WOODSTOCK, Ga. (BP) -- The Acevedos didn't meet through conventional means and don't lead conventional lives.
"We met online," Mariana Acevedo said of herself and Al, her husband of three years. "Yes, it was a dating service and my mom was all, 'We can go to make sure he's alright.' And I'm, 'Mom, we're meeting in a public place. It's safe.'"
It's that digital savvy that brought the couple to the North American Mission Board's Send North America Conference.
"We got that email," the wife said. "I follow NAMB on Twitter. When we saw the email we thought it sounded interesting."
Says her husband, "We prayed about it. We believe coming here was a step of obedience to God."
Al Acevedo is pursuing online a master's of divinity at Liberty University and was impressed by the entire Send North America experience.
"I've been to some good conferences and this one is top notch. From the relevant speakers, the sessions, the networking, you can sense the Spirit of God in what people are doing. The hospitality of the people of Woodstock is amazing," he said of the members and staff of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., hosting the event.
The Acevedos are members of Watermark Church, a year-old plant in Orange Park, Fla., near Jacksonville, where he is the volunteer Serve Teams coordinator and she is a worship leader and prayer team member.
"We are excited about church planting," he said. "It is the greatest form of evangelism and that excites me. I'm not sure God is leading me to be a lead planter, but that is part of why we are here. We are not sure what God is leading us to do, but we are open to whatever it is. With each step of obedience He gives us more direction and more light. We have to be obedient."
The two were members and volunteers at First Baptist Church Jacksonville when a Liberty class assignment sent Al Acevedo to nearby Celebration Church, where an encounter with a small group leader changed his direction.
"Tim Larson noticed that I was taking notes from the time I introduced myself," said Acevedo, who was to observe a small group and report on it for his online studies. Larson was the small group leader. "After the class he asked me what I was doing. Turns out he was taking the small class at Liberty, too. We kept running into each other around town and then he asked if I would pray about joining his church planting team."
Larson, in attendance at the conference, in 2011 launched Watermark Church with his small group.
Other participants echoed the Acevedos' positive experience across the two-day conference, including David Holland of Norwich, Conn. Holland, a deacon at Cornerstone International Church, works with church planter Shaun Pillay.
Said Holland, "This has been amazing. God is speaking to me and telling me exactly what I need to hear. I lost my cell phone yesterday and I started to get upset, but God told me not to worry about it. He took away something that might distract me so I could listen more closely to Him."
The 2013 Send North America Conference will be held by Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.
Access audio and video files from the Send North America Conference here.
Joe Conway is a writer for the North American Mission Board. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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