attends the Springfield Gardens church in Queens, New York where she serves as the education director.
General photos should be available in the package of photos.