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Convention Brat...Today

confessions of a convention brat

by Joy Nelson


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I guess you could say I grew up at the national convention. One of my earliest memories is telling a friend at elementary school about “going to the national” over the summer. I was shocked to learn that she didn’t go, and—even worse—she didn’t even know what it was!

After I told her that I had visited another state for a week, stayed in a nice hotel, and ran around with a bunch of kids my age (without my parents), she was jealous.

Picirilli GirlsThe trip itself was just as fun…at least in my memory. My four sisters and I would pile into the family station wagon, and away we would go. I appreciated how nice it was of my mom to have a healthy stock of Dramamine to keep us from getting carsick. (Or maybe she just needed some peace and quiet along the way.)

I was blessed to be part of a church that not only encouraged its youth to participate in youth competition but also provided travel expenses in the yearly budget. I feel fortunate to have participated in Sword Drill, Bible Bowl, and various music competitions along the way.

As I look back, I think of people like Dr. Charles Hampton who was instrumental in forming our singing groups, but I realize he now enjoys the conference from a heavenly perspective.

I remember my nerves in the hours leading up to the competition. We would sit around in the hallways between Bible competitions trying to breathe normally. Our group would sit together through hours of solos, trios, and chorales—grading each entry and predicting the winners. On awards night, we would whoop and cheer when our predictions came true.

I loved being in the evening services, even as a teenager. And these were not the youth services of today. They didn’t exist back then. I simply enjoyed being with all God’s people. I was blessed to hear solid Bible teaching from men who were putting me on their shoulders spiritually.

The Wednesday night missionary service was always my favorite. How I admired those individuals who, like Laura Belle Barnard before them, gave their lives for ministry. Who would have guessed that one day my own sister would choose that same path?


Joy and Megan Nelson

And the music! What an amazing thing it was—and still is—to join thousands of voices in unified praise. I could sing along as loud as I wanted. At this year’s conference, when the Georgia Boys Quartet was singing, somehow I could hear Bill Gardner singing along. Makes me long for Heaven.

As strange as it sounds, I even loved the business sessions…really! My sister and I would strain to see who was speaking and who voted a certain way. We watched to see what our dad was doing, and whether he had anything to say. We learned Robert’s Rules of Order from the reprimands and reminders of the moderator.

These confessions of a convention brat are simple memories...simply priceless!


About the Writer: Middle school math teacher Joy Nelson (pictured above) lives in Old Hickory, TN, with her daughter Megan. She was the convention press officer for the 2008 convention in Charleston, WV.



©2008 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists