“No More Strangers” Conference Gathers Southeast Area YSAs
By Lucy Schouten, Church News staff writer, and Genean McKinnon, Church News contributor
More than 4,000 people gathered at five locations for the first North America Southeast Area Young Single Adult Conference of the Church August 9–11.
For the first time in the area, YSA conferences convened for simultaneous broadcasts in Atlanta, Georgia; Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and Orlando, Florida.
The conference, “No More Strangers,” was preceded by months of intense planning by a committee of 225 young single adults, who used their unique interests and talents to bring the members together.
“This is the first Church event I have been involved with that has been promoted almost entirely through Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and text messages,” said George Menden, coordinator of the event for the North America Southeast Area.
The goal for the young adults in planning the conference was to help attendees build relationships, gain practical knowledge, provide meaningful service to the community, build testimonies, and strengthen common bonds.
The scope of the project demonstrated the Church’s growth in the North America Southeast Area, which includes 10 states, 17 missions, nine temple districts, 102 stakes, and more than 1,000 units.
The vision for this event was presented at a kickoff devotional April 28 by Elder Ulisses Soares of the Seventy and President of the North America Southeast Area. Joining him was Elder Rulon Munns, a member of the Seventy who was assigned to oversee the conference.
Elder Munns said, “Never before have thousands of young single adults worked together, served together, and rejoiced together as they have in the activities leading up to this conference and in the conference itself. There have been baptisms, service activities, reach and rescue, and temple work in preparation and now a spiritual outpouring at the conference in all five locations.”
The conference began on Friday night with activities and fellowship. In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the young adults gathered to hear from former NBA star and Church member Thurl Bailey.
Young adults in Charlotte, North Carolina, attended a concert and participated in “Minute to Win It” competitions on Friday. On Saturday morning, they did a “Wounded Warriors” service project, which serves local military veterans.
Meanwhile, the members at the Orlando, Florida, conference rolled up their shirtsleeves for a blood drive. Rick Walsh, the founder of One Blood, thanked the young single adults for their willingness to share this “most precious commodity” that “only they could provide.” The members at the conference were the premiere audience of One Blood’s new video, which is designed to inspire potential young donors. Mr. Walsh encouraged them to continue this volunteerism throughout their lives to benefit their community and themselves.
Conference participants in Atlanta, Georgia, had a packed schedule of workshops and trainings on Saturday morning but still found time to craft blankets for Ronald McDonald Houses in their area.
On Saturday afternoon, all five conferences heard a broadcast from Sheri Dew, president of Deseret Book Company, and Brad Wilcox, a member of the Sunday School general board and a professor at Brigham Young University.
Nequan Jordan of High Point, North Carolina, said of the conference, “I have learned that obeying God’s commandments gives us freedom, living within your means helps you better serve God, and that you are not defined by what you have done, but by what you are trying to become.”
After two days of fellowship, the conference came to its spiritual zenith with a Sunday morning sacrament meeting. Via broadcast from Salt Lake, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve shared a powerful, personal message for this dynamic group.
Pleased with their success, Elder Munns said, “The conference will bless the lives of the young single adults across the southeast. For many, their lives will never be the same again.”