Passion 2013 was a conference aimed at college students. It filled the Georgia dome with over 60,000 students and leaders. Led by leaders such as Louie Giglio and Chris Tomlin, the conference highlighted the atrocity of modern-day slavery and inspired the “Jesus Generation” to unite in a concerted effort to END IT. I thought I knew what to expect from the conference. Daniel had attended Passion 2012 that had a similar focus. He had told me about it, and I was curious. I decided to go with our church’s group as a “chaperone,” like college students really needed those. Sarah tagged along because the conference organizers opened it up to high school seniors. Daniel also attended. His fiancé, Iva, was there with their church from Oxford. I was ready for a fun four days.
I had no idea that this event would touch me in such a powerful way. First, Here’s a few things totally random, yet entertaining, things I learned at the conference.
- My rain jacket was only water resistant. It also had a design flaw that streamed water down the back of my neck. Notice I refer to it in past tense.
- Starving college students are resourceful enough to try making Easy Mac in the hotel room coffee maker.
- Hotel gift shops occasionally sell fabulous things like Ramen Noodles that totally hit the spot when you are as hungry as a college student.
- It’s nearly impossible for 60,000+ people to manage to eat dinner near the Georgia Dome and still get to the sessions on time.
- It is possible to feed lunch to those same 60,000+ people inside the Georgia Dome – all in roughly 20 minutes. It involves pallets and pallets of boxed sandwich lunches, numerous volunteers, cooperation from the masses, and precise organization. Oh, and a stopwatch to time it all. Yeah. They timed it.
So there you go. The random. The fact that most of them are related to food is purely coincidental. Now for the serious things that I learned.
- Slavery still exists. Estimates are that there are roughly 27 million men, women, boys and girls entrapped in slavery today. 27 million. That’s larger than the population of the entire state of Texas.
- Many of the items we take for granted – things like chocolate, clothes, jewelry, and smart phones – could very easily have been handled by slaves.
- In particular, sex slavery is rampant. Even in the United States. It’s in more than just our major cities, too. It’s hit small town America.
- College students are capable of raising phenomenal amounts of money. Over $3 million was raised at the conference that year, all to shine a light on modern day slavery. The money went to organizations who are committed to END IT.
END IT? Yes, END IT. The “End It Movement” was born as a follow-up to the Passion Conferences. It’s how they coordinate raising the funds and distributing them to the partner organizations. Supporters were asked on a certain day to put a red “x” on their hand to raise awareness. Here’s my attempt. But it was a video that they showed that got to me. That’s what rocked my world. I thought the video interesting from the moment it started, but I have to admit, I was a little tired and was only half watching. But then it had my full attention.
I found the video on YouTube and watched it again tonight. You can watch the video for yourself here.
It was at the 1:39 mark that I froze, standing inside the Georgia Dome, suddenly alone with God in a stadium packed with energetic students. That’s when I realized that the video I was watching was the vision that had been in my head the night I pouted over Speckles. The pictures were the same. The only difference was that there had been no words that night lying in my bed.
Sounds crazy, I know. But it happened. I stood there, unable to move, long after the video ended and the screen went dark. Those around me continued on with the worship service filled with stirring music. I simply stood. Once again speechless before a mighty and powerful God. The words rang in my head, pealing repeatedly:
“What are you going to do about it?”
What was I going to do about it?
I now knew where God was ultimately leading me, but I still had no idea how to get there. It would still take a few months for me to figure out even where I was supposed to begin.
We were given a visual reminder to take with us, cutouts of individuals representing modern-day slaves. I still have mine and stare into her eyes on occasion. She now stands as an additional motivation to continue to seek God’s will in my journey to fight slavery. Her name is Anya. That’s enough for now. More to come later.