I never really knew what it was like to experience or feel God’s presence. As a child I would go to church, Sunday school, youth, and even tried and extra Bible study. Even with all these activities, I never really felt like I was connected with God, although I believed that I was. Looking back on it now, it felt similar to doing drills or circuits in P.E. class. I was doing the drills, but they were not producing the right results.
I finally went off to college. I thought I had everything planned out perfectly. I went to one of my top schools, got into a competitive program that would give me a great financial future, and I thought college would be a breeze after being very successful at a tough preparatory high school. But after one semester I changed majors because the stress was too much. That did not improve my academics, and it seemed nothing I was doing was right. I felt totally lost.
So I decided to take some time off, return home, and work until I was refreshed and ready to finish what I had started. During that time, some of my church family turned me towards the Gathering. Since it was the only outlet for me to be with other college students, I decided to try it out. I made new friends, went every week, and enjoyed the sermons. But it was exactly like going to church in the past. I didn’t feel God, and thought I would never feel God.
Everything changed when I went with the Gathering to their spring retreat at Agape Wilderness Center. It was a big step for me. I had never gone away with people I barely knew, to a place I had never been to, to try and grow closer to God. I never had thought to go on a retreat in the past. I guess there is this notion that you can only grow as a Christian if you are inside a church, inside God’s house. But God made all of creation, which everyone knows but tends to forget.
On this trip we had the pleasure of meeting Pastor Tim and two members of his prayer team. They heard God’s voice easily and loved to pray for people. Pastor Tim likes to give a warning that his prayers will most likely “mess you up”. So I sit down with a girl on his prayer team, tell her my name, close my eyes, and wait eagerly for the prayer. She began praying, and her prayer “messed me up” so bad that I was forever changed. She was hearing things from God that there was no way she could have possibly known, things that I had never spoken out loud. I was in shock, I had chills running down my spine, and I felt this great weight upon my shoulders. I finally felt God’s presence.
God never ceases to amaze me! Even when I thought something was impossible, God showed me how through him nothing is impossible. You never know when God is going to answer a prayer or concern. I now know God’s presence is real, and it inspires me to reach out to others so they can feel the same way I feel. I will never forget the 2015 Spring Retreat with The Gathering!