“You could have done anything this weekend, you could have been anywhere this weekend, you have soul-tended for the sake of the gospel, for the sake of the Kingdom, and for the sake of the world.” - Rev. Aisha Brooks-Lytle
These words have been stuck in my head since the 2019 Montreat College Conference. We could have done anything those 4 days in January, we could have been anywhere—relaxation and free time are precious when you’re in college—but our group of college students decided to go to Montreat, North Carolina to be together and to strengthen our faith. And it was amazing.
I’ve grown up in this church and have always felt it was a second home to me. Even when school was hard or friendships were strained, I always knew the church was a place where I could be myself and be met with unconditional and unending love. I cherished my Sundays with my lifelong friends, passionate teachers, and the comforting reminder that God loves me more than I can imagine. I learned how to be confident in myself as a child of God and an instrument for good in the world.
Faith in college is really hard. Unless you explicitly prioritize it, it feels difficult to navigate. I’ve tried going to various churches in my area, but it’s so hard to beat the comforting feeling and familiar faces of PHPC. Walking into new churches is intimidating, you never know what their core beliefs may be, and when there’s a pile of homework to do or sleep to catch up on, it can be hard to make it a focus.
Montreat served as a reminder to me of the beauty of my faith and the relationships that stem from it. We had a particularly large group attend College Conference this year, and despite having been separated for months, I felt like I had never been apart from these people. I was free to be myself and to openly challenge my faith in a way that I hadn’t in a while, and it was so incredibly comforting.
The topic was hard: titled Compassionate Community, the conference sought to “respond to God’s call for compassion in a broken world.” However, the harder the topics got, the more comforted I felt. My focus word for the conference had been clarity. Within the past year alone there have been so many moments that made me question the state of humanity and God’s role in our lives. Yet, here I was being reminded of the efforts of special people who cared to follow Jesus’s teachings for the sake of humanity. And though there were some amazing speakers, I saw that power in my friends more than in any keynote speaker. The community we have built within the youth program transcends the borders of the Youth House: we found comfort in one another as we struggled through the chaos of a confusing world. I am so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to attend College Conference, but even more for the amazing people who soul-tended with me, with God, and for the world that weekend.