Thousands (myself included!) converge on Gatlinburg for annual Winterfest conference

This past weekend, I attended the annual Winterfest conference of thousands of generally Church of Christ youth groups (all denominations welcome), church leaders and ministry volunteers gathered in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

The city of Gatlinburg as seen from the Sky-Lift.

The city of Gatlinburg as seen from the Sky-Lift.

Among these thousands were some very specific, very important people to me. Winterfest has always been a place that I am able to connect with people from all walks of my life: my youth group from Indiana, my youth group from Michigan, my Lipscomb family, my own actual family, even my foreign exchange student came when she was in the United States.

I’ve been attending this annual weekend for six years now. In the past, I would spend 10 hours on a bus with 20 other people and wait huddled with hundreds of others to experience worship, entertainment and education. Then after sessions, I would walk around the various college and ministry booths and dream of what it would be like to serve alongside the people behind them.

Thousands of people wait in line to attend the conference's early session.

Thousands of people wait in line to attend a session.

This year, that dream was realized when I spent the weekend working the Lipscomb Admissions booth. While I played a different role this year, I enjoyed it just as much. I didn’t get to hear the speakers and comedians, but I was inspired and entertained just as much speaking with prospective students and people from my past.

The 2014 Lipscomb Admissions team goofs off in between sessions.

The 2014 Lipscomb Admissions team goofs off in between sessions.

I remember my first time at Winterfest being one of the first times I saw the potential of my faith. Meeting such kind people sharing their stories of missions and changing the world, in both small and large ways, expanded my view of the possible.

The sign outside the convention center where Winterfest is held welcomes the 2010 attendants.

The sign outside the convention center where Winterfest is held welcomes the 2010 attendants.

Outside of the sessions and booths, this weekend also showed me that I don’t have to choose to belong in one place with one set of people; they all cross paths eventually, and this is what makes each of us unique.

It’s also always great to see the sheer number of people worshipping together and hanging out together on the streets, some of them people I know well and many that I have yet to meet, all with a common faith in one city at one time.

Have you been to Winterfest before? How was your experience? Share your story in the comments!