Parade of nations closes 2010 General Conference Session

Parade of nations closes 2010 General Conference Session

Business Meetings | Atlanta, Georgia, United States | Edwin Manuel Garcia/ANN

Flags, costumes on show from church's 13 world regions

The closing ceremony of the 59th General Conference Session of Seventh-day Adventists at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Saturday evening featured a colorful representation of the worldwide church -- a pageantry of flags and costumes that underscores the denomination's global reach.

Hundreds of ambassadors strolled in the Parade of Nations. In response, some 60,000 Christians cheered, many rising to their feet to snap photos and wave to participants from countries that represented their own heritage.

"We are celebrating our uniqueness and we are celebrating our togetherness," announced Elizabeth Viera Talbot, co-host of the program with Fred Kinsey and Garrett Caldwell. "We are celebrating our diversity, and most of all, we are celebrating our unity in one mission -- our mission to lift up Christ so high that He will draw all people to Himself."

The hosts opened the parade by introducing facts and figures about each Adventist geographical region -- 13 in all.

Next, a video played on giant screens near the stage and overhead, displaying images of some of the nations of that region, which prompted loud applause.

Then the loudest cheering took place: With the overhead lights dimmed, the hosts read the name of each country, as representatives wearing their traditional attire walked onto the lighted stage through arches in the platform's façade.

The cheering was so loud for countries such as Haiti, Jamaica, United States, Spain, Romania, Brazil, South Africa, India, the Philippines, United Kingdom, Ghana and Nigeria -- as in football-game loud in a stadium that is home to the Atlanta Falcons -- that the hosts sometimes had to pause before introducing the next nation.

The emotion expressed in the stands was shared by the delegations of flag-bearers and others in the parade, according to interviews with participants as they made final preparations to their costumes backstage before the program started.

"It's very exciting to see the Adventist family that comes from different parts of the world, from different cultures, with distinct flags, yet we form one people, with one flag," said Kenny Erwin Vicente of Paraguay, dressed in white pants and white shirt, and who participated with his wife and two children.

"It's an incredible feeling," said Richard Novlesky, treasurer of the Middle East Union, wearing a ceremonial white keffiyeh hat from Oman.

"It really gives you a feeling that we're a world church," added his wife, Yvonne, dressed head-to-toe in a black burka, which covered even her face.

"What a reunion it will be in heaven," noted Ninfa Bindoosano, donning a yellow Indonesian dress and headband with gold leaves planted on top. "We are thrilled because we are all different people, but united in God."

The program concluded with remarks from Ted N. C. Wilson, who just eight days earlier was elected president of the denomination, which has 16.3 million members in 203 countries.

"What a beautiful family we belong to," an upbeat Wilson told the worshippers. "The explosion of our mission advancement is going to be seen in every corner of this earth."