It has been a month of busyness and figuring out my life. But I now have time to write about what happened at Encounter 2011 — Cru’s winter conference.

As I left off saying in my last post, I drove from NJ to Greensboro, NC, on December 26th. It was a long drive: ten hours of tears and thoughts and excitement for the week to come. (Keep in mind that I drove through the night after a long day, so I was exhausted and my emotions were heightened out of control. That’s where the crying came from.)
Anyway, I finally got to the hotel in Greensboro and made my way zombie-style to my friend’s hotel room where I’d be sleeping that night.
The next morning, we (the staff) had to start setting up for when students arrived on the 28th. Elliott, Morgan, Tweito, and I (all of the student-staff) got to set up the Global Village.

It took all of two days, but it was wonderful. We transformed a huge empty ballroom into a semi-wonderland! So fun.

The next day (the 28th), students from all over the region (NC, SC, KY, TN, and WV) started arriving. I got to work at the registration table, and it was awesome seeing all of their smiling faces! There were close to 1000 students there that week.
That night we had the first of 7 main meetings. There was a lot said in each of the meetings, so I’ll recount only some of what was said. You can hear all of the talks for free here:
Encounter iTunes Podcast

One of the most exiting talks that week was by a professor at Penn State, Heather Holleman. She spoke about how God sometimes asks us to do weird things like narrowing our scope of what our ministry should be. Sometimes He asks us to clear our schedule so we have nothing to do. “How does that grow our ministry?” we may ask. “If I’m not doing anything, how will God use me?” First of all, who are we to say how God can use our lives and how He can’t? If He wants us to do nothing, there’s a darn good reason. Second, God sometimes clears our schedule of what we think is important so He can fill it with what is important.
For instance, I was given the task of spending an extra semester in college. I see it as a task only because I just want to get the heck out of here and start my life already. But God knew that, by not student teaching until the fall, I could use this time to grow my ministry by not having anything else to do. I can’t tell you how much time I have now to do things that just happen to come up. I can grab coffee with people I meet randomly at the USC Organization Fair. I can go out on campus with some friends to engage people in gospel conversations. I can meet with and disciple my freshman Bible study girls. I have so much time! It’s pretty wonderful how an empty schedule can get so full.

God has us each at a place where He can do the most good in our lives. Sometimes His “good” looks like our “weird,” but if we love Him, it’s definitely good that He’s doing.
The Lord has a plan for each of our lives, whether we know Him or not. He has a great plan to prosper us and not to harm us, to give us a hope and a future. The only thing is, though, that if we don’t know God, how can we follow His plan for our lives? We can’t. The reason we can’t is because we have sin in our lives. Sin keeps us from knowing God personally because God is holy (cannot be around sin), and we are human (sinful whether we like it or not).  The great news is that God sent His Son, Jesus, to take on the sins of every human ever so that, if we decide to follow the Lord and submit our lives to Him, we can be with God after we die. Jesus’s death on the cross is what washed our sins clean, if we choose to accept it. And accepting that free gift of grace is as simple as taking ourselves off the throne of our lives, and letting Jesus reside there. By letting Jesus rule our lives, we still have a say in what we do (free will), but we want to live for Jesus and do what He wants us to do. This is the simple and wonderful message of the Gospel: it’s a free gift, and we just have to accept.

One of the nights at Encounter, there was an open mic night. So, being the vocal music ed major that I am, I decided to sing “Taylor the Latte Boy.” Here’s a video of it:

The last night of Encounter is when we all pray in the New Year together, and then have a huge dance party. So fun, right? It was! … for about 20 minutes. Around that time, there started a countdown for the balloons that were about to drop from the ceiling. So my friends and I were all jumping up and down yelling “Ten! Nine! Eight! …” and so on. Silly me landed wrong on one of the jumps, and I twisted my ankle. I felt like a doofus, so I quickly got up and tried to stand. Whoops. Not happening. Thankfully I was by my friend Brad, who happens to be a senior pre-med all-around awesome pre-doctor, so I grabbed his arm with one hand and my ankle with the other and told him that my ankle was quickly swelling and that I couldn’t walk. Our friend Kristen grabbed one of my arms while Brad held the other and together they ushered me out of the dance.
Staff people crowded around me to examine my sprained ankle, got me ice, aspirin,  water, and a seat so I wouldn’t pass out from the pain. One of my SMSP friends, Austin, gave me a shoulder rub so I would stop freaking out (such a nice guy!), and a few of my other friends helped me stay calm by talking to me and helping in any way they could.
In the end, I got to use a wheelchair for the rest of the night and the next day. It was exactly something that would happen to me at a Cru function. Go big or go home, apparently that’s my motto.

So Encounter 2011 was a blast. I got to see my SMSP friends, hang out with the awesome students and staff from USC, meet wonderful friends from around the region, and learn how to use crutches.


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