The Italian contingent from Rome: (L to R, back row)Matt, Me, Jason, Alessandro, Daniele, Chiara, L, Mia (front row L to R) Sara, Andrea, Maria Teresa, Kanda, Ana
A list of favorites: Andy (favorite Englishman), Ana (favorite Peruvian), Me in the back next to Alessandro with the apple
You have taken the time to read my blog, and for that, I say "Cheers". That is perhaps my new favourite word, a by product of a brilliant weekend in Bristol, England. Myself, Matt, Jason, Lauren, Sara and Kanda accompanied 7 of the coolest Italian students you will meet to an Agape Europe conference with students from a ton of other places throughout the EU. It was a memorable trip to say the least, and I think I came away from it learning just as much as our students who we took.
The conference was something that was very different for most of the students. Most of the Italians come from a Roman Catholic upbringing and many are still practicing Catholics from very traditional catholic churches, so the atmosphere of the conference was a little different. It was great to be able to talk out with them what they were thinking and to process through the whole "different but not wrong or better or worse" idea. This got me thinking about a very important principle, or at least I think it is.
At first I was thinking critically, "Are people following the Church and using Jesus as a tool to follow the Church or are they following Jesus." As soon as I thought this, God threw another thought at me, this one convicting to myself; "Am I following Agape (Campus Crusade) leadership and using Jesus as a tool to follow Agape, or am I following Jesus?" Because the truth of the matter is that I often put my "job" as the reason I talk to people about Jesus. If it is, that is terrible. Jesus needs to be the reason that I talk to other about Jesus. I need to follow Jesus and consider if I am truly walking as a disciple of Jesus, and not think so much about "Am I logging hours or earning my paycheck." I think we can all do this within our own walks of life. Jesus is so easily set aside, set on the backburner, and other things become out priority. Even if they are good things (Agape, church), nothing should ever take priority over following Christ.
So that was one realization this weekend. A few other quick hits are that I began to cry as we sang Amazing Grace as the words hit me once again. "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." How often I forget about the grace that has rescued me. No, dont give me the crap about "you are not that bad a person." I know what I am, and I know how I have made conscious choices to rebel, to sin, to do what I know to be wrong and in doing so, to turn my back on the one who loved me and gave Himself to die for me. "I remember two things very clearly. I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior," says John Newton in the film Amazing Grace. "When we've been there, 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun." This is what brought me to tears. One day I will, by his grace, get to stand praising the Lamb of God, side by side with Italians. I long for that day. And by the way, if you haven't seen the movie by the same name, Amazing Grace, I highly recommend it. Albert Finney is incomparable, the story of William Wilberforce is moving, and it is one that leaves the viewer with hope.
There are many more memories from Bristol that I would love to share with you but dont want to take the time to... I apologize. In quick form they include: Jason's bear-ish snoring, the gassy bedroom, chicken curry at midnight, the Oxfam store where I bought a hardcover version of the Lord of the Rings, convincing someone I was 29 and married, soccer and basketball in the church and luggage escapades on the turnstiles. So thanks for reading, I look forward to sharing more with you later. And pray for us, that we might use this conference as a jumping point to continue to impact this campus for Christ.