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  • Writer's pictureRyan Hodgins

AWAKEN “FORWARD” Young Adult Conference

Right from the beginning it really seemed like God wanted something powerful to happen.

It‘s been two years since the last Awaken Young Adult conference. Previously held at a Charlotte hotel, this year, in order to work more closely with the Carolina Conference, organizers decided to host the event at Nosoca Pines Ranch. Hector Gonzales, youth

and young adult department director for the Carolina Conference, Pastor Julio Flores, and Pastor Ryan Hodgins collaborated to plan the event.

Normally it takes 9-12 months to plan an event like this, but with Covid creating uncertainty about in-person gatherings, leaders weren’t able to begin planning details until November,

2021. It seemed rushed, but God has a way of stepping in if you let Him.

Sam Leonor from Advent Health in California was chosen as speaker for the general sessions. Sam has always had a heart for young adults, and seemed the perfect choice. “Forward” was chosen as the theme, with the idea of moving spiritually forward, both individually and as a church. The eight breakout sessions were designed to train and equip young professionals to

be active in ministry in their churches. Every one of the presenters—including the main speaker—all agreed to come. This alone was a miracle. To have all of these excellent speakers still available just two months from an event was unheard of.

But then, heartbreak. Pastor Sam’s father passed away, and in the pain of that loss, he had to step down from the weekend. Though grieving for Sam and his family, after much prayer the

team decided to ask Pastor Tim Gillespie from Crosswalk Church if he could come and speak. He said yes.

Even though things were coming together, as leaders set up for the weekend it seemed like the Devil was attacking left and right. One of the breakout session speakers couldn’t make it, a trailer blew a tire, etc. But God stepped in, and the weekend was powerful.

The worship team from Pursuit in Charlotte, along with Rick Anderson Jr. (who led a breakout on leading worship) pulled together an excellent worship experience. Pastors Tim Gillespie and Bryan Arvelo, associate pastor of the Charlotte Spanish church, brought powerful messages through the weekend, reminding listeners that God is calling us to actively move


Those attending were blessed by the community service sessions and the breakouts on leading better Sabbath School groups for young adults. Other breakouts focused on equipping individuals to be ready for service.

It is the goal of Awaken to move our young adults closer to Christ, with Him at the center of our faith, and to equip them to be actively involved in spreading the Gospel. We are excited about next year and hope to see you there.

—Ryan Hodgins, Assoc. pastor of the Charlotte Sharon church, leader of Pursuit, and director of Awaken.

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