At first glance, it looked like a skinny jeans, boots, and fashionable scarves convention – A really big one. But upon closer observation, you could see it was a gathering of college students – 60,000 of them – who all had something beyond their fashion sense in common. We were all Christians and we all had one purpose.
On New Years Day, my sister and I road tripped to Atlanta for the Passion Conference. After arriving in Georgia’s capital, we went to the airport to pick up two of her friends who had flown into town for the conference. Actually, lots of people flew into town for the conference. I even saw a group who had flown in from San Francisco, California! I was beginning to think I had underestimated the size of this event.
This belief was solidified after attending the first session of Passion, where I learned the group at the conference was made up of people from every state and over fifty countries! And there I was thinking it would mainly be attended by the locals.
Photo courtesy of Erin Schaeffer
Passion took place in the Georgia Dome, which was used for several events during the 1996 Olympics and is still used as host to a football team and some pretty important football games (or so I’m told).
In the center of the Dome stood a round stage. During the songs portion of the conference, singers stood around the circle. In the world’s terms, these singers were legends. They were big-name people who had a ministry in the spotlight. We’re talking Chris Tomlin, Matt Redmen, Kristian Stanfill, David Crowder, Lecrae, Kari Jobe, etc. And then the speakers: founder Louie Giglio, Francis Chan, John Piper, Beth Moore, and more. See? Legends.
But the cool thing was, as they stood together on stage, they weren’t individual “stars.” They were servants of the Lord, joined together to praise Him and spread His message. They were there for the same reason as all of us college kids.
Over the course of four days, we divided our time between these powerful conference sessions and something known as “community groups.”These groups were smaller (only a few thousand students) and had a leader who gave a message and presented questions for us to consider and answer in our “family groups.” Family groups were groups of around eight students. I didn’t know anyone in my family group, but by the end of the conference, we really felt like a family. This was actually one of my favorite parts of Passion, because group meetings were a time of learning about each other: our struggles, dreams, and prayer requests. At the end of the last session, we snapped a group picture and promised to stay connected. It was a sad goodbye, but I was motivated to head back to school and share Jesus on my campus. I think we all were.
Passion has a, well, passion for ending slavery. There are more slaves in the world today than ever before – 27 million. These are people who are sold and trafficked – many of them here in the United States. In Atlanta, even.
The Passion team decided that’s unacceptable, and over the course of the conference, over three million dollars were raised (by “poor” college students) to help end modern day slavery.
Which brings me to my other favorite part of Passion. On the third night of the conference, all 60,000 students stood outside the Dome, holding candles in a vigil for those trapped in the disgusting grip of slavery. A beam of light shone three miles into the air, and a unified shout from the students spread throughout Atlanta. People sang “Our God is an Awesome God” and other choruses, but I couldn’t say anything. Every time I tried, I became choked up. The vigil was such a powerful display of God’s people determined to carry out His mission. But what got me even more than that was knowing that we do serve an all-powerful, awesome God who wants to work through us and put an end to this injustice.
Photo courtesy of Erin Schaeffer
And that’s what I took away from Passion 2013. A central verse for the week was this:
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21
I took away a renewed faith in God making the impossible possible. A refreshed faith in the God I serve, the God who plants dreams in our hearts and waters them until we can’t help but let them bloom. A revived understanding of a Savior who is calling the world back to Himself.
I left Atlanta with a reassured knowing – knowing – that our God is faithful, and He wants to change the world through His children. We just have to be willing to be used for plans so much greater than anything we can comprehend. If we do that, I know we’ll stand in awe of what He will do.
For more information on the Passion Conference, check out www.268generation.com/3.0/
To sign a petition to raise awareness of modern day slavery and learn more about the movement, go to www.enditmovement.com/
In His immeasurable love,