From December 8 to 10, 2023, Gulf States Conference hosted the annual Elders, Deacons and Deaconesses Retreat with the theme Evangelism: Life of the Church. Ministerial Director, Josh Murillo explained the spiritual growth the attendees experienced during the weekend saying, “Here we are at Camp Alamisco, having a great time, enjoying cool, beautiful weather. We are happy to report we have over 100 people – elders, deacons, deaconesses – who registered to attend this training event that serves as an inspiration and provides the tools for them to serve at a local church.”
Pr Josh Murillo continued by saying, “The guest speaker for the weekend, Church Growth Director from the Southern Union, Pr Richie Halversen, talked about rebuilding – rebuilding our churches and rebuilding our faith.
The first night Pr Richie talked about rebuilding during difficult times. He utilized the story of Nehemiah and the challenges he faced. He made a beautiful comparison between Nehemiah and Jesus. And the following day he focused on how Jesus built the church and repaired people’s hearts and how we are called to do the same for guests that come to our churches, as well as for members. We are very excited to be part of this. This is such a blessing.”
The event was impactful for those who attended. Local church pastor Samuel Cardoso, expressed, “The blessing to be here is that the Elder’s Retreat gives us the possibility to re-evaluate our mindset, the way we do things and the way we have done things in the past. [It gives us] the right approach for today – the reality that we have in the church.”
Similarly, local church member, William Mann, from Coleman, AL also shared the blessing of the event saying, “It’s been amazing. So far we have been able to talk to other deacons and elders. The fellowship we have here is simply amazing. To meet people from so many different walks of life and aspects of life and to all have the same goal – to all have the same light at the end of the tunnel that we’re looking to see – it’s spectacular to see. Helping with the prep and doing things and getting ready for the people -- everyone is so humble, so forthcoming and just here to help one another and to learn and to move forward with God.”
Understanding the importance of equipping local church leaders to minister to their local communities, Martin Fancher, executive secretary of the Gulf States Conference said, “What a privilege to be here at Camp Alamisco for the Elders, Deacons and Deaconesses Leadership Retreat. Elder Richie Halversen has been bringing the fire. The Holy Spirit is obviously present as we look at the topic of going into our community – going into the areas in which we live, in which we work and sharing and showing the love of Jesus in a tangible way, [answering the question] how do we build bridges to those who need Jesus? That’s the goal, and I think we are succeeding this weekend in finding and learning new ways to be better leaders in God’s church.
President Brian Danese echoed Pr Martin’s sentiments saying, “It’s been a great time here at the Elder’s Retreat. Richie has done a great job just talking about how to practically grow your church. I hope everyone will plan on joining us next year. The theme next year will be about how to manage conflict in your church.”