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Thousands gather at Jehovah's Witnesses convention

Photo: David McGregor  . A crowd gathers around the baptism pools during the 2011 Jehovah's Witnesses District Convention on Saturday afternoon at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

Photo: David McGregor . A crowd gathers around the baptism pools during the 2011 Jehovah's Witnesses District Convention on Saturday afternoon at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

DULUTH — For the Mosley family of Powder Springs, going to an annual district convention at the Arena at Gwinnett Center is like attending a big family reunion — with 8,000 fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Tony Mosley said he, his wife and his children attend the conference every summer to learn more about God’s kingdom and participate in fellowship with friends.

“It gives us a spiritual burst, so to speak,” Mosley said. “Conventions like this help families to remain spiritually strong.”

The three-day convention, which began Friday and ends today, is the first of four district conventions that will take place in Gwinnett in July and August. Each convention will include the same Bible-based lessons, said Jerry Belson, a minister and youth service overseer.

Mosley’s college-aged children, Amanda and Alexander, said they enjoy the demonstrations and skits that are interspersed with other lessons and songs.

“They’re real-life examples that are related to Bible examples,” Amanda Mosley said.

Tony Mosley’s wife, Cherie, said she looks forward to publications that are available at the conventions.

“There’s always something that can (help you) focus on God’s kingdom as the solution to all the problems in the world,” she said.

The conventions are expected to attract 32,800 people from north Georgia and parts of South Carolina and North Carolina in the next two months. On Saturday, about 8,000 packed the arena for the program, which included baptisms for new members.

Alpharetta resident Tenelle Scott, 33, said her baptism Saturday marks “the most important day of my life.”

Scott said her journey to baptism began with a personal study of the Bible nearly two years ago. She also joined the Windward congregation of Witnesses and privately dedicated herself to Jehovah — a personal name which Witnesses believe refers to God — before her public baptism.

“I feel good about publicly dedicating myself to Jehovah,” she said. “I was looking for a while for something, and I’m convinced that I’ve found what I was looking for — a close relationship with the creator, Jehovah God.”

The theme for this year’s convention is “Let God’s Kingdom Come,” which focuses on the current times and struggles and the belief submitting to that God’s kingdom is the solution.

Throughout the United States, 381 conventions will take place in 98 cities. More than 1.7 million people are projected to attend the conventions throughout the country.

The district convention in Gwinnett will bring in members from 52 area congregations, Belson said.

The convention has been held in Gwinnett for eight years, and it’s an event the county is delighted to host, said Lisa Anders, deputy director of the Gwinnett Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

In metro Atlanta, holiday weekends are typically slow, but a large convention such as this one is a boon to local hotels and restaurants, Anders said. The event averages 1,200 to 1,400 room nights each weekend of the convention, she said.

“It is really a great thing for our hotels,” she said. “Restaurants in the area will see an uptick in business as well.”

The district convention will also be held July 22 to 24, Aug. 19 to 21 and Aug. 26 to 28. The events are free and open to the public.