For the last dwindling months of 2013, I kept a secret that only me, myself, and I knew: after Christmas spent with family, I’d fly to Kansas City for the International House of Prayer’s Onething 2013 conference.
I received a lot of flack for my ongoing travel secret, inside my family and out, but can you really blame me? When your life becomes a literal open book, it’s refreshing to regain a secret or two.
I’d listened to IHOP’s worship music for years, and I’d always wanted to attend one of their annual young adult conferences. I just never felt courageous or “random” enough to attend Onething — until this year, that is.
Onething 2013: The Christian Body is Huge
I knew 30,000 people would be attending Onething 2013. But a number seems so minute when you view it on a mere screen. When you actually immerse yourself among the 30,000, the number explodes.
Of the several other Christian conferences I’ve attended, Onething 2013 blew the numbers out of the water. And it wasn’t just 30,000 young people from all across America.
They were 30,000 young people from all across Earth.
SO many people.
SO many Christians.
And you know what? Every single attendee I met was such a spectacular human being — something that is, sadly, not true of every so-called “Christian.”
Onething 2013: The Christian Body is Mysterious
Entering Onething 2013, I sorta knew what I was getting myself into. IHOP tends more toward the “charismatic” side of Christianity, admittedly a “side” of this faith of which I’m not super “comfortable” or even familiar: tongues and prophecies and exuberant worship and such.
But there’s something mysterious and appealing about other Christians who “do” Christianity differently than me. Of the planet’s millions of Christians, it only figures that one person’s or one family’s walk with Christ would look different from the house next door or the continent next door.
It only figures that Christianity would evolve through the millennia much like a game of “Telephone” or “Whisper Down the Lane,” theologies and worship styles colliding with cultures and peoples and personalities as diverse as charcoal from chartreuse.
I don’t want to be afraid of Christians who are louder than me. More expressive and more “spiritual” Christians. I think we all have something valuable to offer one another, and it’s why I actually love the diversity of denominations in this mysterious faith.
While I don’t pretend to fully understand the many facets of Christianity supported by IHOP, “one thing” is certain (see what I did there?): the Christian Body is a pretty special thing.
Onething 2013: The Christian Body is Special
Every time I boarded a shuttle to/from the conference, I sat beside someone and we exchanged stories. Our stories. Everywhere I walked in downtown Kansas City, there were throngs of conference-wristbanded Christians chatting and bonding. Praying at street corners with “random” passersby.
Even the house where I was staying, a “random” IHOP staffer’s residence, a dozen young people from around the world were crammed on couches and in sleeping bags in every habitable room.
In short, I saw such limitless love as I’d never seen inside the Christian Body.
Perhaps my favorite memory from Onething 2013 was my second-to-final night there. It was New Year’s Day, the day after the conference concluded. Most had returned home, but some remained. Myself included.
I ate dinner with some of the guys I happened to stay with that week, including some faces from Sweden — yes, that Sweden. The one with the Vikings. Or, you know, close enough.
I was talking with one of the Swedes that night; he had wild blonde hair and gushed excitedly about his plans to hitchhike across America for the next few weeks or months. I got to talking about my own wanderings, and he said I should try hitchhiking some time. Said he’d hit California soon and that he and I should hitchhike up to Redding where Jesus Culture was birthed.
While I’m not quite certain I’ll be signing up for this Swedish hitchhiking adventure, this guy’s — this brother’s — cheery outlook on life plain-old infected me.
“It’s the best,” he said. “Connecting with different people from all over the world and just sitting in their living rooms is the best.”
That night, we had a pseudo-Swedish dinner of meat patties, potatoes, and spinach-avocado-grapefruit salad. At other junctures, some of the musically inclined guys started strumming their guitars and leading the room in brief worship sessions.
Honestly, it was a snapshot of everything I want in life: good food, good conversation, good brothers.
Onething 2013 broadened my minuscule view of the breadth and beauty of the Body. It’s made me all the more eager to trade stories with brothers and sisters the country and world over.
Consider this Traveling Golden Trout divinely inspired anew to wander and to wander well.
Bonus Onething 2013 Stuff!
Favorite Onething 2013 Twitter handle: Awkward Prayer Room (you kinda had to be there).
— Awkward Prayer Room (@AwkwardGPR) December 31, 2013
— Awkward Prayer Room (@AwkwardGPR) December 30, 2013
— Awkward Prayer Room (@AwkwardGPR) December 30, 2013
Favorite Onething 2013 image: 18-degree day.
Favorite Onething 2013 worship set: Matt Redman.
Favorite Onething 2013 message: Francis Chan.
Have any of you guys ever been to Onething? What about another Christian conference? TELL ME A STORY.