When Christmas vacation is over, I typically fall into a week of depression. Not so much due to a "back to reality" reality, but mostly due to a "I miss my family terribly" reality. I don't have the perfect family but I do have an incredible family. By the grace of God alone, I have parents that I love and adore, sisters that I can't get enough of, and brother in laws that I wouldn't trade for the world. I (we) love them, each one of them, and they love me (us) just as much. I don't know if it's because we all live in different states now, but when we get to spend time together at Christmas each year, we guard it fiercely and make the most of it. And this year was no different. We had a blast! I've got hundreds of pictures to comb through and post from our visit, but that's not what this post is about tonight.
Tonight I want to tell you about what I've been doing all week and why I've had an unbelievable week, a week of hope, instead of sadness. We got home on Monday morning and after an eventful final 15 minutes of our drive, I was cleaning up vomit and trying to get ready to take my sister and brother in law to the airport. We got them there on time and I brought the kids back home for naps, which they didn't take, until Travis got home. It was Monday and I was spiraling into my typical "I can't believe Christmas is over" mentality. I assumed it would be a long week. But thankfully, I assumed wrong.
On Tuesday night I caught wind of a live web stream on twitter for the Passion 2012 Conference and after we got the kids to bed, we were able to access it. Trav and I have been following the Passion movement for years and have listened to many of the podcasts from Louie Giglio and his team. When we lived in NC we were able to catch a night of their tour when they were at Duke University. If you've never heard of it, here's what they say their purpose is on their website:
Passion exists to glorify God-uniting students in worship and prayer for spiritual awakening in this generation.
Every year they hold an annual conference for 18-25 year olds during winter break and this year it was being held at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. It sold out with 44,000+ students and thanks to a generous donor, the 4 days worth of sessions were being broadcast live via webstream. It's an incredible movement that attracts some of our favorite speakers, Pastors, authors and our very favorite bands. The teaching is amazing, the worship is incredible and what could be more inspiring than to watch 44,000 young adults come together in the name of Jesus???
Which brings me to the title of my post, hope. I had no idea what the theme of the conference would be and I really had no idea that I'd be able to participate in it all week. But I'm so grateful that the Lord gave me this week I typically hate and cleared my schedule with nothing more for me to do than unpack, clean up, and take care of my kids. I was able to tune into most of the sessions and watch them from my laptop in my kitchen.
In fact, Miss Ava even tuned in with me most mornings. This is her, imitating the worship she witnessed from the students and singing along to the songs she knew. I can't tell you how this Mom's heart was melted these last few days, watching her take in what I was also taking in. "From the mouths of babes, He ordains praise!!" To say that it was a blessing would be a massive understatement. My kitchen became a sanctuary every day and I was flat out rocked to my core from the teaching of God's Word. I heard powerful testimonies, listened to the book of Ephesians be read aloud word for word, and got flat on my face before the Lord in my pjs and slippers. Honestly, I didn't accomplish much this week but my heart was refreshed in so many ways. I watched the Lord move among a generation of students and my eyes were opened to a horrific truth.
(The mayor of Atlanta receiving a very generous gift for the city, on behalf of the students who gave at Passion 2012)
What I love about Passion is that it would be easy (and still great) to just bring students in for inspiring teaching and moving worship and then send them all back to their dorms and homes. But that's not what Passion does. They know that this is a chance to change the world through a generation of 18-25 year olds and they know that we live in a world that needs Jesus in a desperate way. The horrific truth that I learned this week is that right now there are 27 million people who are enslaved around the globe. Most of them are bound up in sex trafficking or in countries without free trade. Regardless of what it looks like, it is the highest number of people enslaved in the history of our world. And it's happening under our watch. So what can a generation of 18-25 year olds do?? They can't change the world overnight but we do know who can. And that's one of the reasons Passion brings them together. To hear from the One who gave His life for them, for the whole world, so that none of us would be in bondage anymore. He came to set us free and bring us back to Him. But these 18-25 year olds also came to give. Not because they have much to give, but because Jesus called us to proclaim the truth of the Gospel and to love the least of the least in His name. So what can 44,000 poor college students do collectively?
They can give an astonishing $2.5 million dollars.
And with the generous gift of an anonymous donor, they can put $3 million dollars in the hands of ministries and organizations world-wide to stop, prevent and restore those who are caught in the trap of slavery. I watched it happen over the course of 4 days right before my eyes and I am in awe of our God.
So why hope? Because you tell me that our God isn't greater than the darkness in our world. You tell me that He can't take the willing hearts and sacrifices of YOUNG adults and make it reach across the globe to set many, many people free. Not only does HE give us ultimate hope, but so do they. In light of an election year when we are going to hear all kinds of things about the direction of our nation and the way that each candidate is ruining it, I think there are two great things to remember:
1. "The King's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes." Proverbs 21:1
-Our God is Sovereign over every King, every government, every President and He does whatever He pleases for His glory and His people's good. So no matter who ends up in the White House or has some degree of "power or control" in our world, it's all temporary and all given as a gift from the Lord that can be taken at any time. That very thought keeps me from losing sleep at night. Should we still engage in politics and get involved, standing for what is right? YES. But we would also be wise to remember that every one of these days is already ordained by God and He is in control, not us.
2. Movements like Passion remind me that there is still a remnant of believers who bend the knee to Jesus and will continue to proclaim the Gospel for generations to come. We live in a day filled with hopelessness and darkness and sin. It's not hard to find and there are plenty of 18-25 year olds caught in its' grip. However, when I see 44,000 students who are seeking the Lord and committed to making a difference in their lifetime and are willing to put their money and their time where their mouths are, I am inspired and filled with hope for the future. Some 2000 years later and the name of Jesus is still making waves across the globe and the person of Christ is still changing lives. I saw it this week.
I am so grateful for men like Louie Giglio and Chris Tomlin and the many others who have a desire to see generations know Christ and make Him known. This movement stands in stark contrast to the other movement of young people in our nation, the Occupy Wall Street (or whatever they choose to boycott) movement. While they also have plenty of passion and some points of validity, they have invaded towns across America and destroyed parks and land at the tax payer's expense, they have created nightmares for local law enforcement, they've been irresponsible for their actions and they've simply expected everyone else to serve and accomodate them, all because they disagree with the direction of the country and want to make a point about it. Everyone knows it's not hard to rally young adults behind something, but the difference is always found in the motivation behind it. Passion invaded the city of Atlanta for the last 4 days but what they left in their place was nothing but blessing and generosity. I watched as they gave the Mayor of Atlanta, $100, 000 of their own money to start a brand new Special Victims Unit that will fight the battle of sex trafficking IN ATLANTA. They gave hundreds of thousands of new socks and towels to the homeless shelters in the area and they prayed for the city and it's leaders. You tell me who made the greater impact??
This has been a sweet week for me because I've been able to witness the Lord moving and have heard Him prompt my heart to action too. I can't think of a better way to get over my own self and any sadness I might be feeling, than to focus on Him and start my new year boldly and fearlessly proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which has the power to change the world.
So thank you Passion, for what you do and for what you make possible. And thank you to the 44,000, some of whom are from our own group of students at Grace. You inspired me and motivated me to be courageous and generous, like you have been this week. We are grateful that the Lord has called us to serve you and we believe that He can do mighty things in our nation and our world through you and through the rest of us who bend the knee to Jesus.
May we be doers of the Word and not just hearers only!
"Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts." Isaiah 26:8