Three years ago I went to Jacksonville, Florida, all by myself. I don’t mind traveling by myself, but I usually know someone at my destination. I’m usually traveling to a place where I’ll meet someone specific to spend time with, or who will show me around (in the cases of visiting seminaries).
This time, I knew no one. I was going because God called me. Not so much to Jacksonville (although arguably God did call me there), but I knew I had a call to ministry. So I went to Exploration 2006, an event for 18-24 year olds who are considering ordained ministry in the UMC.
I can’t say my call was any clearer as a result of that experience. I know it’s supposed to help you in discernment (and it was as far as where I should go for seminary), but that wasn’t what I needed and it’s not what I got.
The most amazing part of that experience was walking into a hotel where I knew there were hundreds of other people of my generation feeling some of the same things I was feeling.
We all had experienced something supernatural. We all had experienced something of the Divine that said, “Do this crazy thing!”
The thing we hadn’t experienced was being in the same room with other people who had that same experience.
The life-altering experience for us was to be able to share our experiences, our feelings, our doubts, our fears, the complete ridiculousness of what was going on in our lives …
Going by myself ended up being a pretty awesome experience, too. A few of us who had all come individually ended up forming a great group to spend the weekend with (not to mention an awesome birthday dinner). Although we don’t all keep in touch anymore, I still have a bond with those folks that is unlike any other. I could hardly tell you a thing about any of their lives, but I know if something amazing happened in my life, I would be able to share it with them gladly.
I hope you will pray for all the amazing young people who will be at Exploration for the first time this weekend. Pray that they will open themselves to as many others as they can so they might open themselves fully to God’s plan for their lives and ministries.