Passion (1)


The wave is growing into a global awakening.
A generation united for His renown.
“Yes, Lord, walking in the way of Your truth, we wait eagerly for You, for Your name and Your renown are the desire of our souls.”
~ Isaiah 26:8

After four days of “drinking from a fire hose”, it is difficult to know where to begin in attempting to relate all that I learned, all that took place, all that God did in and through 22,000 college students. Words are inadequate, fleeting, shallow. Even now I wonder what I could possibly write that might describe the amazing experience of Passion 2011. Any attempt will only ever be an echo. I write, nevertheless, an echo of Passion, an echo of God’s glory.

Since the spring, our college group had been anticipating our second trip to Atlanta, Georgia, for the Passion Conference. At our informational meeting the week before we left, I was struck by the thought that just a year ago, we had been in the same room, similarly preparing for Passion 2010. But in twelve short months, so much happened. We had had disappointments and sadness, joys and opportunities; people had come and gone in our lives. In the midst of these ponderings, a verse popped into my head:

“Be still, and know that I am God . . .”
~ Psalm 46:10

However much had changed in the last year, our God remained unchangeable . . . the same yesterday, today, and forever. What a comfort and reassurance in the midst of changes taking place even in the days and weeks surrounding that meeting, in the midst of life. A few days later, on a cold early morning, our group loaded our luggage into the storage compartments of our fifty-passenger coach, and then Pastor Ben prayed for us. We got on the road around seven o’clock, Friday, December 31, 2010 . . . New Year’s Eve. Our group was larger than last year (34!), with quite a few of us who had been to Passion the year before (myself, Leah, Gordy, Heidi, Micah, Heather, Jayson, Graham, Abigail, Hannah, Landon, Nate, and Jordan, and Pastor Ben and Allie), as well as many who were first-timers (Rob, Jake, Genelle, Katie, Ethan, Becca, Alyssa, Marlana, Micah, Amber, Breana, Mindy, Kyle, and my cousin, Allie) and five additional adult leaders (the Radcliffes, the Lewises, and Jim Lockwood).

I was so excited that Allie was able to go this year, and we sat together on the bus. On Friday morning, breakfast was provided for all of us, and I had a banana and orange juice (I didn’t eat my banana right away, so I put it in the little netting thing on the back of the seat in front of mine to save it; by the time I went to eat it, it was all bruised). Allie had brought along the syllabic poem I’d written her for her birthday, and we talked for a long time, albeit sporadically, about all the memories. We laughed so much; it was great. I eventually broke out my book of sudokus and started working on some (off and on during both bus trips). We stopped for lunch a little before noon, and Micah and I split Subway (got to love five-dollar-foot-longs). During the trip, we watched Despicable Me (the best part was the scene in which the one minion does his “Whaaat?”, which Micah is always quoting with a French accent) and National Treasure 2. We stopped around five for supper, and I opted for some of my Goldfish (which I got in my stocking at Christmas). The trip took longer than we had planned, and we didn’t arrive in Atlanta until about 11:30pm.

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency on Peachtree Street, which was incredible. I think all our jaws dropped when we walked in, especially those of us who had been to Passion last year (during which we stayed in a very generic hotel). The Hyatt was very fancy; it had twenty-three floors and an inner “courtyard” in the main building with elevators that went up the middle and an odd, gold slat structure that looked like a funnel. We all brought in our luggage and waited as a group, while our rooms were figured out. Since it was New Year’s Eve, there were people everywhere, all in fancy clothes (we, in our comfy, on-the-road-all-day clothes, felt rather underdressed), several obviously drunk (for instance, the guy who was holding up his date’s high heel to his face and “taking pictures” as if it was a camera). There was a group of people lining the first balcony, being very loud, and they eventually held hands and swayed back and forth while singing some song (the words of which we could not understand at all), before shouting the countdown to New Years.

Eventually we got the rooms figured out; because we were the last group to check in that night, we ended up having rooms in all different areas of the hotel (some of which were nicer than we had paid for, since they were the last rooms left). We figured out room arrangements. Allie, Alyssa, and I found our room eventually (after waiting in line for the main elevators for probably fifteen minutes, we were told our rooms were in a different wing of the hotel and were shown to the separate elevator); Hannah arrived the following day (she flew in, because she was in a wedding Friday night). We settled in and finally got to bed after one.

On Saturday, January 1, we were able to sleep in a little. I had a blueberry bagel for breakfast. At 10, we met quite a few others from our group in the lobby to walk to the underground mall (which is now officially a Passion weekend tradition). We ended up having some stragglers, so Allie, Alyssa, and I rode the main elevators up to the twenty-first floor, and then down to the ballroom in the basement. Finally, about an hour later, we all left. We walked around the “mall” for awhile, and then we sat in the food court, and some of the kids bought lunch. By this time, it was pouring out. After lunch, we waited around in the little building around the escalators to and from the mall (though there was a sign that said “standing and sitting” were prohibited) to see if the rain would let up. When it did somewhat, we started walking back to the hotel. Then it started raining harder again, so by the time we got back to the hotel (via the Peachtree Mall, where we all bought umbrellas) we were all soaked. Allie, Alyssa, and I helped the drying process of our jeans by using the hairdryer and iron. (It never rained again; the weather the rest of the weekend was gorgeous, in the fifties, and sunny quite a bit.) I had a Nutrigrain bar and an apple for lunch/dinner around three. Around that time we went up to some of the guys' room on the twenty-third floor and looked out their balcony. That was interesting. :)

Later that afternoon we had a group meeting (back at the Peachtree Mall). We all got our P2011 packets with bracelets, informational booklet, and nametag (with a schedule on the back, on a lanyard). We had dinner in the food court. Allie and I split a kids meal from Dairy Queen. I ordered milk with it, and that, apparently, was reason for teasing. (We saw a lot of other students wearing the nametags. So many people wear them all over the place, so it is really neat to be able to identify with fellow “Passionates” throughout the weekend.) It took a long time for all of us at DQ to finally get our orders, so we ate in a hurry, and then headed down Andrew Young International Boulevard toward our first main session in Philips Arena.

I was so excited I had butterflies in my stomach. No kidding.

. . . keep reading: Passion (2)

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