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Teens from overseas extend NAC participants’ global view

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Priya Singh felt a little uncertain about the entire trip until she exited her plane and saw the “Welcome to NAC” sign waiting for her in the lobby of the Nashville International Airport.

“This is my first time to leave my country,” said the 18-year-old from Fiji. “I was nervous until I saw the sign. I was relieved to be here and everyone waiting for me was so friendly.”

Singh is one of 20 teenage girls representing 19 different countries at NAC, the National Acteens Convention, hosted by national Woman’s Missionary Union. Nearly 6,500 girls between grades seven and 12 and their leaders from around the country and the world have gathered for the conference, held about every five years since 1972 to give missions-minded girls a global vision for God’s activity in the world.

This year the world came to NAC.

“We truly wanted this to be an international event,” said Evelyn Tully, who chaired international guest relations for NAC. Tully formerly served an international initiatives strategist for WMU and was instrumental in developing the opportunity for girls from other countries to attend. “We see this opportunity of having these girls here going beyond simply adding a dimension to the conference. We see this as an opportunity to establish these young ladies as Christian women of influence in their respective cultures.”

The opportunity to come to the United States and attend NAC was made possible through “Together We Bring,” a scholarship program developed by WMU. More than $60,000 was raised in slightly more than 15 months to fund the scholarships. The majority of the donations came from state WMUs, but money also was given by several couples who sent donations from their retirement funds, other individuals and from seven girls involved in Acteens in Caddo, Miss. The girls who received scholarships were only responsible for securing travel visas; the scholarships covered their other expenses.

Tully’s team also designed the scholarship applications and distributed them around the world through International Mission Board missionaries and representatives from the Baptist World Alliance. After that, it was a matter of prayer that God would provide the right candidates.

The criterion was rigid. Applicants had to be between ages 16 and 18, be comfortable with speaking publicly, relate well personally, be respectful of other cultures, be active in their respective churches, have leadership potential, define their goals for the future, be English-speaking, be willing to mentor other young women when they returned home, and have the consent of their parents to travel to the United States.

Sixty-five applications initially were received with resources enough to fund 26. Circumstances trimmed the final number to 20.

“We couldn’t be any more pleased with the group of girls we have here,” Tully said. “All of these girls have the ability to become leaders internationally.”

One doesn’t have to spend much time with a random sampling of the girls to validate Tully’s assessment.

“It’s so cool to be here and with all these other girls and learn what God is doing around the world,” said Samara Joy Hoey, 18, a third-generation missionary kid from Australia. “There is so much that Christians need to be doing in the world but are not. But God wants us to go and reach people for Christ.”

“I’ll take back to my youth group the enthusiasm and excitement that I’ve experienced here during worship,” said Becky Williams, 18, of Wales. “There are so many people in Wales who are discouraged about the future of the church there. Churches are closing every week. My grandfather is an atheist and he is treasurer at the Anglican Church where he lives. But I’m encouraged because there are also new churches starting as well. I see many people around me who want something spiritually deeper. It is almost like God is stripping away from the church the people who really don’t want to be there and building it back with people who have an openness to the Holy Spirit.”

“I do see myself as a leader,” said Olena Kofanova, 16, of the Ukraine who has been a Christian nearly two years. She led her mother to Christ but her father and her brother are still spiritually lost. “This week has been an opportunity for me to get a vision from God of what He wants me to do with my life. I’d love to be a missionary to Ethiopia. But first I’ll go back to Ukraine and be a mentor to the other girls in my youth group. We have a new church there and I want them to know that there are Christians from all around the world who have a passion for Christ.”

Tully was a founding planner for the original NAC conference in 1972 at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico. She said she and the other women who planned NAC back then knew it could grow to be a significant event in the lives of teenage girls.

“We really had no idea of knowing it would be like it is today, but we knew it could be special,” she said. “I do think being able to now bring in the international girls adds an extra dimension. NAC has always had a missionary focus and [I] hope it keeps that, but … in the future we’ll have many more representing more countries.”
Added information on NAC has been posted at www.syncronations.com. More information regarding Acteens can be found at www.acteens.com.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.bpnews.net. Photo title: TRAVELING TEENS.