Voices From the Dome: 
Erica Richards

Many times in life, our greatest expectations are often followed by disappointment—I can think of several times when I’ve spent so long waiting for a special event, imagining how wonderful it would be, and I was that much more disappointed when it didn’t go the way I had planned. However, during my time in Atlanta, my expectations were far exceeded.

Erica Richards Before I embarked on my first trip to a General Conference session, many people tried to prepare me for what I would experience while in Atlanta. “You’ll never see your church the same way again,” one person said. “It’s like a big family reunion,” said another. “It’s something you won’t be able to understand until you’re there.” They were all correct.

By the time I arrived on the final weekend, some people had been hurt by the decisions that were made; I was overwhelmed by the feelings of sadness and hurt expressed by those affected by these changes and wondered if this was what the session was really about. But when I expressed my sympathy to one of these individuals, the response taught me a valuable lesson: the only thing to do when we are hurt and don’t understand is to hold on to Jesus. The individual’s ability to look beyond the present pain to the future plans Christ has moved me to tears.

From the first moment I stepped into the dome packed with some 70,000 believers on Sabbath morning, to getting chills from the incredible music programs, I was filled with pride in my church. The closing program, the Parade of Nations, was undeniably one of the most memorable events I witnessed. I had taken for granted the ease in which I was able to travel to Atlanta and the more than comfortable accommodations that had been provided for me. In the dome that night, I realized how many Adventists had traveled from very far distances, despite many difficulties, because they were committed to being a part of this piece of our church’s history.

As I watched the ambassadors from around the world hold up their flags proudly, I couldn’t help swelling with pride myself—not because I was an American, but because I was part of this church. Despite our differences in cultures and nationalities, we are all bound together by our common beliefs: most importantly our belief in a Savior who died for our sins and is coming back to take us home very soon. 

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