More than 25 Crusaders joined 60,000 other college students and gathered at the Dome in Atlanta, Ga.. to worship a sovereign God with one voice.
Louie Giglio started Choice Ministries in 1985, designed for students at Baylor University. After serving there for several years, he and his wife relocated to Atlanta, where the Passion Conference was born with the goal of awakening people in the nation “to the reality of a glorious God,” as Giglio described it.
Now this humble effort has spread across the globe and climaxed with a world tour.
Crusaders traveled from Belton to the peach state to attend Passion 2013 this year Jan. 1-4.
Sophomore education major Sarah Payne has been to Passion three times, but continues to learn new lessons from each experience.
“God teaches me something different every year.… That’s why I go. The last two years, the conference has been about human trafficking,” she said.
Along with Giglio, other speakers included John Piper, Francis Chan and Judah Smith. Christian rapper, Lecrae; singer, Beth Moore; and band, Jesus Culture provided
worship for the huge crowd.
Together, these influential people spoke out against sexual slavery and inspired audiences to join the movement.
Sophomore nursing major Ali Dennis found one girl’s story especially impacting.
“On the second night, they showed a video about a girl who had been sold into the sex trade in her early teens and told the story of her rescue and recovery,” she said.
Little did they know, the same young woman was in the Dome that night.
“The interviewer made a comment about how big and beautiful the girl’s smile was, and the girl told him it hasn’t always been that way. That was such a breathtaking moment. I looked around and saw people in tears…. It makes the goal of Passion beautiful and real.”
Each day, students attended three large group sessions with worship, two small group collaborations and one break for lunch.
Sophomore psychology major Andrew Alvarez felt the strain of the rigorous schedule but was spiritually renewed by the end of the week.
“My favorite part was when Louie Giglio talked about how God can do immeasurably more through us. That really hit home for me because I sometimes doubt what I can do, and what God’s purpose is for me,” he said.
Alvarez also discovered the reality of a sovereign God.
“I feel like I’m not gifted to do it. But it’s a reminder to me that God put me here to do immeasurably more. When I doubt myself, God doesn’t doubt me.”
Payne enjoyed the worship that preceded the sermons.
“Jesus Culture was definitely my favorite part because they were new this year,” she said.
Newcomer Judah Smith brought comedy to the conference, which students appreciated.
“He was really funny, which brought a lot of life to what he was saying,” Payne said.
While Alvarez enjoyed Lecrae’s intensity, he also experienced newfound meaning while singing with thousands of other believers.
“I’ve never worshipped so freely…. Since I got back, I don’t really care who is looking anymore. Passion just affects people like that. It’s life changing,” he said.
The Cru attending the conference and threw up the “C” while chanting the school song between meetings.
“People were definitely staring at us, but that’s just our school pride. It’s cool to see my friends pursue their faith, even past Texas.” Alvarez said.
The verse of the conference, Isaiah 26:8, described Giglio’s hope for all those in attendance. It reads, “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts — seeking for spiritual awakening.”
Because of Passion, Dennis realized the magnitude of the problem of sexual slavery.
“People don’t know how much of an issue it is in our world today. But, there are 27 million enslaved people in the world, some children as young as 5 years old being sold into sex slavery,” she said.
Dennis believes the main message of Passion was that God can do exceedingly more than anyone can imagine. When a person is aware of this, he or she can trust the Lord, knowing He has a bigger plan.
Though the message was the same, each person felt impacted in unique ways.
Payne said, “Francis Chan talked a lot about faithfulness. Since then, I wake up every day and remind myself about what it says in I Timothy about how faithless we are, when God is still faithful. That’s really what I took away this year.”
Payne encourages people to go to Passion and experience spiritually reviving events themselves.