We have just returned from the Annual Grace Evangelical Society Conference, held this year at the Southwestern Baptist Seminary's Riley Conference Center. First, a word about the facility. Prior to this year our conferences have been held at hotels in Dallas or Irving. The first conference we attended met at Tony Evans' church in South Dallas. So this was definitely a departure from the norm.
This facility is state-of-the-art fantastic. There are 65 guest rooms, all well appointed and wi-fi computer friendly. The conference area is made-to-order for plenary sessions, breakout sessions, display areas and book sales. Here are a few pics to give you just a taste of the center:
A view of the registration lobby. Our room was off to the right. The conference rooms are at the opposite end of the building.
An informal gathering after dinner on Tuesday evening to discuss the day's events. From left to right are Graham, Bob Wilkin, Jo Schweizer, Viva Garza and George Garza. George is a member of our HGW Board.
Nestled along the corridor between the Conference area and Registration Lobby is this lovely English Garden. Even though the temps hovered around 40 degrees, when the sun came out you could visualize the beauty and serenity of the garden. And, as this is a Baptist Seminary, you are reminded from the fountain to "Go ye into all the world..."
I felt really "connected" to the rooms in our hallway. Apparently one of the ways this facility was funded was through hefty donations from Baptist churches. And some of the guest rooms were fully funded and labeled with the donor and honoree. Our room was given by the First Baptist Church in Wichita Falls and the room next door by Castle Hills First Baptist in San Antonio! Even though I never attended the first, I was baptized at the latter and spent many wonderful years of discipleship there. Here are pics:
The conference itself was excellent. We were privileged this year to have as one of our speakers Dr. William Dembski, professor, author and researcher on the topic of "Intelligent Design". The Institute of Creation Research had two breakout speakers and a marvelous book table. I bought two books that I'm sure will interest my little grandson in a few years - one on Dinosaurs and one on the Young Earth.
Our Bible speakers were equally excellent. Dr. Bob Wilkin, the founder of GES, gave three very passionate lectures on searching the Scriptures and keeping the saving message of Jesus Christ clear. Our good friend and professor, Zane Hodges, opened up some interesting discussion on the literary structure of John's gospel, exploring the effects of classical literature on the the apostle John and his writings. One of our favorite messages was from Dr. John Niemela titled "Jesus Gives Believers Everlasting Life; Will Unbelievers Live Forever?" Caution: the obvious answer isn't always the correct answer!
As we listened also to the weather channel Thursday morning, we realized that, since we were driving back to SA that day, we would have to leave the conference early in order to escape the impending snow and ice that was just west of Ft. Worth. So we reluctantly packed our car and left before the third plenary session began. However, we did hear the announcement that next year's conference has been locked in at the same conference center for a date in March - Hooray!
Oh yes. One other reason we were there is to promote Graham's Sunday school teaching material. For some reason, known only to God, he failed to put the case with all the sample material (plus his Bible, books, and manuscript for the breakout session he was to give) in the car as we were leaving. So this was all we had for our modest little display:
In spite of lots of interest, without the sample material, people were reluctant to buy. Another lesson learned. And fortunately, I had his manuscript on a flash drive and was able to print him another copy! All in all, though, we had a very good week.