Discovering the Narrow Path: A Review of the Inaugural DIRECTION Conference

A diverse group of individuals from high school, college, college grads, or working professionals gathered for a five-day conference put on by SLAM (Students Living A Mission). SLAM offers a variety of service opportunities to young people, aged 15-25, as well as bible conferences and summer internships. The Direction conference (new this year) targeted individuals aged 18-30, and focused on the need to find God’s plan for one’s life at a time when many life decisions are being made.

People want their lives to have meaning. According to the Barna Group, three-quarters of adults in the US say they are looking for a more meaningful life. While 56% want to make a difference in the world, only 20% have a sense of how to do that. People generally expect that higher education will equip them to properly address this issue. Unfortunately, half of all college students fail to graduate. Of those who do graduate, as many as 60% will enter an occupational field unrelated to the degree they obtained. Too many people are without direction in their lives. Most importantly, too few people understand that God truly wants to guide their lives – to direct them to a vocation of purpose.

In response to this need for purpose and understanding, G.O.D. Int’l facilitated a 5-day retreat called Direction. It was designed to be an opportunity for young adults, aged 18-30, to explore how to live a life of meaning, and a chance to discover if God’s Word truly offers relevant insight for our lives today. Thirty-six young adults came together at Happy Hollows State Park in Eva, TN and embarked on a journey that included worship and Bible study and interactive group discussions. The group also participated in a variety of activities intentionally designed to highlight the particular interests and talents of the participants, as well as to promote group collaboration.

In order to facilitate these activities, participants chose a particular “track” for the week: sports, music or theater. Those who chose the sports track enjoyed competition in badminton, frisbee golf, wiffle ball and soccer. The purpose of these activities was not merely for entertainment, but rather to explore issues related to team dynamics, healthy competition, authority, and even conflict resolution. Discussion sessions followed these times, as participants had an opportunity to debrief issues that arose during the games.

Musicians and singers collaborated to create original music and lyrics to accompany a One Act play, written and directed by participants of the conference. Creating something meaningful to be communicated through the medium of theater is a challenge in and of itself, but doing so with people you just met brings even greater obstacles, as well as incredible rewards when you accomplish it–which they did, masterfully.

The music and theater tracks collaborated throughout the week to produce a musical one act play, which they performed on our final evening together. The production was phenomenal. Participants wrote their own script, casted roles, and even wrote original music and lyrics for the production. It captured a powerful message about choosing a life of service to others, even when everyone else seems to be concerned primarily with themselves. The performance was met with a standing ovation.

The participants broke into discussion groups following the teaching sessions. They grappled with practical application questions of how to relate the Word to their everyday lives, and how they could tangibly follow Jesus’ example.

Twice a day, the entire group gathered for a time of worship. These times produced moments of vulnerability and brokenness, as well as profound joy. On our final night together, the presence of the Lord was overwhelming during worship. There was hardly a face in the room that remained unaffected by the presence of God, and the peace and joy that resulted.

On a personal level, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunity I had to participate in Direction. I have been involved with G.O.D. International for 10 years and this event was one of the most encouraging, motivating weeks of my life. As a counselor for the week, I had the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with several participants. It was evident that they had truly encountered God. Some claimed they had never experienced the Lord in such a way before. One individual testified to having experienced the power of true friendship with those around them. He marveled at God’s ability to bring together individuals with different backgrounds, diverse circumstances, and various interests and produce amongst them genuine fellowship.

Worship happened nightly, and was interspersed with bible teaching and impactful times of prayer. The Lord’s presence was very near, and evident to all participants at Direction. In our fast-paced and media-driven world, the opportunity to get away from a wifi network and focus on connecting with God proved to be just what the participants needed.

Although most of the participants had already attended college and were making considerations for the future, the purpose of this week was to challenge them to submit their ambitions to God’s way – the ‘path’ prescribed for us in his Word. It was an opportunity to come together in the accountability provided by such corporate gatherings and allow the Word to be that illuminating force that God intended it to be.

The Bible says that if we draw near to the Lord, he will draw near to us (James 4.8). As we sought the Lord this week, he also drew near to us and spoke into our lives. Several participants testified to now having greater clarity in regards to God’s direction for their lives. Overall, the experience we had this week bears witness to the love of God as the One who cares to lead us in the journey of life, as well as the power of the Word to illuminate for us that narrow path that Jesus walked.