[SLIDESHOW=40788,40789]NASHVILLE (BP) — Less than 24 hours before the start of the sold out 2015 Send North America Conference, Esther Fasolino had one word for why she was attending, “Missions!”

“We’ve come to learn,” said Fasolino, a member of Immanuel Baptist Church in Toronto. “The breakout topics are fantastic.” Fellow Toronto resident Ivonne Anlar said their group of 12 would spread out among the diverse breakout session offerings to maximize their coverage.

“We want to share the experience with as many people as we can,” Anlar said.

The conference, hosted at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, Aug. 3-4, is sponsored by the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. The number of participants plus volunteers was expected to top 14,000.

Among those picking up their registration packets Sunday were the Alvir family from Morehead City, N.C. Merari Alvir is a church planter launching a bilingual church in the Outer Banks community. He and wife Jessica brought their two oldest daughters, Jessari and Helen, to experience the gathering.

“We’ve been involved in ministry 20 years,” said Alvir, a native of Guatemala. “We came to be prepared to do missions. We want to plant a bilingual church and were struck with the need for Hispanic church plants in the United States.”

Alvir said the family just returned from their annual mission trip to Guatemala. He and his wife, a daughter of missionaries, strive to broaden their daughters’ call to missions and to keep up their language skills.

“We expect to be revitalized by the conference,” Alvir said. “We expect to embrace the calling of mission[s] on our lives. We want to make disciples and plant churches and want that in the DNA of the churches we plant. We want it in our daughters’ DNA.”

Just a block away from early registration, hundreds of volunteers were gathering in preparation for hosting attendees at the event.

“We want to help people find their mission,” said 18-year-old volunteer Kaden Davis, a member of First Baptist Church, Waynesboro, Tenn. “God has called us and we are to be on mission. We want to help people be on mission, too. We expect to see God’s Spirit move among the people here. It is exciting.”

At a Sunday briefing, Send Conference executive director Aaron Coe reminded event volunteers that just five short years ago a missions gathering like the Send Conference was only a dream. Coe said approximately 280 pastors are registered bringing some 8,200 members from their congregations.

“This conference is about aligning our lives behind God’s plan to advance His kingdom,” Coe said. “We want to change the conversation and help people understand they are the ministers. God wants to use each one of these people to share the Gospel with their neighbors and friends. I can’t wait to see what God will do.”

The conference has drawn church members and leaders from all 50 states and four Canadian provinces. The main sessions will be held in the Bridgestone Arena. Breakout sessions will be hosted in the Music City Center and the Renaissance and Omni Nashville hotels.

There will be three stations for next steps in the venues where participants can respond to missions callings. A six-week, next steps Bible study will launch through the Send North America Network on Monday, Aug. 10. The Bible study will be supported with videos and blog posts.

Learn more about the Send North American Conference at sendconference.com. To explore missions and church planting through NAMB, visit www.namb.net/mobilize-me. Discover more about global missions at [http://www.imb.org/]www.imb.org[/URL].

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  • Joe Conway