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There was a coronation at the GEMS Counselor’s Leadership Conference, but it wasn’t for a beauty pageant.

The occasion was a princess tea party for 471 women, ranging in age from 16 to 75 years. The women were pilot-testing this year’s theme for GEMS groups, “I’m a Daughter of the King! Abba, I belong to You!”

The conference, held in July at Concordia University in Irvine, Calif., brought together GEMS (Girls Everywhere Meeting the Savior) counselors from all over North America. Alecia Van Hulzen, conference coordinator, said 166 of the 471 were first-time attendees. “It’s great when these women first experience the sisterhood of GEMS, where they can fellowship and exchange ideas, learn practical training tips, and most of all worship together and bask in our Father’s great love.”

A highlight of the conference for many of the women polled was the teaching by Ray Vander Laan, founder of That the World May Know ministries. “He challenged us to live our lives in closer harmony with Jesus and reflect this to our GEMS girls,” said Andrea Mulder, a counselor from Maranatha CRC in Woodstock, Ontario.

The conference, which ran four days, included area tours, worship sessions, keynote speakers, roundtable discussions, and workshops. “Counselors came eager to be filled with knowledge and understanding, and desiring deeper relationships, said Jan Boone, executive director of GEMS. “It was just a great conference.”

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