General Conference

The massive undertaking in Atlanta

Wish you were here

John Smith

My childhood memories include holidays by the sea and the writing of picture postcards to grandparents, Auntie Hilda and Uncle Bert. Year after year, the opening line developed into a recurring theme -- "having a wonderful time, wish you were here."

Well, sadly, the aforementioned relatives are no longer with us, but in the next few days, picture postcards of Atlanta will be dropping onto the doormats of family and friends back home in Great Britain. But first, I must send a message to you, which will also begin ... "Wish you were here."

I wish you were here, at the Georgia World Congress Center. It's a giant's playground, three monolithic convention halls which call to mind the Phaoronic halls of Thebes or towering sheds that shelter jumbo jets or NASA space shuttles.

The journey from one to another, across the carpeted canyons of space preferred to the paved thoroughfares beneath the sweltering summer sun that carries temperatures in Atlanta close to 100 degrees.

We stick to the air-conditioned traverse from Convention Hall A, to B, to C and on to the adjoining Georgia Dome, a landmark sporting venue that settles on this southern city like an upturned long-boat.

I wish you were here, to see this cavernous Georgia Dome which plays host to the 59th General Conference Session for the next 10 days, a dome that forms a pastel membrane between the stars of the galaxy and the stars of Atlanta Falcons, Georgia's premier American football team.

Their season is closed, their grid iron playing surface covered with protective plywood boards and checkered with row upon row of chairs, which will numb the bottom of Adventist delegates over 10 days of business sessions. It's expected that some 72,000 will gather here on Sabbath, gazing from the stadium floor and tier upon tier of crimson seats that rise to stratospheric heights, gazing toward the dais, a focal point of prayer and praise, the back drop more impenetrable fortress than scenic and serene.

Days of organized chaos have suddenly come to order, the technicians and laborers have gone, the hammers and drills are silent. The lighting is rigged, the sounds balanced and the venue for this major religious convention lies at rest -- contemplating perhaps the solemnity, significance and spectacle of what is to come.

The then and now, so aptly described in the local vernacular as "awesome" has been fascinating to witness, but what is to come promises more -- much more -- and so (as I press the stamp to my postcard) I scrawl - "I wish you were here."

--John Smith is a former radio producer for the British Broadcasting Corporation. He is producing the Atlanta 2010 Today radio podcast for the Adventist Church's World Session.

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