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Passion conference brings youth closer to Christ
Area high school students attend three-day event in Atlanta and Duluth
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High school and college students, ages 18 to 25, worship at Philips Arena in Atlanta on the second day of the Passion conference, which is devised to change the lives of the participants by focusing on the love and passion for Jesus Christ.

For more information about the Passion conference, visit 268generation.com.

Three locations, two cities, one conference.

What seems logistically impossible from the outside was a reality for the Passion Conference 2016.

This year, the Christian-based conference took up residence Jan. 2-4, at the Infinity Energy Center in Duluth, Philips Arena in Atlanta and Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

Students from all 50 states and dozens of countries packed into arenas Jan. 2, expectant and excited for personal transformations that would take place over the next three days.

The three-day conference focuses on the love and passion for Jesus Christ and is designed to change the lives of the 40,000 college-age students, but everyone who they come into contact.

“I had heard great things about it and wanted to see just what the Lord could do with 40,000 students worshipping together,” Flowery Branch High School senior Bailey Sims said.

It was Sims first year to be eligible to attend and she said it met all of her expectations.

Passion Conference is for designed for high school or students 18 to 25 years old.

Passion Conference is just as old as its participants, marking its 19th year in existence this year. It was founded by Louie and Shelley Giglio, who have established Passion City Church in Atlanta.

“Passion is different because there isn’t a mega-church mindset,” North Hall High School senior Abby Bryson said. “Passion values the individual. Passion sticks to the truth of the Gospel and does not waiver.”

The conference consists of worship sessions and live music at each location. Then one speaker at one location has his or her segment simulcasted to the other two locations. The location and order of appearance for each speaker was a closely guarded secret by the Passion team and the volunteers, called Doorholders, a name coming from Psalm 84.

“My favorite speaker was Christine Cane because of how on fire she is for Christ, and … how straightforward she is,” Bryson said. “She isn’t afraid if … you may not like what she has to say, she speaks the truth.”

But the annual event is never a certainty.

“Every year, we don’t know if there will be a Passion next year,” said Heather Ingle, a Doorholder at Philips Arena this year and member of Passion City Church. “To make sure we are in the flow of the Holy Spirit, a lot of prayer goes into it, and a lot of fasting. We wait to see what God says.”

About 40,000 students were grateful God opened the doors to allow Passion Conference to happen once again.

“Passion showed me that our generation does have a chance to change the world,” Sims said. “Our generation just might be able to start a revival.”

Sims attended Passion with a group from Blackshear Baptist Church in Flowery Branch.

Heather Ingle agreed.

“A lot of people say there is no hope for this generation, but being able to be in that arena … and (seeing) students melt in their seats … to see how they want to be a part of something and change the world and affect hope … makes me disagree.”

Passion Conference not only gave students an opportunity to worship alongside their brothers and sisters in Christ and experience a new kind of biblical teaching, but allowed them to put their faith in action by serving their cities and the world.

At arrival, Passion attendees filled bins with socks and towels, some of the most needed items at homeless shelters.  Atlanta’s City Refuge and Houston’s Star of Hope charities benefitted from the donations.

Passion 2016 also took up donations to help build a neonatal intensive care unit in northwest Syria for at-risk mothers and children. Once completed, it will be the first hospital of its kind in opposition-controlled Syria.

“A bunch of ‘broke college students’ raised $785,000 to spread his name and his kingdom in a region of the world where everyone else is running from,” Sims said. “This is a huge testament for what God has called all of us to do. While this world says run from Syria, fight against Syria, hate its people … we are called to love the nation and love the people.”

Bryson could not believe the impact it had.

“For God to be able to use the funds he has given us to raise money to make a difference in 12,000 plus people’s lives, was mind-blowing,” she said.

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