This is going to be a really long non-book/movie review post. Just a warning in advance :)
I just had the best weekend I've ever had in years. I went up to Fairfax, VA with 10 other people from my church for the Passion Regionals Conference. What is Passion?
From Wikipedia: Passion Conferences is a Christian organization (also referred to as the 268 Generation, originally named Choice Ministries), founded by Louie Giglio in 1997, known for their annual spiritual awakening gatherings of college students.
I decided to to go the conference after seeing the video ad run during our church service. I wanted to go because I haven't been to a conference in a while and thought it would be really cool to go.
That was pretty much the main reason. However when I got there, it was MUCH more than that.
Do you know what it's like to worship with over 3000 people your age? It's indescribable. I went from feeling like I was the only person at my work and school who was a Christian to know that there were thousands of my Christian brothers and sisters in the same room as me. You don't feel alone. There's a reason why I haven't been able to connect with Christians my age. Not since high school youth group have I been involved with a group of Christians, either in a prayer or Bible study group. When I was in college I went to a couple of meetings for InterVarsity but dropped out because I had no motivation. Since then, I've pretty much just gone to church on Sundays and that was it for my fellowship.
The worship leaders that took part in this conference were Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and Charlie Hall. I've been singing Tomlin's and Redman's songs in my churches for years so it was a thrill to finally get to see them live and in person. And wow, it was truly amazing to sing with them. Even though I didn't know all the songs in the beginning, by the end of the conference, I knew them all by heart (currently listening to the songs now as I type). Usually when I participate in the singing part of the worship, I'm usually very reserved. Ever since I started attending conferences 10 years ago, the most I would ever do is close my eyes. For the first time, this weekend I felt compelled to lift my hands up to the Lord and let him know how much I love him and what he means to me. When Chris Tomlin and the band started sining "How Great is Our God" I couldn't hold back anymore. I raised my arms and sang with all my heart because I knew it was true. In the past, I've always worried about how other people would look at me and what they would think. Most of the people I used to go to church with back in high school, I realize now, were not very deep in their Christian faith. Because I was worried about what they thought, this held me back from truly worshiping God the way I wanted to. It was so freeing to throw my arms out to God and sing of his power and wonderfulness.
The speakers were equally powerful as well. We heard from Louie Giglio, the founder of Passion, and Francis Chan. Their words made me want to have an impact on the college campus as a Christian. Louie told a story about a girl named Ashley who for 21 years resisted being a Christian until her roommate finally made a impact in her life to help her become one. Ashely was on fire for God after she became a Christian, but then died 5 months later. I don't think there was a person in that arena who wasn't affected by her story.
Another powerful moment for me was when the delegates for the Passion International tour for Hong Kong was brought out. Passion is planning on taking the conference globally in the next year to 18 cities worldwide. One of these cities is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where my mother's family is from. I have relatives, college age, in that city so this would be awesome if they could go as well. Anywho, Louie introduced Sam Lu, a 22 year old college student from Guadong, China (again where my mother's family is originally from). She gave her testimony which was extremely powerful especially since China is a country where it is nearly impossible to live truly as a Christian. The enthusiasm she gave at being able to worship with so many other people freely made me want to help support Passion to go out to these other countries and allow other college students the same opportunity. I was originally going to go give only $5 but then I was thinking about how I was only going to spend the rest of the cash on stuff that I don't really need. So I gave $30 and felt a sense of peace. The final total ended being over $35,000 for the World Tour plus another $32,000 for wells in Africa. College students are awesome!!
I don't think that it was coincidence that this conference was held at George Mason University, the very school I sent in my master's application for that very same day. This is the first time the conference was split up into regionals. Out of all the places in Washington DC the organizers could have chosen, they picked GMU. It's not a coincidence that this was the year that we got a new pastor in our church, who wanted to take us to this conference for the first time in our church history. And it was definately not a coincidence to hear 3000 students pray for the area, the school and the students of GMU to become affected by God in the upcoming months. We were told that out of 30,000 students at GMU only 300 are actively involved in the 12 Christian organizations. After hearing this, and then while we were praying for the GMU campus, I felt this strong feeling that God wants me to be at GMU and have an impact on the campus. I really believe that not only will I get into the school, I will be part of the change that God will lead to the campus in the future. None of this happened by coincidence. Everything is part of God's plan and I know that this all in his hands.
The trip was also filled with other memorable events. Remind me, when I do go to GMU, not to go to the McDonald's at University Mall. This store must be modeled after the Japanese ones because the efficiency at this store was intense. I've never seen people get food so fast at a fast food restaurant. When it was my turn, the lady behind the counter pretty much yelled at me to place my order. And then apparently when my food was ready, no one called out what my food was or the number that was on the ticket. She again yelled at me for not knowing my order and then as soon as I picked it up, told me to go away and dismissed me. While kudos for the fast service and clean restaurant, points down for customer service. I'm sorry but I felt like I was wrong for ordering something! Also, I probably won't be back to the Applebees or the Silver Diner in Fairfax either. The eggs weren't cooked at the diner, and paying the check at Applebees took almost 30 minutes. The new mac and cheese there though is really good. We stayed at the Hyatt which is the swankiest hotel I've ever been in. Our room had a bed and pullout couch. I was on the couch and it wasn't bad at all. I kept thinking about that Seinfeld episode where Elaine has the bar in her back, but it wasn't like that at all. It was lots of laughs and good times
Right now I'm working on about 5 hours of sleep. I'm functioning right now, but after I finish this post I might go pass out for a few more hours. But I will say, this is the reason ever for sleep deprivation. I feel drained but on fire for God. I know I have a purpose in life to serve him and I'm eager to start.
Has anyone else been to a Passion conference before? Tell me about the experiences you had and how the event changed you.