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SBC’s exhibit hall serves as venue for happy reunions

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (BP) – In an exhibit hall crowded with booths and banners and flags and foam-core signs, two things stood out at Anaheim Convention Center where more than 10,000 Southern Baptists met this week.

Hugs and handshakes.

The SBC’s exhibit hall wasn’t just a place for more than 100 religious organizations to promote their goods and services: it was a place where old friends from across the nation gathered to get reacquainted.

It was a place of happy reunions.

“We got to see people from the West Coast we hadn’t seen in years,” said Michael DeLand, director of college relations at Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Kentucky. “That’s probably the biggest reason we do the convention, to reconnect with our alumni and hear what God is doing in their ministries. It’s always a joy.”

Lowell Ashby, vice president of finance for BCLC Church Lending, said he enjoyed getting reacquainted with old friends from his days a state convention finance officer.

“It brings back fond memories of working at the state convention,” said Ashby who helped man the booth for BCLC, one of the top providers of loans to SBC churches. “It was great seeing friends from churches that we’ve helped with their finances or church loans that allowed them to buy land or remodel or refinance or construct facilities.”

Some of the exhibitors included the six Southern Baptist seminaries, several Baptist state conventions, many Southern Baptist ethnic groups and other SBC entities such as the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the North American Mission Board, the International Mission Board, GuideStone Financial Resources, the Woman’s Missionary Union and Lifeway Christian Resources.

The SBC Executive Committee’s CP stage featured a number of panel discussions among Southern Baptist influencers about topics related to the Cooperative Program and Southern Baptists missions and ministries.

Messengers could also visit booths for Christian colleges and universities, kids-related organizations and other various parachurch ministries.

Beyond chatting and making connections, visitors walking around the exhibit hall could participate in a variety of activities including a Virtual Reality experience via Lifeway, free merchandise giveaways from many exhibitors and complimentary health screenings from GuideStone.

One of the first booths visitors saw upon arriving in the hall was a joint exhibit representing the annual meeting’s host state of California.

The exhibit was a partnership between the California Southern Baptist Convention, California Baptist University and the Baptist Foundation of California.

Terry Barone is the special projects coordinator for the California Southern Baptist Convention and helped facilitate the joint California exhibit.

“Having Southern Baptists in our backyard is different for us and different for them, because we’re usually the ones going somewhere else,” Barone said.

“It has been nice having everybody here. There has been great weather, I believe the facilities have been good, and I believe people have responded well to California Baptists. …

“It has been a good opportunity not only for Southern Baptists from the East to get a flavor of the West, but it’s been good for many California Southern Baptists who may not have gone to a convention outside of the West to see they are part of a larger family. I think it has been good for both of us.”

One way Barone said the joint California exhibit was able to engage visitors was by giving away a different trading pin each day the exhibit hall was open.

Barone said even on Wednesday, the last day the exhibit hall was open, the booth gave away more than 800 pins in the first 15 minutes the hall was open.

The joint effort of the California exhibit gave other Southern Baptists a glimpse into their state’s partnership, he said.

“We thought it would be silly for us to have separate booths and compete against each other for traffic, so we decided to combine and have a family booth,” Barone said. “It gave us a chance to showcase what our California family is all about, and I think that was good for all of us. “

SBC, Annual meeting

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