Jubilee Stories

Jubilee Stories: Chris White

If you’ve hung around the Harbor for any length of time, you’ve probably heard us invite you to the CCO’s Jubilee conference. Perhaps you’ve wondered why we care so much about getting students to come to this. In the weeks leading up to Jubilee 2018, we’ll be sharing a series of stories of our own experiences at Jubilee and how God has used this conference to transform our lives. This is why we work so hard to get students there.

This week, we’re sharing a story from Chris White, pastor at Gateway Church, who will be attending his 21st Jubilee this year. Yes, Chris was on the main stage in 2012 dressed as Hermione Granger, but this story takes us back even farther to Jubilee 1998. Read on!

This might be a bit weird, but my first significant Jubilee memory is actually about the brochure. After my campus minister helped me sign up, I was encouraged to pick which breakout sessions to attend. I poured over the brochure looking at all the different options, completely mesmerized at the different topics covered. I mean, I had been to retreats and conferences before, and the topics were usually the same kinds of things—things to help me understand how to be a better Christian in the church world. In fact, I had come to the place where I thought that the marker of a strong Christian was to do more things inside the walls of a church building. However, all the breakout session speakers seemed to both passionately love Jesus and were top thinkers and creators in their fields.


It makes sense that this was shocking to me, given that I was raised in a church that was (and is still) at the crossroads of how to interact with the people around us who know Jesus as Savior and King. Should we seek to conquer places of influence in order to maintain a culture that loves Christian things (even if they don’t believe them)? Should we simply follow around the culture caring about what it cares about (all while trying to do so in a way that sounds Christian so maybe folks might show up on Sunday)? Does work exist just so I have people around me that I need to invite to church? Am I really just supposed to do my job well enough that they keep me employed so that someone sees a Bible on my desk?

At Jubilee, I met people who had active and sincere belief that Jesus meant it when he said that the reign of God, the kingdom of God, had arrived and is still manifesting all over the entire world. They saw that all those older ways of connecting with the people around us had created a Christianity that had extra levels and sectioned-off areas that Jesus didn’t care about. As the speakers opened up Scripture, I began to see how my sense of the kingdom was way smaller than what Jesus had announced and activated. At Jubilee, I began to see how the whole gospel of Jesus transformed every aspect of life.

What you might not know is that you are part of a movement bigger than you and me. Before I was born, a group of people saw the same confusion as you and I still experience. Because for them proclaiming the whole gospel became so paramount, they started the Jubilee conference. For me, it has now come full circle. I have attended every Jubilee since 1998, which means that I’ve been going to Jubilee since before many of you were alive. Jubilee has become a meeting place where people from around the country can collaborate and inspire one another as we seek to proclaim the whole gospel to the whole world.

Now, you have been given the chance to be mesmerized by the Spirit of God at Jubilee. You have something better than a color brochure. You have a cool app you can download today (on iPhone or Android, or check out the web version). You can begin charting your course for the weekend. Don’t miss this chance to have the reality of the Gospel change your life forever.

Biblical Narrative

Biblical Narrative – Chapter 4: RESTORATION

If you asked a random person on the street what eternity looks like for Christians according to the Bible, what kinds of images would you hear about?

Angel wings? Floating in the clouds? Playing harps forever and ever?

If you ask enough people, you’ll probably hear these answers over and over. Lots of Christians believe they will spend eternity as nothing more than a soul, floating around in some sort of ethereal, immaterial existence. That might sound kind of nice, but there’s one big problem: none of that is taught in the Bible.

The good news is that what we actually find in the pages of Scripture is a whole lot better than souls floating around. Listen to the words of Revelation 21:1-5:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

It would take quite a bit of misunderstanding to read this passage as suggesting Christians will be beamed up to an immaterial heaven. Instead, what we see is a new earth, and a city. In this picture, we don’t go up; heaven comes down. Once, the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem was the spot where God’s presence dwelt, and now, the Holy Spirit dwells within those who have been redeemed in Christ. But on That Great Day, when God establishes his Kingdom in its fulness, he will bring heaven, along with his very Self, to the New Earth, and his presence will saturate absolutely every part of the world. This is good news!

Of course, in order for God to dwell with the people and truly reign, sin must be banished from the whole creation. So God will judge sin and death, along with everything and everyone that reflect the Fall. It is sobering to consider what this means for those we know and love who do not know Christ. We can, and should, grieve for those who remain in darkness, who have not been welcomed into the Light. Even so, we can, and should, also celebrate what this judgment means: all that reflects sin, all that bears the images of false gods, will be cast away. Everything that reminds us of the wounds we have suffered and the wounds we have inflicted on others will be gone, once and for all.

But God doesn’t stop there. He also brings restoration.

Here’s a brief Greek word study. (If that sounds super boring to you, stick with me—I promise it’ll be worth it!) There are two Greek words for “new” used in the New Testament. Neos means “new in time”; to put it how we would say it today, neos means “brand new.” If you buy a new car, the latest model with the odometer reading a number really close to zero, you are driving a shiny neos car off the lot. But that’s not the “new” that is used in Revelation 21. In this passage, John uses the word kainos, which means “new in quality.” In other words, it refers to something that has been made new. Let’s say instead of a brand new car, you have an old, beat-up car, and you take it to someone who really knows automobiles. This person fixes the parts of the car that need a little TLC. Other parts that are broken beyond repair, they throw out and replace with new parts. They work out the dents and bumps in the body, give it a pretty new coat of paint, and detail the inside until it its luster from days past returns. They might even throw in a sweet new sound system. And after all that loving, painstaking work, even though this is, in one sense, the same car you dropped off weeks earlier, you have yourself a new car. We call this restoration. This is what kainos means.

And this is something like what Revelation 21 is talking about. The new heavens and new earth, and the new Jerusalem that descends to be God’s dwelling place, are the old creation, restored by God to the way it is supposed to be. And this idea isn’t just in one chapter of one book. God’s plan, as evidenced throughout the entire Bible, is not to destroy his creation and start over, but to lovingly, painstakingly restore his creation back to the way he originally intended it. As Revelation 21:5 says, God is “making all things new,” not making all new things!

So what? Aside from an interesting theology lesson, what does any of this means for us?

It means that everything matters. Not just what we do in church. Not just when we actively share our faith with others. Everything. Every part of our life. Our studies. Our work. Our relationships. Our hobbies. The way we care for the earth. The way we engage our surrounding cultures. The way we fight against injustice. Everything matters because God created it all, and he made it good. Everything matters because when it was all broken by sin, God didn’t give up on it, but came in the flesh to redeem what had been lost. Everything matters because, as much brokenness, dysfunction, and decay as we still see when we look around at the world we inhabit, there will come a day when God will restore his creation, including all those who are redeemed in Christ, back to his design—back to shalom. This isn’t just a belief system, and it’s not just exciting propaganda. We serve the God who is making all things new, and this changes everything.

—Sam Levy is a CCO campus minister in partnership with Gateway Church at Slippery Rock University and Grove City College. He loves his family, baseball, cheese, and walking with college students as they pursue the God who is making all things new. Follow him on Twitter at @sdlevy13.

For a deeper look at restoration eschatology, see R. York Moore’s talk at Jubilee 2014.

This is the fourth and final post in our Biblical Narrative series in the weeks leading up to Jubilee 2018 You can also read Chapter 1: CREATION, Chapter 2: FALL, and Chapter 3: REDEMPTION.

Jubilee Stories

Jubilee Stories: Nicole Russo

If you’ve hung around the Harbor for any length of time, you’ve probably heard us invite you to the CCO’s Jubilee conference. Perhaps you’ve wondered why we care so much about getting students to come to this. In the weeks leading up to Jubilee 2018, we’ll be sharing a series of stories of our own experiences at Jubilee and how God has used this conference to transform our lives. This is why we work so hard to get students there.

This week, we’re sharing a story from Nicole Russo, our 2016-17 CCO Fellow at SRU. Read on!

So I was told to write about an experience at Jubilee that was transformative for me, that made me ask questions, start conversations, or maybe even pick up a book. To tell you the truth this was really hard for me because there were a lot of experiences that have been so impactful during the last four years that I have gone. Jubilee really offers so much. I’ve felt love, redemption, forgiveness, joy, the pain of others, and many more emotions at this conference. I decided to go with an experience that changed the way I interact with the people around me.

I used to be someone who was just very stuck in my ways in what I believed in. I argued for the sake of arguing, and no matter what the other person said, I wasn’t really listening I was just waiting to argue my point. They were wrong. My way of thinking was right. That was not very biblical of me, was it? There is a summer opportunity through the CCO called the Ocean City Beach Project which is an 8-week community living summer opportunity. (Shameless plug: everyone should experience it! This is another opportunity that is challenging and a beautiful place to grow in one’s faith. I promise I’ll get to Jubilee; I just need to set the stage). I attended OCBP in between my junior and senior year of college. Each week we had a specific topic and a speaker would come in and engage us in that topic (ex: academic faithfulness, evangelism, leadership strengths, etc.). The topic that impacted me so significantly was racial reconciliation. God softened my heart and opened me up to how different people think. I then became radical the other way. I didn’t understand how I could have thought the way I did before, and how people weren’t believing what I was. I kept saying let’s love those different from us, their opinions, thoughts, actions. I’d say, “Let’s not be quick to judge,” yet that’s exactly what I was doing with the people with whom I no longer thought alike.

Fast forward to two years later. I decided to attend a political panel at one of the breakout sessions at Jubilee. Here I found people all over the spectrum loving and caring for their brothers and sisters. They implored us to not be hypocrites no matter what side we were on. To seek redemption through caring for our neighbors and those elected. To get involved by writing or calling your representatives and senators. I realized I was preaching one thing and practicing the complete opposite. On top of that, later that night during the main session, the worship team performed the song “Brother” by The Brilliance. Here are some of the lyrics:

When I look into the face of my enemy,
I see my brother, I see my brother

Forgiveness is the garment of our courage
The power to make the peace we long to know
Open up our eyes
To see the wounds that bind all of humankind
May our shutter hearts
Greet the dawn of life with charity and love


How powerful and convicting are those lyrics?! When I saw those lyrics pop up on the screen, I immediately broke down and began to cry. I started praying to God asking for His forgiveness from the bitterness I’ve harbored in my heart for much of my life surrounding politics.

This instance, which came from a seed planted at the Beach Project, has significantly changed the way that I interact with the people around me. I now listen—truly listen—to the people whom I may not agree with. There have been times where what they have said makes more sense than what I was saying. But, even if I end up not being persuaded by what they say, I make sure we are having a discussion, not a yelling match, and that the person knows I love them in the end. Our relationship is more important than what we are discussing. It’s been a humbling experience and  also challenging. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not just some sort of zen master who never gets upset now. That’s not what i’m trying to say here. I’m human. I’m broken. I have emotions. I get angry. But like the line in “Brother” says, “Forgiveness is the garment of our courage, the power of the peace we long to know.” I ask for forgiveness when I am not righteously angry, and I forgive those who may have hurt me or those that are oppressed. Isn’t it amazing that we serve a God who loves and loves and loves and relentlessly pursues no matter our faults? Thank you, Jesus, for bridging that gap, and for paying for our sins! Now let’s go out and model Jesus, and look into our enemies faces and see our brothers and sisters.

Biblical Narrative

Biblical Narrative – Chapter 3: REDEMPTION

If you died tonight, do you know where you would go?

Maybe you’ve been asked this question by someone you know, or even by a complete stranger. Maybe you have asked this question to someone else. For a lot of Christians, this question sums up the central point of the Christian faith. Unfortunately, it’s missing something from the message we hear in the Bible. It’s actually missing quite a lot. Certainly, Christianity isn’t about less than our eternal destination. But it is about more than that.

We’ve reflected on the goodness, the shalom, of God’s original creation, and how everything was once exactly the way it was supposed to be. We then saw the way sin shattered that shalom. Every part of creation, every part of human life, became distorted. Adam was promised that if they ate the forbidden fruit, they would die. He and Eve may not have keeled over immediately after they sinned, but by stepping outside the boundaries God had instituted, they introduced death into the world, and everything suffered. God explained the curse that would now come upon them and the whole creation as a result of their sin. Much was lost.

But notice what they didn’t lose.

There are two important things that remain after the curse. First, God never says humans will not bear his image anymore. That image is warped and twisted by the nature of sin, but it’s still there. Second, God does not revoke the call he put on humans to rule over his creation, to cultivate it and make something of it. He could have destroyed this masterpiece that his creations broke and started over with a blank canvas, but he doesn’t. He lets the story continue, because the story isn’t over at the Fall. It’s just getting started.

God is sovereign. His plan at the beginning was for his image bearers to rule over his creation and bring glory to him, and he refuses to let anything get in the way of his plan’s fulfillment. But we, due to our sin nature, distort his image and exercise rule for our own sake. We worship idols and we practice injustice. We live for the kingdom of this world, in all of its brokenness, instead of God’s Kingdom. What’s more, the hold that sin has over us makes us want these things and nothing else. And we couldn’t change any of it, even if we wanted to.

We find ourselves fitting the apostle Paul’s description of sinful humans: “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3). This is who we are in our sin, from the moment we are conceived. This is the identity we are born into. There’s nothing we could do to work our way back to God, to make everything right again.

But again, the story doesn’t stop there. Paul continues:

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

There’s nothing we could do—so God got to work himself. He didn’t just reach down from his throne in heaven and toss a rope for us to climb up. He came to us himself, becoming one of us. This is who Jesus is: God-become-human, writing himself into our story after we wrote him out. As Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14).

He lived a sinless life, showing us the way to bear the image of God. He came into the broken creation and loved it and cared for it. He gave his life as a ransom, dying the death we deserved in our sin. And then he burst back into life, destroying death once and for all! He points the way to the fullness of life as God intended at creation, and invites us into this life.

Jesus rose from death to life. He reconciled what had been broken. He redeemed what was once lost. And he transforms our hearts, that we might see who he is, believe in his power, die to our sin, and become new people—resurrected people—who can once again fulfill our call to be God’s image bearers. This is Christianity. This is the Good News. Believe it, repent, and step into the life for which we have been created!

—Sam Levy is a CCO campus minister in partnership with Gateway Church at Slippery Rock University and Grove City College. He loves his family, baseball, cheese, and walking with college students as they pursue the God who is making all things new. Follow him on Twitter at @sdlevy13.

For more, see Léonce Crump’s Redemption talk at Jubilee 2017.

This is the third post in our Biblical Narrative series. The series will continue in the weeks leading up to Jubilee 2018. Stay tuned next week for Chapter 4: RESTORATION! You can also read Chapter 1: CREATION and Chapter 2: FALL.

Jubilee Stories

Jubilee Stories: Leah Hornfeck

If you’ve hung around the Harbor for any length of time, you’ve probably heard us invite you to the CCO’s Jubilee conference. Perhaps you’ve wondered why we care so much about getting students to come to this. In the weeks leading up to Jubilee 2018, we’ll be sharing a series of stories of our own experiences at Jubilee and how God has used this conference to transform our lives. This is why we work so hard to get students there.

This week, we’re sharing a story from Leah Hornfeck, our current CCO Fellow. Read on!

Travel back with me to February 2014. The Winter Olympics in Sochi were well underway; The Lego Movie brought in the big buck at the box office; Derek Jeter had just announced he will be retiring from the MLB; and a young, naïve freshman was about to have her world rocked at the Jubilee Conference. That freshman was me, and this is my Jubilee story.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect going to Jubilee for the first time. All I knew was that when they announced it at our campus ministry group people cheered, and that was a good enough reason for me to go. I wanted to be a part of whatever this excitement was. While Jubilee was a ton of fun and filled with excitement and joy, it was also full of deep and challenging messages. The one that really resonated with me was the talk about The Fall given by the man, the myth, the legend—Dan Allender. Dan Allender talked about shame and and the way it affects our lives in ways that are even deeper than we often realize. However, as Christians we have hope because we have a shame-bearer. We have Christ. I won’t get into the nitty gritty details of Dan’s talk, but I highly recommend you take a half hour and listen to it yourself. It just might change your life.

dan allender.jpg

It certainly changed my life. I realized as Dan was speaking that I had A LOT of shame that I had never really dealt with before. This was super overwhelming, and I had no idea how to process it all. Thankfully, I finally found space to process everything I was thinking and feeling during our Spring Break service trip. I even began telling a couple people about these shameful experiences and allowed them to bear this burden with me. Maybe for you this is completely normal, but for me this went against every ounce of my being. My natural disposition had always been the less you let people in, the less you can be hurt. So, I had gotten really good at giving the illusion that I was being vulnerable while still keeping people at arm’s length.

Now I was completely exposed. I was laying out some of the deepest, most secretive parts of my life to people, and it was terrifying. I didn’t know how they would respond. I didn’t know what they would think of me after this. But in God’s grace and goodness, they responded with compassion and love, and I grew so much closer to them as a result of these conversations. I learned that I wasn’t alone, and I gained a sense of commonality to my experiences and feelings. I had a taste of community in the Kingdom of God, and I realized how I had been starving myself of that.

From this point I made many intentional efforts to break down my walls and let people in. I found that when you do this, people tend to let you into their lives as well. I had begun having more intimate, deep, genuine relationships than ever before, and it clicked—this is the way God intended for us to live and by the Cross of Christ we are free to do exactly that.

Community, relationships, and their complicated inner workings with emotions and experiences is still something I’m learning more and more about. I think God has a lot to teach us about what it means to follow him in the way we handle our relationships. Dan’s talk was a catalyst to me realizing these things about myself, others, and the Kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean I never would have known these things were it not for that talk, but for me, Dan Allender’s talk changed everything.

Note: Dan Allender will be back at Jubilee this year, speaking again on the Fall during the Saturday morning Gathering!

Biblical Narrative

Biblical Narrative – Chapter 2: FALL

In the beginning, the world was good.

I know, I know—the last post started with the same sentence. But that is where the Creation chapter of the biblical story leaves us heading into the this chapter. The world is good. In fact, it’s very good. Not only is everything—everything—functioning the way it’s supposed to, but humans, the part of creation that bears God’s own image, are now in the world, ruling over it, caring for it, and making something of it to the glory of God.

It’s shalom. Everywhere.

But not for long. Humans, along with the rest of creation, existed in perfect freedom. But this freedom isn’t quite like we might expect it to be. We often define freedom as the ability to do whatever one wants. Even a quick, cursory reading of the opening chapters of Genesis make it clear that’s not what is going on in the Garden of Eden. There are boundaries. Lots of them!

At the outset of the creation story, “the earth was without form and void” (Gen. 1:2). We see here a formless, chaotic creation on Day One. Then, God separates light from darkness, day from night. On Day Two, he separates water from sky. Day Three, water from land. He’s drawing boundaries, giving his creation form. Then, God makes plants and vegetation spring up from the earth, and he designed trees to produce seed, “each according to its kind” (1:11). Apple trees don’t make avocados; peach trees don’t produce papayas. More boundaries. Day Four, he puts the great lights in the sky, the sun “to rule the day” and the moon “to rule the night” (1:16). Day Five, God puts fish in the sea and birds in the sky, specific creatures designed to exist in specific environments. And like the plants, these creatures will reproduce “according to their kinds” (1:21). More boundaries. Day Six, God makes land animals, and again, they are made “according to their kinds” (1:25).

Every part of creation has its place; everything has it a role. To depart from these roles would prevent flourishing, certainly for that specific part of creation (you’ve probably seen a fish out of water), but for the entire cosmos (you probably know what would become of earth without the sun in its place).

So by the time we get to the creation of humans later on Day Six, the concept of boundaries is nothing new. God puts boundaries in place, not as arbitrary rules, but in order for the flourishing of all of his creation. Everything thrives when it exists within the created bounds and limits God has designed. In God’s creation, this is the definition of good.

What are the boundaries given to humans? What is their specific role? As we reflected in the Creation chapter, they are called to have dominion over the rest of creation and to reflect his image in the world. We know about that rule about that tree, but even before that, they are given a command—a task—and boundaries within which to remain. It is within these boundaries, and only within these boundaries, that humans can thrive. To step outside these boundaries is to invite death into the world.

So when God tells them they are not permitted to eat the fruit of one particular tree in the garden, we may see this as a weird, silly, arbitrary rule given to mess with their minds. But it’s more than that—this command, this particular boundary, is symbolic of God’s good design. The question of whether or not they will eat from the tree is really the question of whether or not they will remain within God’s design.

And the answer (SPOILER ALERT!) is no, they won’t. They choose a design of their own. They decide their desires are better than God’s plan. They step outside of the boundaries they have been given, and the natural consequence of this is death.

And everything—everything—is broken because of it. Creation cannot flourish outside of God’s design, and shalom is shattered. The humans hide from God, recognizing their broken relationship with him. They point fingers at each other, harmony in their own relationship destroyed. In the curse, the earth begins to work against them instead of the abundant flourishing they once knew. They even turn on themselves, unable to see the goodness they had been created with, ashamed of and horrified by their own God-formed bodies.

Sin isn’t simply a theological construct; it isn’t just an idea. Those first humans thought this choice would lead them into freedom. Instead, it destroyed freedom. We have thought the same twisted thought, and we, too, are deeply wrong. There is no freedom in sin. There is only death.

So here we are: the Fall. We see it all around us. You and I feel that same shame when we look at ourselves. Instead of cultivating and caring for the earth, we pillage it to fill our selfish desires. We put ourselves in tribes and war against everyone else, with physical weapons, with our words, and with our innermost thoughts. And we, even the most “religious” and “good” among us, spit in the face of God, again and again choosing our plan, our design, and rejecting his.

Because of our sin, we are not free to flourish in God’s design. We are in shackles, and everything is broken.

—Sam Levy is a CCO campus minister in partnership with Gateway Church at Slippery Rock University and Grove City College. He loves his family, baseball, cheese, and walking with college students as they pursue the God who is making all things new. Follow him on Twitter at @sdlevy13.

For a powerful reflection on the brokenness the Fall brings to the world today, see Jena Lee Nardella’s Fall talk at Jubilee 2016.

This is the second post in our Biblical Narrative series. The series will continue in the weeks leading up to Jubilee 2018. Stay tuned next week for Chapter 3: REDEMPTION! You can also read Chapter 1: CREATION.

Jubilee Stories

Jubilee Stories: Sam Levy

If you’ve hung around the Harbor for any length of time, you’ve probably heard us invite you to the CCO’s Jubilee conference. Perhaps you’ve wondered why we care so much about getting students to come to this. In the weeks leading up to Jubilee 2018, we’ll be sharing a series of stories of our own experiences at Jubilee and how God has used this conference to transform our lives. This is why we work so hard to get students there.

This week, we’re sharing a story from Sam Levy, CCO Campus Staff at SRU and Grove City College. Read on!

It was 2007. I was a sophomore at Shippensburg University, and I found myself in Pittsburgh for a weekend because my campus minister, Phil, told me I should go to Jubilee. I really didn’t have much of an idea of what to expect, but I certainly didn’t expect that weekend to kick off a series of experiences that would reshape every part of my life.

Funny enough, I don’t actually remember a whole lot from that weekend. I remember a tire on our van blowing out, shredding, and causing little pieces of rubber to fly into the back of the van and smack us in the head. I remember vague bits and pieces from some of the speakers. I remember my friend, Ondeck, accidentally throwing a frisbee on top of a roof. But there’s one part of Jubilee 2007 that still comes very clearly into focus.

One of the main stage speakers that year was Gary Haugen, founder and CEO of the International Justice Mission, an organization dedicated to putting an end to slavery. Gary said there were 27 million slaves in the world. (IJM now estimates that number at over 40 million.) In fact, he told us, “there are more slaves right now than at any point in human history.”


I shuddered. If you’re familiar with the evils of modern-day slavery, this isn’t news. But Sophomore Sam had a very small worldview, and I was under the impression that slavery had ended when Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Gary’s words began to shake me out of my naiveté, and at some point during his talk, I remember thinking this:

The Christianity I grew up with has nothing to offer a world with 27 million slaves other than a ticket to heaven after this life is over.

But the Gospel being preached from the stage at Jubilee was different. It had plenty to say about eternity, for sure, but it also had quite a lot to say about the here and now! Granted, I had never been directly told that my life in this world didn’t matter, but I hadn’t really been offered any real reason to believe that it did. Until that February Saturday back in 2007.

God cared about my major. He cared about my passions. He cared about my hobbies, my relationships, and my habits. And all of that was woven together into who he created me to be and the life he was calling me to live! God didn’t just care about the eternal destination of my soul; he cared about the entirety of me, just as he cares about his entire creation. Everything matters to God!

This conference, and specifically Gary’s talk, in and of themselves, did not change my life. But I went back to campus armed with a long list of questions and a large stack of books, ready to engage a long series of conversations with Phil and others. For the first time, instead of just completing my daily devotional time, I began to search Scripture and wrestle with God to learn what Truth is and what it says about my life and the world I inhabit. Over the weeks, months, and years that followed, God turned my life upside-down.

It was more than a weekend and more than an awesome experience. God used Jubilee to transform my life, just as he has for thousands and thousands of college students over the last four decades.