Hope House’s journey to the college conference to Montreat, NC titled “Beyond Babel” was a success with 12 students in attendance. Our students joined a gathering of predominantly Presbyterian (USA) Christians from various parts of the country who were dedicated to strengthening race relations within amid the current adverse climate our country is harboring. This retreat was highlighted by very motivational speakers, like Valarie Kaur and Rev. Dr. Betty Deas Clark, who touched the crowd in ways that were unexpected. For the Hope House, this conference gave many of us voice that we didn’t recognize we had, or if we did, were reluctant to exercise it.
Participating in critical discussions and workshops and then discussing the impact it had on us afterwards piggybacked on our lock-in experience in December. I not only feel like perspectives changed, but also attitudes toward the current state of America and towards each other. The energy in this conference was overall positive and optimistic. Not solely because someone had a great speech or that one of the workshops was super fun, but the altogether effort of so many to gain a thorough understanding of different points of view was a beautiful sight, even breathtaking.
Our students led calls to worship and interpretive dances on the same stage Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once spoke on. Being present to witness and be a part of even more history was one of the most rewarding parts about this conference. I saw my friends take steps that took incredible amounts of courage and even was able to glimpse into their future selves in their attitudes at this conference. Rev. Paul Roberts Sr. gave wonderful sermons shining light on many important points on what it means to be black in America but also the importance of realizing the ultimate truth, that we are all God’s children. I am proud to have been a part of this conference with the great people who attended it with me. We made new friends and became acquainted with very dedicated and knowledgeable people who saw the potential our students and ministry possess.
Getting to meet other college students from across the country was a privilege, especially being able to witness those with immense talent during the talent show on Wednesday night. We were also able to meet UKirk Knoxville, UKirk Nashville, and Maryville for a fun evening of dancing and snacks. I was impressed and humbled to see and interact so many ministries furthering such an important call of understanding and improvement of both ourselves, our communities and our nation.