I am in Chicago at a massive Catholic conference geared to college student leaders of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). It’s called the Student Leadership Summit and it has been awesome. AWESOME.
My daughter Rachel wants to be here so I decided to write a day-by-day update for her. I am going to include what spoke to me in the talks as well as the little things…
So, dear Rachel, Day Two started with a huge blessing: I was able to switch from a four-person hotel room to a two-person room because of the kindness of Marilee. She had NO ROOMMATES in her room and I had THREE. I learned a massive lesson. I am 50. My privacy and my space are worth.any.amount.of.money. I will never ever sign up for a “quad” room. Ever again.
So let’s delve into the SLS18 Day Two Highlights:
- Hillary Draftz was great. She had a fabulous message of How to Share the Gospel with Others. Her family moved to a new town and once she was acclimated, she wanted to start a Bible Study. However, the people in her parish were not exactly open. She used the parable of the seed and the sower. Her fellow parishioners were shallow and rocky ground.
- Then Hillary gave me the gift: she admitted that the rocky ground was really HER heart. She was trying to create a program. God doesn’t need more programs. No wonder the parishioners weren’t excited.
- Hillary examined her motivations. She changed her “why.” She realized that sharing the life of Jesus is ALL about relationship.
- The prodigal son: he returned and the father lavished him with gifts. The oldest son was miffed. “I’ve been here always but never received such gifts.” The father replied with RELATIONSHIP not rewards. With that parable, Jesus is inviting us to The Best Gift: Joy in Relationship.
- Her whole point: if you lose the love story, you will be glum and depressed. How to recapture the joy of Jesus?
- Have a daily encounter with Jesus in silence. It’s so easy to be busy. The mental silence doesn’t happen unless we make it happen.
- Our culture can shame us into silence. Do not be afraid because Jesus is Lord of all. He made EVERY heart for Himself. We aren’t fabricating. This isn’t about us. It’s about Jesus; His heart burns for souls. THEIR heart was made for HIM.
- In dire circumstances, those that have hope are compelling witnesses.
“Let the Spirit stir up joy. Let that propel our mission.”
There were fabulous impact sessions but I was too slow in getting to the one I had chosen and it was full. Drat. So I took some time to just be. A smart priest told me to not only GET INFO but to take the time to allow it to transform me. So I took quiet time and sat with your brother as we both did some writing and thinking.
The part that surprised me was how SLS is about equipping ALL of us to evangelize. How to effectively teach and train 8,000 people?
Well, this is what they did. They broke us up into groups of ten. Yeah. 800 groups of 10. Each day three people from each group gets trained on a certain topic. Then they come back to the group and teach them what they have learned.
Why? Well, when we hear something we retain 5%. When we teach it we retain 90%. Bam. So the smart people at SLS found a way to make us trainers.
I think the model is crazy and amazing and totally effective. I loved it.
So that’s how we spent the rest of the afternoon, learning from others.
Rachel, I know you are so excited to be a missionary. Here’s the deal. David Trotter was the first missionary we ever supported (12 years ago) and we were able to have supper with him. (Deep dish Chicago Pizza. AND they had a carb free/gluten free pizza with a sausage crust.) David now works full time for FOCUS and is a hero of a man, full of confidence and joy. I LOVED MEETING WITH HIM. He asked good questions. He listened well. He brought us higher on every topic.
After our pizza, I walked into the big conference room and saw Jesus. Literally. Jim Caviezel was on stage, pouring his heart out. TALK ABOUT AMAZING.
He told us to throw off the indifference. Our culture is enslaved by our passions. There is another way.
He ended his talk by giving the speech that William Wallace (Mel Gibson) gave in Braveheart, rallying all of the college students to live their lives for something beyond self. I cried. Of course.
Sarah is an extremely engaging, popular-with-the-college-group-crowd. She talked about authentic friendships. I loved her style. She was funny and vulnerable. She shared how she used to feel:
- Am I enough?
- Am I truly loved?
- Do you like me?
- Do you accept me?
Eventually, she found a group of strong Catholic women who invited her to be vulnerable and to be HER.
She said it changed all.
They ran with her.
She encouraged the college students there to be vulnerable and to be accountable. And then RUN with each other.
Oh my stars. Rachel, I know you are already evangelizing using Fr. Mike’s stuff. I so wish you could have been at this talk. It warmed my heart to know that you were STREAMING IT! As you know, he talked INDEPTH on friendships.
Sometimes, as missionaries, it might be easy to see a person as a “project.” Nope. Don’t do that. Strive for real, authentic, virtuous friendships.
He kept saying that friendships are not incidental. They should be intentional. He went into HOW to build into another.
Doing thoughtful, kind things. Over and over. Sacrificing in love. Over and over.
Fr. Mike said that we will find those that “get us” and we get them. When we find someone like that, those that we recognize as the same as us, we need to protect and nurture that relationship.
After the keynotes, we sat down with a good priest friend. I love this man so much and it renewed my spirit. I LOVE LOVE LOVE holy priests that make me laugh, make me think and bring me higher.
THEN we went to a networking area where David (Trotter) promised he’d intro us to John Zimmer of FOCUS. While we waited, I casually turned and talked to two women.
I asked them what brought them to SLS. They shared their story then asked me about my story.
I said, “Well, my son and I have a ministry and online course where we teach parents how to talk to their children about porn before first exposure.”
One of them jumped up and down, grabbed my hand and said, “God sent you to me right now.”
She proceeded to tell me that she came to SLS, hoping to find a ministry could help parents talk to their children about porn. She explained why.
As she talked and explained and jumped I think there might have been a ray of light coming from above. It was a crazy cool moment.
Eric and I finished the night by talking with John Zimmer. He was an absolute delight, full of strength and character and vision.
I crashed into bed at midnight. And slept. ALL.NIGHT.LONG.