By Janice Backer
Contributing Writer, B&R
GATLINBURG — For more than 10 years, Sharon Y. Smith has made the eight-hour trip from Memphis to Gatlinburg to attend the Missions Get-Together and Connection. This year the conference was held on March 31-April 2 at the Gatlinburg Convention Center.
“The worship and the sessions are good,” Smith said. “I come and learn and take the information back to share with my church.” A member of Kingdom Center Ministries in Memphis, she brought 10 women including her sister, Bettye Tyson, and Jeanette West, the first black Woman’s Missionary Union director of Mid-South Baptist Association, based in Memphis.
“I must say it is awesome and a blessing to meet so many women in Christ,” said Tyson, who attended the meeting for the first time.
The worship for the women’s group was led by Tim and Becca Wildsmith of Spring Hill and Rachel Lovingood from First Baptist Church, Cleveland, led the Bible study for the women while Leigh Gray of Carmi, Ill., led the Bible study for the girls.
The Mid-South group was among 1,619 attendees, including volunteers, exhibitors, program personnel, and staff at the annual Missions Get-Together and Connection. In between the breakout sessions and worship, the attendees visited booths at the fair to learn about missions opportunities, ate free popcorn, bid on silent auction baskets, and competed to be the fastest team to change a tire.
The conference offered a myriad of breakout sessions and opportunities for worship for the women and another for the teenage girls. The theme this year was “By All Means” taken from I Corinthians 9:22b-23 “… so that by all possible means I might save some.” This year women could choose from 33 classes, with topics ranging from missions work in Southeast Asia and New England, how to reach Gen Z, and how to love people you hate — to name a few.
“The worship service was great,” said Madison Dunlap, a 17-year-old Acteen from First Baptist Church, Oneida. Her entire Acteen group of 15 girls came to the conference and on Saturday they chose from 16 breakout sessions plus worship services geared just for the teens. The teen worship leaders were Jonathan and Emily Martin of Nashville.
Kendall Shirey, the Connection coordinator and Tennessee WMU student, literacy, and multicultural missions specialist, told the Sunday morning audience of women and girls, “I want to thank you girls and leaders for giving up a weekend to love on each other and to love Jesus.”
As the conference began, the women and girls dropped off toilet paper, deodorant, toothpaste, and other toiletries in a hallway. Each year the conference has a ministry project and this year all 9,162 items will benefit City Reach Knoxville. Besides these donated items, $13,143 was collected as the annual offering. This year 90 percent of the offering will be used for the 2017 Missionary Kids Reentry Retreat in Tennessee and the remaining 10 percent is designated for the Tennessee Touch Tomorrow Today Endowment.
According to Denise Bronaugh, Missions Get-Together coordinator and adult ministry and missions specialist of the Tennessee WMU, the conference really began a year ago with many individuals helping plan and create the event.
During the last worship service, Bronaugh and Shirey took time to thank those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes, noting the year-long planning has one purpose and that is to point attendees to Christ.
“I want women to be empowered, spiritually renewed, and inspired to make a difference in the world and in their communities,” Bronaugh said.