Passion for the people

College students united this weekend for the Passion Conference in Fort Worth to worship and hear to speakers.
Courtesy Photo: Passion Conferences

More than 10,500 college students spend weekend furthering Christian mission, Gospel translation

By Jenna DeWitt

This generation of college students has been called spoiled and selfish, tuned out to the problems of the rest of the world. More than 10,500 attendees at last weekend’s Passion Conference in Fort Worth Convention Center set out to change that perception.

The Passion Conferences, started and directed by Baylor alum Louie Giglio, include weekends filled with worship music, sermons and missions opportunities led by some of the most widely recognized names in American Christianity.

At this year’s conference, Dr. John Piper, Francis Chan and Giglio spoke of the need for a generation of college students to awaken. Music leaders included Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, David Crowder Band, Charlie Hall and Christy Nockels.

Students’ voices united in singing sounded more like a powerful roar. The students prayed together and danced to the music. Yet Giglio made it clear that none of these were the goal of the conference.

“If you rewind all the way back to Austin ’97, our message is still the same,” Giglio said, speaking of the organization’s first conference. “It’s a call for a generation to come alive. What Passion has always prayed for is that revelation to who He is and that it would domino out.”

Courtesy Photo: Passion Conferences

The message didn’t stop at the conclusion of each session, but was a challenge to the attendees to give back as well. The mission-focused arm, Do Something Now, had a large room at the convention center dedicated to educating conference attendees about areas of need in other parts of the world. This is also where they had the opportunity to take action, donating money or speaking with volunteers about going to places of need.

One display showed the areas of the world Passion has affected through the time and money of the college students who have attended over the past 14 years.

The main focus of the Fort Worth conference’s outreach, however, was the Koso people group in Mali.

Koso is a pseudonym used by Passion to protect believers and missionaries in the country.

The Koso people are considered “unreached,” meaning that less than 2 percent of the indigenous population is Christian. Hannah Redd, an International Mission Board missionary speaking at the conference, estimated that there are around a dozen Christians among the estimated 500,000 Koso.

“There is a huge need for people to go and to fund Scripture translation for them,” she said. “You can’t understand the need until you go.”

Redd’s story includes going into the mission field among the Koso even after the death of her best friend and returning to the Koso after the death of her mother. Redd’s determination drew attention from Passion’s Do Something Now coordinators and inspired them to feature the Koso as the area of need for the Fort Worth conference.

Money raised at the conference will benefit the work of The Seed Company’s One Verse Project, an affiliate of Wycliffe Bible Translators, in translating the books of Luke, Acts and 90 other key Bible stories into the Koso language.

Wycliffe missionary Patrick Walkinshaw said the Koso currently have no Scripture translations in their native language, the language that a people group uses to communicate personal stories and emotions.

“When you deal in a second language or trade language, you aren’t touching their core,” he said.

Though the organization does work in Scripture translation, it also has a strong focus on developing literacy in the areas it reaches out to.

“We do much more than Bible translation,” Walkinshaw said.

“We are in language development. The United Nations, Unicef, all depend on our work. If you teach a mother to read in her heart language, it can do more to heal a village than a doctor, because it can lead to prevention. She can teach others to read.”

As a whole, the students raised $227,418 for Scripture translation work in Mali in addition to another $14,091 for malaria-preventing mosquito nets.

Attendees also set out to impact the city they gathered in, donating 31,200 pairs of socks and 5,700 towels for the homeless of Fort Worth.

“They will never know any of us in this building, but it will be a tangible expression to them of God’s love,” Giglio said.

Baylor students Marissa Moschetta, Brock Bomkamp and Danielle Park agreed that the weekend was powerful in its ability to impact students’ lives.

“Baylor students should know it is genuine. It’s easy to look at as a bunch of Christians being zealous, but we are just seeking to live a Christ-filled life,” said Moschetta, a Cypress junior.

Bomkamp, a Dripping Springs junior, said the weekend was well worth the $159 pre-registration cost. As an outdoor recreation major, Bomkamp works at Christian camps on the weekends and said he was grateful for the opportunity to refuel as a leader.

“It’s filled me up again,” he said. “I’m used to pouring into people but being poured into as a participant was really awesome. If I have a chance to go again, I would be here in a heartbeat to be surrounded by these people.”

Bomkamp and Park, an Allen freshman, discussed the power of seeing college students united in singing worship songs.

“It was so amazing to see. It’s like ‘how can you not believe?’” she said. “It was good to get away and focus on God. I now realize that God is enough and I want my friends to know that too.”