The National Acteens Convention is only held every four to five years, but participants come away from the event with something that impacts their lives for years, according to leaders from across the nation.
Acteens is the missions organization for girls in grades seven through twelve sponsored by Woman's Missionary Union. NAC is designed for Acteens members and other girls who have completed the seventh grade. More than 10,000 teens and their leaders are expected to attend NAC July 1-4 in Louisville, Ky., at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center.
"NAC is a great event," said Charlie Wilson, associate pastor for youth and activities at First Baptist Church in Hartwell, Ga. "The festive atmosphere makes missions exciting. I would encourage everyone to go.
"I attended NAC in 1994 for selfish reasons," said Wilson. "I had just started my current position and was looking for opportunities to build relationships with the youth. I decided going to NAC with the Acteens would be a chance to do that, but I did not expect to gain much from the event. I was wrong."
Wilson, who plans to attend NAC98, said the impact of such a large event "influences the girls years later. We still talk about things we experienced at NAC."
Vicki Lewis, an Acteens advisor from Rehoboth Baptist Church in Piedmont, S.C., agrees. "One of my former Acteens, who is in her thirties today, still tells me that the NAC she attended was the most wonderful experience of her life.
"NAC is a tremendous opportunity for girls to see how many others are involved in Acteens," said Lewis, who has attended every NAC since 1979. "It is a chance for them to see that they are not alone in their love for missions."
Connie Dixon, volunteer Acteens consultant for New Mexico, said it was also a chance for them to meet other girls who share their values. "It is important for the girls to meet peers who are excited about the Lord and who are committed to such things as abstinence."
NAC also broadens their world, the leaders said. Both Lewis and Dixon spoke about the impression meeting missionaries one-on-one left with the girls. Visiting with the missionaries helps the girls see that they are ordinary people who are willing to serve God in other places around the world, they said. It also shows them that missions is something they can do, not just study.
Goldie Cross of Bakersfield, Calif., also noted that for many of the teens the experience of traveling away from home is life changing. In 1994, Cross was living in Detroit and brought a group of girls who lived in the inner city to Birmingham, Ala., for NAC. Funding for the trip came from a Second Century Fund grant, WMU's endowment fund.
"These girls had never dreamed of leaving their neighborhood," she said. "So flying on a plane to Birmingham and staying in a hotel was a significant event for them. Now couple that with being in a setting with 13,000 of their peers who share a common goal and it becomes life changing."
Two of the girls who made the trip with her now serve as Girls in Action leaders in their home church, she said. Girls in Action is WMU's organization for girls in the first through sixth grades.
Along with the teens, NAC also serves as a life-changing event for leaders. Dixon attended NAC in 1994 because she wanted her daughter, Kendra, to attend a NAC. Normally, NAC is only held once during a girl's time in Acteens.
While at NAC, Dixon attended the conferences for leaders. By the end of the three-day experience, she was convinced that God was calling her to lead Acteens in her church. She followed through with that calling when she returned home and within a year, she was serving the state as Acteens consultant.
"I know that Acteens is important in my daughters' lives so I've been willing to do what I can to make Acteens a possibility for other teens in my state," she said.
Along with Kendra, Dixon's daughter, Tammy, will attend NAC this year. Kendra will be on the program by virtue of her selection in January as one of six national Acteens panelists for 1998. This distinction is the highest honor girls in the organization can earn.
NAC98, which will develop the theme "Inside Out," begins with an evening general session on Wednesday, July 1, and closes on Saturday, July 4, with the morning session. In between, the teens and leaders will experience on-site and off-site ministry projects, an inter-active exhibit area, creative arts performances, meaningful worship experiences, and more, all designed to challenge the girls to use their gifts in ministry when they return home.
Other highlights include a StudiAct recognition service and launch of MissionsQuest, the new individual achievement program for Acteens. In addition, participants will enjoy a "NAC Participants Only" spree at the theme park adjacent to the conference site and a concert by recording artist Jaci Velasquez.
NAC registration forms are available in the January issue of Accent, the magazine for Acteens members. Forms can also be obtained from state WMU offices. Questions about special group tours should be directed to state WMU offices.
A registration fee of $80 per person must accompany all registration forms. The fee includes admission to all NAC sessions and activities, a registration packet and ID, and an official NAC T-shirt.
Additional information may be obtained from state Acteens leaders, by visiting the NAC web site at www.nac98.com, or calling 800-968-7301.