A Volunteer’s View of General Conference

by Dottie Graves

Much has been said about the happenings at General
Conference 2012. This is a different perspective—the blessings
and fun of being on the Host Hospitality Team.

The assignment was delegate and visitor registration which
began with the international delegates arriving several days
before the U.S. delegates. The first busses from the airport
were filled with men and women from Africa, and they were a
colorful sight as they lined the hall of the Marriott Hotel!

Many wore bright beautiful traditional attire of their countries,
and many proudly wore garments with the cross and flame and
their country or conference name printed on the fabric. Some
spoke English, but many did not.

The language they all understood though were smiles and the
friendliness we showed them. As you might expect, some of
the delegates, because of not understanding the requirements
for registration, did not have the necessary documents with
them and could not be credentialed.

Fortunately, they were staying in the hotel and were able to get
their papers fairly quickly. Imagine this: Some delegates
walked for two days to get to the location where they were
taken to an airport to fly to the United States. Some had never
been out of their hometowns before starting on this adventure.
Then they spent two or more days en-route to Tampa—many
through New York City. While they waited for their flights to
Tampa, their visas had to be verified. For Alan Morrison, the
Business Manager for the General Conference, and the staff of
Homeland Security, this was at times a most difficult task.

The problem was that the delegates had several names that had
many consonants and were quite long. In addition, the names
did not follow the standard method of listing surname first and
given name last. It took them hours of trying to find common
letters in a name in order to verify that the person entering the
country was the person listed as a delegate or alternate.

Once the internationals arrived at the hotel, they had no
money for necessities, even meals, until they went through
Conference registration and received their per diem
allowance.

They came in faith that the Lord would provide for their
needs. They were happy, patient, and trusting as we found
ways to communicate, often with sign language like playing a
guessing game, and began building bridges of friendship,
while providing for their needs. People from more
industrialized countries had an easier time when they arrived
and those from the United States had even fewer problems to
solve.

We were surprised at the number of people who came to the
information booth for medical reasons or injuries. Every time
someone needed a medic, the Africans would line up and
wait for their turn to be seen. They thought the medics were
doctors holding clinic! The Tampa Emergency responders
(EMTs and Paramedics) were kind and patiently did what
they could for each one. It was verified to us that at least two
lives were saved by the care received at the medical clinic
and Tampa General Hospital. They are to be commended for
their cooperation and responsive care of the sick.

During the two weeks of General Conference, there were
over 1,000 volunteers filling 1,544 time slots! The
cooperation and enthusiasm of the volunteers was
exceptional! When each shift was over, most volunteered to
stay if needed, and did stay until everyone was positive that
each area of responsibility was fully covered by enough help.
Oh, did you know that volunteers received no monetary
compensation for their time or expenses? They came from all
over Florida and far beyond! We laughed, loved, and shared
stories. We made friends with people from all over the world,
and with some we are still in communication via email! We
had a thousand people to talk to everyday! By the time we
returned to our hotels, we were almost talked out—almost!
Being part of the team that made everyone feel welcome,
valued and loved was an experience of a lifetime!

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