I watched my mother’s eyes slowly fill with tears as she stared down at the tens of thousands of Adventists seated below her on the floor of the giant domed stadium.
“I wish,” she said softly, “I wish my own mother could have seen this. She never knew that the church she joined was connected to a faith this big.”
My mother’s reaction from high in a skybox at the 2000 Toronto General Conference reminded me of how moving the sight of a General Conference session can be for believers. The scope and scale of world Adventism, now numbering 17 million members and 25 million persons in the larger family that includes children and youth, is powerfully encouraging, if only because so many Adventists know only the tens or dozens of fellow members they worship with each week. Like my Italian grandmother, a convert from another faith, most Seventh-day Adventists define their church by the people who smile at them each Sabbath, by the earnest men and women who teach the Sabbath schools and preach the sermons, by the deacons and deaconesses who care for the practical needs of both people and building.
And yet we hunger to know that this world-circling movement is still growing, still expanding, still reaching regions where the name of Jesus is not known. Something in our hearts leaps up when we see new congregations planted in tired Western nations beset by secularism. We thrill to hear of undaunted believers in underground churches who practice our common faith in dangerous circumstances. Present in almost every nation of the globe, Seventh-day Adventists are always eager to learn about the progress of this cause.
This edition of Adventist World focuses the worldwide Adventist family on the 2010 General Conference session planned for Atlanta, Georgia (U.S.A.), from June 24 to July 3. This 10-day international gathering of the church will fundamentally align the church for the new decade, selecting leaders and adopting policies to keep the faith strong and the movement growing. More than 2,400 official delegates will be joined by more than 50,000 fellow believers on the two Sabbaths.
Taken together, the attendees in Atlanta will represent only .003 percent of the baptized members of the church—a tiny fraction, some might say. But they will carry the hopes and dreams—and prayers—of millions with them as they plan and pray and worship.
Start praying now for what God will do in Atlanta.