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The 5th annual Awaken Conference, themed “The Power of Your Love,” emerged as the most impactful gathering yet, drawing in 120 attendees to the Nosoca Pines Ranch from March 1-3. Despite encountering challenges during the planning phase, the event, organized by Ryan Hodgins, pastor of the Pursuit Worship congregation, and his team of volunteers, was an undeniable success, witnessing a notable increase in participants, including a significant representation of second-generation Hispanics. Hodgins expressed, “During the planning, there were several times when wrinkles almost seemed like they would keep the event from happening. It always takes so much effort to put on anything of impact. But with much love comes great success.”

The 90’s theme added a nostalgic flair to the conference, culminating in a vibrant 90’s glow party on Saturday evening. Volunteers played a crucial role in the planning and setup, with the dedicated team starting their preparations almost a year ahead, ensuring a seamless execution. Hodgins shared, “The volunteer setup team starts by taking down Pursuit Worship’s equipment the Sunday before and loading it all onto a 26 ft. Rental truck. Then Thursday morning we drive down and start setting up at Nosoca at 10:00 am. We work through the day and late in the night.” The main speaker for the weekend, Sam Leonor, a former Carolinian and Adventist Health Mission Identity and Spiritual Care executive, delivered impactful messages throughout the event. Leonor encouraged attendees to “Work as if success depends on our efforts, but trust as if all depended on God.” Hodgins emphasized the importance of active involvement as well, stating, “God wants us active and working hard.”

Hodgins, reflecting on the weekend experience, shared, “As the band played and music filled the space, something special happened. My heart was softened, and I was brought to tears by the overwhelming thought of how wonderful it is that God would be willing to use someone like me to influence so many young adults.” Cris Dutra, the Carolina Conference Young Adult/Campus Ministries Director, offered her insights on the event, stating, “At the Young Adult conference, I witnessed hearts awakening as they worshiped God together and listened to Pastor Sam share messages that deepened their understanding of God’s love and how to align their hearts with His.” Dutra underscored the transformative nature of the experience, highlighting the connections forged and friendships formed among the young participants. “I hope that the ignited passion for sharing God’s love will continue to burn brightly, impacting lives throughout the year until the next Awaken.”

—Article contributed

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