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Lessons from Passion 2013: When Passion Isn’t Enough

This past week some of our Adventures in Missions staff members attended the Passion 2013 conference in Atlanta. They worshipped alongside 60,000 college students from around the world and learned about practical ways to fight against modern-day slavery and human trafficking. This week on this blog and our World Race updates blog we're sharing posts from each of them with their perspectives on Passion 2013 and how you can get involved to end slavery.

Today's post is from one of our staff writers, Ashley Penny. Ashley did the World Race in 2011 on Y Squad and is currently working in the Marketing Department. She's passionate about awakening her generation to dream and live their potential, standing in the gap to be a voice for the voiceless and media that inspires people to action. She attended the Not for Sale Academy in 2009 and continues to contribute to the mapping of documented cases of human trafficking through Slavery Map.

It was midnight. Forty-five minutes of short, steady steps carried 60,000 people from the Georgia World Congress Center to the International Plaza outside of the Georgia Dome, a half mile distance. 

Unified, we stood in silence. 60,000 free citizens standing up for the 27 million held in captivity. I was standing in for the women I met in Thailand. The candle I held was for the street children I held in the Philippines. Those without a voice.

Photo courtesy of @passion268

If you've ever been in a crowd that large, you know that you can either feel completely connected or totally disconnected. I felt both at Passion. I experienced both complete unity and utter dissonance.

It was late and very cold. The subway to my warm hotel was just a few quick strides away, but I wouldn’t have missed this for anything. It wasn't about me. 


But earlier, the same crowd of 60,000 people packed inside of the Georgia Dome. Great seats. Flashing lights. Music blaring. Fists pumping. Bodies moving. The crowd moved as one, but I didn't feel the unity. It takes a few minutes to get past the distraction of lights, images and people to really get into worship. But no matter how hard or long I tried, I couldn't focus on the Lord for more than a minute.


I couldn't get past the spectacle of it all.

I love the idea of 60,000 people praising the name of Jesus, but I was tired, achey and irritable. I lost my cell phone along with my patience on the first day of the conference. I didn’t want to be there, and I was not okay with that. 

Photo courtesy of

Nothing the speakers said seemed to grip or shake me. I felt like a lifeless skeleton in Ezekiel 37. Dry bones, no life, no emotions, no feelings. Nothing except frustration and I couldn’t seem to move past it. 


I thought, "this will be great, surely by the end of the week someone will say something that will strike my heart, wreck me for the rest of the week and alter the course of the rest of my year." But with each new high profile speaker, I felt myself evaluating to determine our "relationship." If the message went well, great! New podcasts I can download. If they couldn't capture me, I might not ever give their speaking the time of day again. 

Nothing moved my heart. All of my thoughts and energy were focused on myself: what I was feeling and doing, what I wasn’t, and what I should be. 

None of my thoughts were focused on the one person that deserves the focus. Jesus. Somehow in the chaos of it all, I left out the Father that I came to worship. I left out the one who came to set the captives free, to give them and me hope and life. 

When that clicked, everything changed. My eyes were back on my the Father. I allowed him to breathe life into these dry bones again. I felt revived, and back to life. New.

I was able to walk in unity with the crowd, my body silent and cold, but my heart finally filled with passion.

Where do you have unmet expectations? What did you experience at Passion 2013?