The rest of the days seem to blend together from community groups to main sessions to late night “options”….
While a big struggle logistically, community groups are at the heart of Passion. Here, we get to really connect with others and find support for issues we are struggling with. To my delight, I found a “Neon Orange” wristband in my registration bag (Go Clemson Tigers!). So, on the morning of the first full day, I made my way through the masses in the Georgia World Congress Center to the neon orange room. Once there, we met our group leader and through an icebreaker game, formed groups of 8-10. Our family groups. For the rest of Passion, these people would be our support team, helping us process all that was moving in our hearts. I cannot emphasize enough how important these groups are and how much you can grow through them. In our community groups, we broke down Ephesians together, which was a central book for this year’s conference. Every morning, I enjoyed starting my day with my family group and witnessing and experiencing the effects of sleep deprivation. Hence the following tweet as I was hanging on for the third night:
Red Bull is sorta necessary… #passion2012
From the opening session to the last main session, this was where most of Passion went down. While almost all of the main sessions were talks by specific speakers (John Piper, Louie Giglio, Beth Moore, and Francis Chan), one of the most powerful sessions was actually not a talk. On Day 3, the entire afternoon session was devoted to reading one book… Ephesians. Piper, Giglio, Moore, Chan, and Lecrae all gathered up on the stage and took turns reading from the book of Ephesians. And what’s even crazier is that Louie asked us to stand with them while they read. During breaks in the book, they would pause and the whole Dome would go into prayer asking for Jesus to “speak to me.” Powerful.
While each of the individual talks from the people mentioned above was incredible, I find myself thinking back to Christine Cain’s message the most. Christine Cain is obviously not one of the big names, but her message to introduce the Do Something Now campaign really hit home and prepared me for the heart of this year’s event. This year our focus was on human slavery and the 27 million modern day slaves in the world. To help communicate the sheer amount of injustice this is, Passion produced a documentary that told the stories of some contemporary slaves. I couldn’t believe what I saw. After listening to Christine Cain and watching the first part of this video, you could feel that we were all ready to “Do Something Now.”
Donating to a cause can be a tricky thing sometimes. It’s hard to tell where your money is going and if it even makes an impact. Thankfully, Louie and the Passion team had personally selected a number of excellent organizations making a difference in the fight against human slavery. In order to make some significant change, all they needed was funding.
This is a conference full of college students, so you might be asking how is that going to work? College students don’t have any money. However, despite paying hundreds of dollars for registration and hotels, us college kids stepped up. We have a passion in our hearts for justice and what breaks God’s heart, breaks ours as well.
The donation process was really cool. First, you make your way to a freedom station.
Every freedom station is decked out in prison cells, chains, white flags, and posters. As you walk through the line, you get to read not only about slavery in general, but about the causes that you are donating toward and how much funding they need to accomplish their goals. After donating, you get a small white flag that you take the to the International Plaza.
At the International Plaza, you get to pick a notoriously slave made product to write prayers on. Later on, I found out what these items were for… to decorate the Freedom Hand. However, before I get to that, one of the cool things about the International Plaza was that it was decorated with 27,000 white flags. Even cooler is that the Passion team told Louie about this idea back in the planning stages of the conference and when Louie asked Chris Tomlin his opinion on it, Chris was stunned because “White Flag” was the name of the song he was working on specifically for this year. Funny how that works.
Another way that Louie helped us understand the slavery issue was by calling a panel. He selected leaders in the fight against human slavery and through a Q&A session on stage gave us a glimpse into their work and how we can help. Also on Day 3, he presented a check to the mayor of Atlanta to train a special police force in detecting human traffickers (Atlanta is a major hub unfortunately). It was nice to see a local component of this fight.
In order to help get this message out to the public, Matt Redman and LZ wrote a song called “27 Million” that we recorded a music video for at Passion. On Day 2, we got a warmup for the music video and learned the chorus. On Day 3, we filmed it. The lights went out, students flooded the floor, and the rest is history. On the final day, Louie announced the total amount of money that we raised… $3.3 Million. Incredible. Real money going to real organizations to fight a real injustice.
One reason that I always looked forward to the main sessions was because they all began with worship. From the stadium anthem “White Flag” to the rock song “Not Ashamed” to the powerful “No Turning Back”, the Passion songs were incredible. One big moment for me came during the song “How Great Is Our God.” Chris Tomlin made a world edition to this song that he played at Passion along with singers from all over the world. During this song, I realized that Christianity was a global religion practiced by all types of people. This was a paradigm shift for me. I don’t know why, but it really struck me hard.
At Passion, we were also treated to a mini Lecrae concert.
Late Night Options
Day Two’s late night option was a Hillsong United concert. I don’t get why they called them “options.” Who views a DCB or Hillsong United concert as optional? Pretty much everyone agreed with me and for the Hillsong concert on the night of Day Two, the Dome was again packed.
Take It All
Exiting the Dome on night two after the Hillsong concert, I knew there was only one more late night option left.. the mystery one.
Taking a Stand for Freedom
Amazingly, the mystery late night option stayed a secret until after the main session on the third day. As we headed for our community groups that night, we all wondered what was about to happen. Once everyone settled in their groups, our leader explained: At just before midnight, all of us were going to grab candles and head over to the International Plaza. There, we were to wait in silence. At midnight, all of our candles were to be lit. And finally, at just past midnight, the Freedom Hand was going to be bathed in light and we were going to let out a cry for freedom.
Sounds epic. Was epic. I couldn’t believe how quiet over 40,000 college students could get.
This was definitely one of the most memorable nights of the whole conference. I couldn’t believe that all of us could come together like that and as one, shout to the world for freedom for these slaves.
End.. or Maybe the Beginning?
Leaving Passion, I had a totally different outlook on life. I’m normally not an optimist and like bring light to things I find wrong in the world. Not because I like focusing on the negative, but because I have a humungous desire for justice. So, I was shocked when I found myself smiling uncontrollably at the site of a clothes donation bin in front of a public library. For some reason, I was so overwhelmed with joy at seeing a donation bin full of clothes and – out of character – came to the conclusion that there’s so much good in the world and I didn’t need to worry about anything. I think it’s called a Jesus high.
Passion 2012 still drives me to this day and Passion 2013 is already on the horizon…