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GAiN Conference Day Zero

The 2017 Global Adventist Internet Network (GAiN) kicks off on August 9 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sponsored by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, this year’s GAiN Conference is held on the campus of Brazil Adventist University (UNASP).

The first GAiN conference, held in 2004, brought in approximately 100 attendees. In more recent years, the annual international GAiN conference attendance has averaged 250 people from across the globe to discuss the “use of technology, media and the internet to help the mission of the Adventist Church.” The conference organizers hoped for 500 attendees this year, and far exceeded their goal with over 850 people from over 80 countries, making this the largest GAiN conference ever. There are also smaller, regional GAiN conferences held in various divisions.

The GAiN Conference is geared toward anyone who works “in communication, media and technology both professionally and in their local churches.” (Approximately 250 IT professionals also attended a separate two-day technology intensive on August 7 and 8.)

For the rest of us, the fun began bright and early August 9. But first we had to get here. My journey began Monday afternoon (August 7) with a bus ride to the Chicago O’Hare International Airport and a 10-hour direct overnight flight into Sao Paulo. Landing at about 10:00 a.m. local time, I quickly found a small gathering of other attendees who had arrived over the past couple of hours. Most had arrived from various parts of the United States where all flights to Sao Paulo depart late at night and arrive early morning. Attendees from other parts of the world arrived throughout the rest of the day and late into the night Tuesday.

GAiN organizers have graciously agreed to provide transportation from the airports to the various hotels and the conference location. It is no easy feat coordinating the transportation, housing, and feeding of 850 people, all descending on Sao Paulo throughout the day and night, and some inevitable hiccups occurred.

Registration closed about two weeks before the conference began. According to Williams Costa, executive director for ANN and director of the GC Communication department, this was the first time they have ever needed to close registration, but the “numbers exceeded their best expectations.” The original four hotels reserved for the conference were not large enough to accommodate 850 people, so four additional hotels were contacted. Some attendees had to be shuffled to different hotels than the ones they had originally booked.

In a joyful email to attendees with just a hint of panic, Costa described the challenges of overabundance:

Because we didn't expect so many people, we didn't have in the registration software a mechanism to stop reservations when that [sic] Hotels were full. When the hotel registration passed 600 people, we decided to close because the situation was becoming out of control. To put it simply, there was no possibility of organizing, feeding and transporting so many people in the location that had been chosen. For this reason we closed the reservations and starting [sic] acting to solve all the logistics related with that extraordinary attendance.

Adding to the challenges, the UNASP campus is located far outside the city of Sao Paulo, over three hours from the airport, and the hotels are scattered 30 to 45 minutes away from UNASP. Some attendees, posting on Facebook, complained of waiting hours for an airport pickup that never arrived (as of this writing it appears all were eventually rescued).

Fortunately, my journey has been rather uneventful, albeit long. Though from speaking to other attendees, my 24-hour excursion from my Indiana home to my Sao Paulo hotel was relatively short. One individual had traveled for 48 hours before finally arriving at his hotel at midnight on Tuesday. He seemed extraordinarily well-rested at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning when we boarded the bus that would take us to the UNASP campus for our first day of meetings.

A 100-person team is coordinating every aspect of GAiN, from the “operation of the program, translation, music, transportation, security, video recording, meals, accommodation, etc.,” according to Costa. The newly released Adventist Translator app, designed by UNASP, is being utilized to provide translations in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Day 1 (Wednesday) will feature a full day of presentations. The presentations will be in a TED Talk format, with each presenter given 10-15 minutes to share their message. Seven-minute “Project Slams” are scattered throughout the presentations to introduce attendees to up-and-coming projects from Adventist communicators: a Bible study app, a virtual reality Bible Adventure app, online health courses, and more.

On Day 2, attendees will visit Novo Tempo (the South American Division’s media center), Casa Publicadora Brasileira (the Brazilian Publishing House), and the South American Division’s new Technology Institute (IATec). Presentations will continue on Days 3 through 5.

I will be reporting on each day’s events for Spectrum. You can also follow live updates on our Twitter feed at @spectrummag. The official hashtag for the conference is #GAiN17

Alisa Williams is managing editor for SpectrumMagazine.org.

Image Credit: gain.adventist.org

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