It seems to be so easy to isolate your struggles with faith and to believe you are the only one struggling. At Passion 2017, this loneliness was eliminated. During the opening to this powerful conference, attendees were asked to hold up their phone flashlights to answer questions that appeared on the screens. Questions flashed such as, “Do you struggle with anxiety?” or “Have you had to walk with someone through cancer?” The room was illuminated with the flicker of lights in these moments as God’s glory was shining through each person’s struggles.
Port City’s college ministry, Overflow, took 95 students to Passion 2017. Inside the packed Georgia Dome, over 50,000 young people raised their arms high and worshipped God together. The encouragement in that room was explosive. College students from 90 different countries who knew the name of Christ, who knew they were “a child of God,” gathered together to declare they were forgiven. At Passion, students were able to find community and encourage one another at whatever place they were in their walk with God.
“I am so thankful for the experience and the connections I made while I was there. I feel as though I walked away with at least 30 new friends and a refreshed spirit. It was also a good reminder as a college student that we are not alone as young followers of Jesus,” Coy Rigdon (UNCW sophomore) said.
At a time when Christianity is becoming increasingly discouraged, thousands of Christians gathered together in Atlanta, GA to celebrate the devastating beauty of the cross. Each speaker spoke about the hope the cross provides when you’re willing to place God before yourself. After receiving these messages, students formed small community groups where they were able to connect on a deeper level and process what they were learning.
“I really loved going to this conference because it showed me that I have to be willing to put work into my relationship with God today to expect results in the future. It’s definitely comforting to know that so many people feel so strongly or are looking for a relationship with Christ,” Emma Jackson (UNCW freshmen) said.
Discussing faith, personal trials and Scripture with complete strangers from different parts of the world showed how powerful God is and how we are not alone in our faith and struggles.
“Over the course of a few days the girls I roomed with and I grew closer as we talked and shared with each other what was happening in our lives and how Passion and the presence of God there was changing us,” Carley Wallace (UNCW junior) said.
During one of the sessions, attendees heard about the needs of Compassion International, a Christian humanitarian aid group. They were challenged to “Make History Together”. This was a call to action for every child to be sponsored in the country of El Salvador. Students responded in such numbers that not only every child was sponsored in El Salvador, but also Rwanda, Tanzania, Indonesia and half of Bolivia. In total, over 7,000 children in need were sponsored.
I stood in awe, thinking these were the same people who had held up their lights expressing their struggles just a few nights before. Despite these deep struggles, we were all able to join together and make a major global impact. Baillie Mustard, a UNCW freshmen, believes that Passion brought her closer together with her Overflow community as well as better established her role in her school community.
“Me and my friend are now sponsoring a child together and I can’t wait to see how much closer this will bring us. Community groups were another highlight of my trip. There is something so special about being able to open up and relate to other college students. Passion has left me renewed and ready to go back to back to school with a new mindset of reaching out to those in my community,” Ballie said.
Story written by Maggie Brown