By Anna Grace Cole

I’m not sure what I expected that cool, sunny September morning, but this wasn’t it. The parking lot was bustling with people. There were people getting registered, people strolling about in tour groups, people standing and watching other people. And there I was, little ol’ me, smack-dab in the middle of it all, yearning for a familiar face but finding none. Many people I’ve spoken to about that day have said they wondered what they were getting into. Some considered going home. I wondered, certainly. But for me, leaving was never an option. Sure, I was nervous, but the idea of backing down after I’d come so far was unthinkable.

Mediocrity was something I have never been able to suffer well, and in the previous years, I’d become increasingly sick of mediocre Christianity. I was tired of knowing all about God. I wanted to experience Him, and if nobody where I lived knew how to do that, I was going to go somewhere that I could learn from people who did know how. It was this motivation that drove me to find myself standing in the parking lot of Bethel Eureka on September 4, 2010, for BSSD Orientation.

Today, nearly a year later, I sit and think about how different I am from that shy, small-feeling person who showed up as me that day. How does one, in a paragraph, or even a page – or several pages, for that matter – sum up the explosive growth, the radical change and the overwhelming freedom that I discovered in nine short months? I can’t. All I can say is that I sought God, and He showed up and turned me inside-out. It turns out, that’s how we’re supposed to be. He showed up and taught me who I was at the deepest parts of myself so that I could live it out for everyone to see.

The single most important thing I learned at BSSD was how to connect to God. Not how to talk to God, because I’m pretty sure I do a lot of talking. But I learned how to listen. More than that… how to hear. And when I hear what He’s saying about me… about someone else… about pretty much anything, and I line up my thinking to what He says, that’s when change happens. It’s much easier to follow God when you can hear and understand Him when He yells, “Hey! I’m over here!” It isn’t always that easy. I’m pretty sure I’ve still got plenty of unlearning to do. But the goodness never stops.

In three weeks, students from all over the world are going to pour into that parking lot once again. I will be one of those unfamiliar faces in the crowd, bustling, standing, watching, and wondering what majestic transformations I’m going to witness. What kinds of incredible encounters does God have in store for these hungry children of His?

It’s a new year, with new students, new interns, new patterns of doing things. But God, although He loves to do new things, does not in Himself change. His objective remains pretty much the same: to love His children, teach His children to love, and through that love, bring heaven to a broken world. I’m excited for this year. I’m excited to watch God move in power, transform hearts and minds. Most of all, I’m excited to watch God make all things new. Let the encounter begin.