By Juliana Wilson
TN WMU Communications & Childhood Missions Specialist, TBMB
GATLINBURG — Connection 2018, a missions event for girls in grades 7 through 12, took place March 16-18 at the Gatlinburg Convention Center in conjunction with Missions Get-Together.
The group of 272 girls and leaders were among 1,495 total event attendees, including volunteers, exhibitors, personnel and staff who attended Connection and Missions Get-Together. The event centered around the theme “Stand Firm” and key Scripture from Galatians 5:1. Through worship, breakout sessions and hands-on experiences, the young women were challenged to stand firm on the gospel, in their faith and in their walk with Christ.
“I learned that others will know us (Christians) by our fruit; we have to stand firm in our faith, so our lives bear the fruit of Christ,” said Alyssa Abbott, a student from New Salem Baptist Church in Limestone. “I really loved the worship time, the songs, and the Bible study.”
Connection worship was led by Kellie and Kristen, twin sisters, worship leaders and song writers living in Nashville. The girls were led in Bible study by three compelling speakers including Rachel Lovingood, author and speaker from Cleveland; Sandy Wisdom-Martin, national WMU executive director-treasurer; and Kendall Shirey, Tennessee WMU special projects coordinator.
“It was amazing to watch as a girl turned to her leader Saturday night in Connection and told her she had made a decision to follow Christ,” said Beth Moore, Tennessee WMU student/literacy missions specialist. “There was no mistaking the joy on both their faces.”
Moore said more decisions to follow Christ were made during Connection.
In addition to a time of worship and Bible study, Connection offered attendees a wide range of breakout sessions on topics including consistency in God’s Word, standing firm on what you believe, life as a missionary kid, and a 45-minute refugee simulation that challenged attendees to make a difference in the lives of refugees.
“I really liked the refugee simulation. It showed me how we can support refugees and how they need to know Jesus. It changed my mind and now I want to help,” Ella Helms, a student from Holy Mountain Baptist Church in Kingsport, said.
Through the simulation conference participants experienced some of the conditions faced each year by more than 65-million displaced people and discovered ways to make a difference in the lives of refugees.
“The girls have talked non-stop about the refugees and the needs there — we loved seeing how we can help and I’m sure we will be finding ways to get involved,” Carol Abbott, a leader from New Salem Baptist, said.
Connection is an annual missions event, sponsored by Tennessee WMU, designed to help teenage girls grow in their faith, learn how they can answer God’s call and discover missions opportunities while being encouraged in their walk with the Lord.
“I am already looking forward to Connection 2019,” Moore said. “Our theme is Unshakeable Pursuit and I am praying that girls will learn what it means to run hard after Jesus and lead others in doing the same,” Moore added. Connection 2019 will take place in Gatlinburg on April 5-7, 2019.
— Wilson is the WMU communications and childhood missions specialist.