By Jessica Brodie
COLUMBIA—It looked a bit different from years past—a virtual gathering held via livestream thanks to COVID instead of a bunch of Jesus-wild teens all crammed into Columbia’s historic Township Auditorium. And for a while, technology issues threatened its success.
But by the end of the evening, this year’s youth Revolution spiritual retreat proved just as rewarding, Holy Spirit-filled and fruitful as it’s been for the last 11 years.
Youth from more than 75 United Methodist churches across the South Carolina Conference took part in the livestream Revolution, held on one night, Jan. 30.
This year’s retreat carried the theme “Mosaic” and drew from 1 Corinthians 12:6, about how even though God works in different ways, it is the same God who does the work in all of us.
Leader, speaker and author Rachel Billups was the featured speaker for the event, with music courtesy of the Journey UMC Praise Band.
“In a video that was produced for the event people were asked to finish the sentence ‘Mosaic is … ,” and I recorded a response that said, ‘Mosaic is beauty from chaos,’” said Chris Lynch, congregational specialist with South Carolina Ministries With Young People. “That became a bit prophetic as we began the night in quite a sense of chaos with some technology challenges that were completely out of our control. However, as the night progressed, it was obvious that God took that chaos and created beauty out of it.”
And, Lynch said, “By the end of the night, within the space that we were streaming, even out to those that were watching from near and far, the power of the Holy Spirit was evident and powerful and beautiful. And for that we give all honor and praise to God for another great (albeit different) year of Revolution.”
Journey UMC hosted the event, which not only featured music from the praise band and preaching by Billup, but also games, table talk opportunities and “talent show” style performances from youth groups.
“We are deeply thankful for Journey UMC not only in their willingness to host the event, but their assistance in helping with the technology and production of the live stream,” Lynch said.
“Phyllis Ballard, their media specialist, and the Rev. Martin Quick were especially helpful. The Journey Praise Band offered powerful worship for the event, as well.”
Billups gave three separate talks that night on the concept of mosaic. In the first, she focused on how difference is good and that we are all created by God. Youth were invited to bring or have in mind an object that represented them. One brought a book because he loves to read, another a fidget spinner because she struggles to sit still, and another brought Lego bricks because he loves to create things.
Youth were then invited to answer “table talk” questions, such as whether there is something in their life that’s leaving them feeling broken today, why they chose their specific item, whether there are times in life they clearly see their difference and what helps them see their difference is good.
After a music and fun break, Billups returned to the stage to tackle how sometimes we feel like we want to be someone we’re not and change what is so different about ourselves.
But our “superpower” comes from our ability to trust God to do His work through us no matter what.
“Scripture is filled with ordinary people used by God to do great things,” she said.
Often, we are obsessed with our looks as teens, causing us to develop unhealthy body images, eating disorders and other issues.
But, Billups said, “You are not the size of your T-shirt or the label on your shoes. You are a beloved son or daughter of the risen and living God .… a masterpiece in God’s eyes.”
She shared a story of Sarah from Genesis, who laughed when she learned God would make her a first-time mother in her old age. But as God responded, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18). Sarah chose to trust God even though it seemed far from reality.
In her final return to the stage, Billups talked about the importance of surrendering to God. So many of us are fearful, anxious, doubtful and worried during the pandemic, but if we put our trust in the Lord and turn our problems and worries over to Him, He will show us the way.
As Billups reminded the crowd, “The mission of Jesus Christ is not about us—we are literally called to give our lives away!”
But, she said, if we do so, we will find life eternal.
Plans are already under way for next year’s Revolution, which organizers are planning as an in-person event. Revolution 2022 is slated for Jan. 28-30 at the Township Auditorium. Learn more at http://scmyp.org/revolution.