We had been there for almost 3 hours by the time my friend Kaley and I became desperate. Sitting in a restaurant with our empty soup bowls and nothing but Britney Spears’ song “Hit Me Baby One More Time” ringing in our ears, we felt defeated. We needed a name. A name for this event that was at the very edge of starting a fire. A name to start it all and to shape the very thing that God wanted to say on the night of this event.
My pen was tapping on our crowded table of scattered papers with drawings and random words that we were brainstorming about. We were silent. But the Britney Spears song was still blaring throughout the empty restaurant. Kaley looked at me and said “What are we gonna do?”
At that point, my brain was fried and my eyes had a hard time staying open. It was only 4 pm. But I had felt like I had been there for a lifetime. 3 hours of nothing. So I started joking around.
“Give me a sign,” I sang along with Britney. “Hit me baby, one more time!”
And there we sat. And sat. And sat some more. Nothing.
“We need something before we talk to our principal. And we need flyers as soon as possible,” I said. My eyes were scanning the room, searching for a pinch of inspiration in something… Anything! We had already talked about the salt shakers at our table but couldn’t think of any cool titles with the word ‘salt’ in it. Thats when I saw my sign.
It was literally a sign. On each table was a sign about being “enlightened about food” or something like that. But I saw that word and I knew that this was it. Thats what we needed to talk about.
“Enlightened!” I said. It was amazing how fast me and Kaley had ideas for the night after that sign. We talked about Salt and Light and what that could look like in our schools. We talked about songs that dealt with light, people we thought of, verses we thought of… And we turned right to Matthew 5:13-16:
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Here we are on October 6th, a dark, rainy day in Michigan. It couldn’t feel any brighter after what happened last night. Last night being the most amazing night of my life.
I can’t even describe in words what happened in my public high school’s auditorium, but I can tell you that people walked out enlightened. Not because of the band or the speakers or the videos or the hosts. They walked out enlightened after experiencing God and connecting with our God that has a perfect plan and purpose for every single person.
Not everything went as planned last night. But it was perfect. It was perfect because it was what God wanted it to be.
Its still unbelievable that over 600 people gathered together in my school’s auditorium to worship Jesus. That was why they were there. Most of the people that walked in those doors had no idea what they were walking into but knew that there was an opportunity to worship. They had no idea about the lights and the songs and the lamps and the games and the messages. Seeing that turn out for worship was encouraging. But that wasn’t the best part.
Last night, His children were crying out to their Father. I heard it. I saw it. The wonderful privilege of leading worship is witnessing people’s hearts being displayed as they worship. It was a beautiful, beautiful experience. The way everyone sang, “I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned” was a moment I will never get out of my mind. The voices are still ringing in my ears. I can still see people raise a little candle to the sky as they devote everything to their Savior. But that wasn’t the best part.
I got to stand next to my best friend and lead worship with hundreds of my friends last night. Kaley saw this vision from the beginning and God used her to make Enlightened what it was. Her beautiful testimony was truly God speaking through her. But being able to stand next to her while we sang “The Stand” was such an honor and touching moment for me. God brought us together as friends during really lonely times of our lives and she has been there for me ever since. Always praying and encouraging. Even though that aspect of the night was incredible, that still wasn’t the best part.
We challenged everyone in the audience to action last night. There were candles on the sides of the stage (fake, battery-powered candles) for people to take and light if they wanted to make their own personal commitment to God. Before the service, I felt like God wanted this commitment to be what each person needed it to be. Whether it be giving their life to Christ, surrendering a relationship, committing to do what He is asking them to do, talking to someone about Christ… Whatever that is, everyone had something different. And hundreds of students stood up from their seats to grab a candle and hold it high. As I looked out into the crowd, I saw a lot of candles shining a warm glow of yellow. They all looked the same but none of them were the same. That wasn’t the best part either.
The best part is yet to come.
Its happening right now. The lights that flickered in that room are now walking through the hallways of 8 different schools, 17 different churches and several different communities. And thats what Enlightened was and is. Its not over. It will keep going. Because Enlightened is not mine. Its not Kaley’s. Its not anyone else’s that was on that stage. And because its not ours and belongs to the Ultimate Creator, it will go on.
Two years ago I was at a conference called The Follow Tour. This event had thousands of students gathered together in a hotel to worship and hear messages from inspiring men and women of God. That event changed my life. I couldn’t tell you why that weekend was so powerful for me. The worship was awesome, yes. And the speakers were awesome, yes. But God was calling me to something that I couldn’t figure out and I couldn’t shake it.
That weekend I re-accepted Christ into my life because I wanted my life to take a stand for Him. When the preacher said “Stand if you want to make that decision” I stood because I knew that I was not living my life that way. I was not standing for Him. Especially in my school. So I stood and I told God that I would always stand for Him. And that when I got home, I would stand when He called me to.
On the last night of that conference when everyone was drying their tears from the last worship song and saying their goodbyes, my youth pastor, at the time, confronted me. He said,
“God was talking to me during worship tonight and He wants you to know that in a few years, you will be up on that stage”. He pointed to the big stage in the front of the massive room.
I said, “Wow, that would be cool!” And I laughed. What could I say to that? I had no idea what he was talking about.
“You’re going to be up on that stage, Olivia. And right now is the grooming process. You need to get ready for what God is going to do. You may be losing friends and school may be hard, but God can use that for preparing you and for you to draw closer to Him” he said.
For the past two years, I had always thought my pastor was talking about my future after high school. And I have been waiting to see what that meant for my life. What stage God was talking about.
Yesterday afternoon, as I was preparing my message to speak at Enlightened, God revealed to me what my pastor was talking about.
This, Enlightened, was the stage that God has been preparing me for. And it was my turn to challenge others to stand in their schools. That passion that He gave me in that moment when I stood at the Follow Tour was what I needed to share with my peers.
God is beautiful. He had this whole night planned for longer than I can imagine. And He has been preparing the words, the songs, the messages, and the theme of Enlightened for every single person that was in that room. He is so good. I cannot express how grateful I am to have had the honor of being apart of this beautiful story of how God is calling disciples to rise up.
It was all Him. The whole time. And He is the reason we need to keep going. The reason we need to keep shining that light. He has called us all to do so. Not just some of us. Not just the ones on stage or the ones that play sports or the ones that seem to have it all together.
He is calling all of us.
And last night, everyone in that room heard it.