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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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.

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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!

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.”

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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.