Living water: Annual youth Revolution retreat points to Christ

By Jessica Brodie

COLUMBIA—For the ninth year running, 2,000 teenagers from across South Carolina headed to Columbia for Revolution, a youth spiritual retreat, hoping to connect with other Christians their age, hear good music and a good word—and, for many, draw closer to Christ.

This year’s Revolution packed the Township Auditorium for a “Living Water” themed event that featured teaching from Atlanta author and pastor the Rev. Jasmine Smothers, music from Christian band Bonray and help for Water Mission, a nonprofit clean water charity and Christian engineering ministry.

The four-session event started Friday night, Jan. 26, and ended after worship Sunday morning, Jan. 28. Chris Lynch, youth ministries congregational specialist who helped organize the event, said this year’s Revolution was a success on so many levels, from the speaker to the music to the $5,600 collected for Water Mission, which is thought to be the largest offering Revolution has collected to-date.

“For me, the best measure of success is when you find out from youth workers and young people the impact it has after it’s over as a springboard for ministry in the local church,” Lynch said. “(Weeks later), if it’s still resonating with the students and they’re still having conversations about their faith, that’s the best proof that what we’re doing is effective.”

Lynch said what was helpful this year was not only being able to thread the water theme throughout the entire weekend but also be able to lift up the Water Mission project at every session, not just once or twice. Doing that helped bring the Gospel—and our response to it—into greater clarity, he said.

In addition to teaching and music from the spotlighted guests, the weekend included an opportunity to help Water Mission, district pizza parties, an invitation to Christ, a call to ministry for those discerning that path, games, prayer opportunities and youth talent performances from Journey, Gilbert, Moncks Corner, Union UMCs and others across the state.

What’s in that water?

Smothers, too, laced the living water theme throughout her four speaking sessions, helping to underscore the John 4:14 message: “But those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

In her first session, Friday night, she preached on one of Jesus’s healing miracles, from John 9, when Jesus spit into dirt, made mud, placed it onto the eyes of a man born blind, then commanded that man to go wash off his face in the Pool of Siloam. When he did, the man became able to see.

Calling herself a “Southern princess” who doesn’t particularly like mud or water, Smothers brought the scene to life for the crowd.

“He spits in dirt, makes mud, wipes it on the man’s eyes—can’t you hear them go ‘Ewwwww?’” she illuminates for the crowd.

But when the man could now see, Smothers said, “I’ve got to ask you: What in the world was in that water?”

Jesus was in the water, she preached. Jesus happened.

“Every day you get invited to living water; you get the opportunity for Jesus to put mud on your eyes; you get the opportunity to say ‘I once was blind and now I see,’” Smothers said. “But you have to decide, ‘What water am I jumping in—water of nastiness, greed, pain or suffering, or the water that leads to life?’”

Thirsty for God

In Session 3 on Saturday night, Smothers preached on Exodus 17, when God had Moses use his staff to strike a rock, and water gushed out for the thirsty people of Israel.

She taught how in Exodus, the people were a lot like us, always wondering where God is when times are tough. Yet these Israelites have seen how good God is.

“They have seen the impossible, and yet they still doubt God. They still say ‘But I’m hungry,’ and now they’re thirsty, and they’re griping and complaining, and God keeps showing up for them over and over and over again,” Smothers said.

We need to expect God to show up, Smothers preached.

“What is tormenting you? What causes you to forget that God is who God is? What separates you from being able to see the majesty of almighty God?” Smothers said. “We can’t supply everything for ourselves. Thirst is a sign that something is missing. The people thought it was water.”

But, she said, what they really needed was God—exactly what we need today.

“What’s going on in your life? Where do you need God to show up?” Smothers asked the crowd, then encouraged them to pray there in their seats and release to God what keeps them from their very own miracle.

After a performance by the praise dancers of Union UMC, Irmo, Smothers had attendees take a rock, assign it something that torments them, then throw it into water as a symbol for what they need to do spiritually.

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