Passion 2013. Passion events are organized for college age students (18 - 25) and have been going on for about 16 years. This year 60,000 students filled the GA Dome with very few empty seats and 3000 (older) volunteers all leaning in to make this a stellar opportunity to proclaim the name of Jesus, teach from the Bible and ignite students to go out into the world and make a difference, in this case to raise awareness to END IT (modern-day slavery).
Passion events take place around the world, 5 per year, in places like South Africa, Uganda and Vancouver. The organizers are Louie and Shelley Giglio and the speakers usually include the likes of John Piper and Beth Moore along with others. The music is always invigorating, inspirational and top-notch written by well-known Christian artists like Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, David Crowder and LeCrae, among others.
Now that you have a brief and totally inadequate description of the nature of the event, let me tell you what is exciting and why I desire to be a part. First of all, I'll just name drop for a moment and say that Louie and Shelley are family. We know them; we love them. We know their motives are pure and that they can be trusted. Their desire to get people to live passionately for Jesus is what drives them. They are willing to go quite literally to the ends of the earth to share the message of freedom in Christ. We, the church, are to be alive in Christ and Louie believes that we should be able to muster up the kind of excitement for Jesus that we have for football. I can stand behind that. Jesus gave Himself for me, paying the penalty for my sin, which was great, breathed new life into me and raised me to walk in newness of life. He enables me to live my life in a way that I'm quite sure I couldn't and wouldn't without Him in my life. It's worth some joy and excitement!
Other reasons, I like to be present and serve are:
- It's just plain exciting to see thousands of college students raise their voices to hymns as quickly as they do rock music. And while some of those new hymns are pretty rocking, the kids are just as moved and moving when they sing less "rocking" ones.
- I get to be part of something bigger than myself.
- I find that I can be slap worn out and still invigorated, even energized by serving these "kids".
But the main reason I like doing it, is the unexpected part. My job both times I served has been to be in the arena, part of the Touch Team, seating people, keeping lines moving, picking up trash, encouraging people as I have opportunity, putting on a big smile and making everyone feel welcome and important. Each time, I've been presented with unexpected blessings and opportunities to bless.
The blessings most often come directly from the kids and you never know when. Suddenly a beautiful face appears and one says "Thank you so much for what you're doing." Big burly boys come in and offer great hugs, high fives, knuckle bumps. Another says, "I don't mean to be forward, but can I just pray for you?". This happens all day, each day.
One of my blessings led to an opportunity to bless. I was cleaning up the trash: water bottles, granola wrappers, paper airplanes (goodness! paper airplanes!!) and I noticed, on the back row, 2 girls still sitting in my section. A soft voice, smiling eyes, a tentative demeanor: "You're pretty." I say, "What did you say?", 3 times just so I can hear it again. We laugh, we visit. Her name is Shundreka. I don't remember her friend's name.
The next day Dreka is back in my section and she's hanging out with me. We're getting to know each other while I'm seating the others. "The floor's full, start filling the orange seats. No seat-saving after 10:30." "Yeah, I'm working on my GED." "That's great. How old are you? Come on in. Welcome. The floor's full. Start filling the orange seats. Bathroom's that way." "Nineteen. I want to go to college." "Aw. That's a great plan. Hi, guys! Welcome! Hope you're ready for the day!! Get any sleep??". More conversation. Bits and pieces. A family separated. Family broken up. Foster homes for some, but not for her: an institutional facility. Turned 18 - had to leave. Mom got her out. Mom went back on drugs. Wants to help women learn to be good mothers. Learned about kids by taking care of some of her siblings. Her birthday is in September. She's learning about me, too. She figures out she's a year and a month younger than my daughter. We talk more.
I meet Dreka's Transition Facilitator, Tabitha. She got the money to bring 4 kids in a car from Little Rock AR to Atlanta GA. I get the name of the organization that's helping, Immerse Arkansas. "When did she have to take care of the family for 3 weeks on her own?" "When she was 5." How does your heart not break? Tabitha tells me she can tell far worse stories than the ones we've heard from former slaves (www.enditmovement.com). I give my card. I get contact information. Now what? I don't know. But I believe I've been chosen to influence this young woman. Please pray on this point!
Other opportunities came my way:
- Please pray for Tori. She was in a bad car accident last night and is in a coma.
- I can't find the boy I'm supposed to drive home. *tears*
- My mom would've let me go around looking dumb with that tag hanging out.
- Getting to seat 6 people on row 2 and the hugs that came later.
- The Dome security guard who I find investing in Shundreka, telling her how to find grants for college. Encouraging her. Believing in her.
Now you just tell me... who got the biggest blessing? I've never been so tired and so simultaneously invigorated. Yep, I'll go back - God willing. And I earnestly pray for God's blessing to fall mightily on Shundreka and pour out some of His "immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine" that we read about in the Bible.