This week I spoke at Dordt College, kicking off the Global Agricultural Summit they’re hosting there. 700 attendees from 25 countries converged, coming together to discuss how to grow and distribute food in a sustainable way around the globe.
I showed up on Wednesday morning for a sound check, then prayed with the worship team, then was pointed in the direction of the “quiet room,” where I could pray and center before coming out on stage to do my talk.
Just before chapel started, while most of the worship team stayed seated in the front row, their worship leader — a boy-faced guy with curly hair, plaid shirt, corduroy pants and lace-up moccasins — stood in front of the mic.
It was just him and his guitar. No spotlight. No light show. No fog machine. No reverb.
I was walking towards the back of the auditorium when this guy began to play. After he strummed a few chords, he began to sing the most beautiful, haunting, exquisite version of “Jesus Loves Me” I have ever heard.
It wasn’t because he was using technically-difficult guitar techniques or putting on a show or belting it at the top of his lungs. Somehow, this guy was singing from his soul.
Soon the auditorium was filled with nearly 1,000 students and Summit attendees, singing Jesus Loves Me.
I walked towards the quiet room a little slower, with tears in my eyes. The simple beauty of the song, and the sound of 1,000 people singing it, stirred something deep in my soul.
I spent a few minutes in the quiet room, praying and centering. And then, instead of staying cloistered in the room like I usually do before it’s time for me to take the stage, I returned to the auditorium so I could join everyone in the worship music.
The campus chaplain, Aaron, was in the pew next to mine. And I noticed, as I snuck in beside him, that he, too, was fully given over to worship. Not checking his phone or looking around to see students who were and weren’t there. He was in the presence of Jesus, lifting up his hands in surrendered worship.
“Who was that!?” I asked the campus chaplain after the service.
“It was Jon De Groot,” the chaplain said. “He’s an amazing guy, a spiritual director, and a phenomenal worship leader. We recruited him to be on our Worship Arts faculty.”
“He was amazing!” I said.
“Yeah,” the chaplain said. “Jon enters the throne room and comes back to take the rest of us with him.”
After chapel service — and then following an evening talk about the developing world and how we can impact it by helping them develop sustainable food and clean water sources — so many students came to chat with me, sharing their enthusiasm and their heart for the world, that I was there for three hours after each talk. And lots of students sponsored kids with Compassion International out of their concern for kids in the developing world.
It was the most beautiful, authentic, stirring, soul-awakening experiences I’ve had in a long time.
Two weeks ago, I gave a talk at a large church about Children In The Margins. I mentioned the verse Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me…for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” I talked about how God wants us to come as children — he wants us to be our true, authentic, vulnerable, honest selves, without faking it or pretending. He wants us to be trusting, to lose our egos and our self-consciousness in his presence.
This week, I got a very tangible, beautiful taste of what that looks like.
As I continue to do what God has me doing for now — writing and speaking — I hope I can live into that image. I hope I can be authentic, genuine, simple and true.
I hope when people hear me speak or read my writing, they have a soul-stirring experience that prompts them to ask, “Who was that!”
And I hope people say about me, “Oh, she’s a girl who enters the throne room and returns to take others with her.”
Like the guy standing on the empty stage with laced-up moccasins and a guitar, strumming and singing the beautiful, simple strain of Jesus Loves Me.