ATLANTA, GA – Earlier this week there was a revival in Mercedez-Benz Arena, home to the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta United FC. This revival was named Passion Conference 2022. Over 55,000 people gathered of all beliefs, not purely Christian people, to come together in one mind and in one place to achieve one thing: Learn more about Jesus.

Passion Conference has been going on since 1997 in Austin, TX and travels from state to state each year with one goal and that is to spread the 'Passion' of Jesus and the pure love and compassion He brings to anyone that accepts who He is and his purpose for coming down to this Earth. Each year, there are numerous artists, speakers, pastors etc. that come and speak and/or perform at Passion with this year's lineup including the likes of Cody Carnes, Maverick City Music, KB, Tim Tebow, Levi Lusko and more. This group of talented speakers and artists were led by Christian & Sadie Huff, Passion Music, as well as Louis Giglio, whom we will hear more from in a minute, and his wife, Shelley.

Ohio Christian University had numerous students and student athletes travel down to Atlanta to take part in this amazing experience and we wanted to spotlight three of our Trailblazers that attended and see what their experiences were like.

First, I would like to introduce you to Jaret Gastin. Jay is a freshman here at OCU and a member of our eSports team and specializes in HALO Infinite. I began by asking him, "What was your experience going down to Passion 2022?". Gastin was honest in his answers which gives such a testament to his overall experience. He said, "My experience was filling. I was having doubts of what I was doing and starting to lack confidence, but the speakers and music helped reaffirm what I need to do, what my goals are and the process I should focus on." He went on to talk about what happened inside of him down there, "I guarantee that I had a fire that was lit and made me more excited to get involved with ministry. That same fire helped grow my faith even in a 36-hour period."

I then asked him about how he feels he can use that experience he had in his everyday life here on campus and in his sport. He answered, "I can honestly use this experience in multiple ways. One huge thing is to show patience for people and forgive them when they've done wrong. Continuously praying for them is something Jesus would do as well. People always have their moments, including myself, and this is when we need to pray even more for those people. Having patience within my team helps in having a cooler head during competition and practice. Taking the time to help when being called to help or listen when it's time to listen instead of rushing into situations you aren't ready for yet."

I asked him what he would tell someone who may be on the fence of going or may not know much about Passion as a whole, he had a simple yet true answer to this. "Go for it. I first went in 2019 going into 2020 and my life hasn't been the same since. I've dealt with depression, suicidal attempts and other mental issues. At Passion 2020, the Lord not only lifted the weight of 15 years of depression off my shoulders, but he also made it clear that He CALLED me into ministry. Passion isn't about a few churches getting together, it's a revival to kickstart the new year. You are surrounded with broken people from across the globe experiencing the conference in multiple different ways."

We also had a couple volleyball players attend as well as their Coach Ally Coyle. Sophomores Cat Ferguson and Alexa Cooper both traveled down to Atlanta as well and were excited to share their experiences. Cat started first with "Passion was the most unique Christian even I've ever experienced. Being in a single stadium surrounded by 60,000 other people all willing to worship and love our Lord in the same arena was magical. You could physical see the Holy Spirit everywhere and on everyone." I asked Cat who she feels should go and she was ecstatic in her answer, "Passion was an experience that I truly believe ever 18-25 year old should attend in order to grow their faith."

"Two things that really stuck out to me from Passion speakers were one, that the devil is good at what he does. He is very good at trying to find people and work his way into his life without them noticing. The devil tries to find small and sneaky ways to enter your life and pull you away from God. It's important to realize and recognize this and pull the Lord even closer to you. Two, God does not convict us of our previous sins, we convict ourselves and hold onto those." She went on to state, "Of course God is ever forgiving and He does care about our sins, but the quicker we can let go and ask for forgiveness from those sins, the quicker we can move on and get back to worshiping him."

I asked her the same as I asked Jay in that "How can you use your experience back here on campus?". Cat answered with "One thing I think I can bring back to Ohio Christian University that I learned from Passion is that we need to be ever-willing to share in our faith and that Christianity isn't supposed to be easy because it can be very hard!" She continued to finish out her statement, "An important role is in every aspect of our lives being on the OCU women's volleyball team. That for me means including him in all my sporting activities, practices, and games alike. By involving God in our athletic experiences and journeys, we can further our faith and worshipping of Him, through doing what we love."

Alexa Cooper chimed in in the end about her experiences as well. "I did not really know what to expect when coming to Passion, but after being in a stadium surrounded by 60+ thousand people singing worship songs to Jesus, I can say that it was like a tiny glimpse of what heaven will be like. One of my favorite things that I took away from Passion was to stop looking for my identity in other people, hobbies, or jobs, but to instead look for my identity in God." She went on to say, "When I define myself by who God thinks I am and what His purpose for me is, I can lead my team and peers because I am confident that God made me with purpose and intentionality. I don't need to doubt my abilities or my purpose in life. This was something that I have struggled with and hearing it again throughout several sermons at Passion was that I needed going into this new year and new semester at Ohio Christian."

Personally, I feel one powerful story came from Louis Giglio and I have provided the link to his clip below, but it just shows that God can show you your purpose from the simplest of things that may mean the most to you if you truly think about it in the way He wishes you would think about it.

To end this column, I want to ask you a couple questions. Were you at Passion 2022? What had God revealed to you this year already? And how will you show God's love and compassion to people around you this year?

God is Good. God is Love. God is Passion.