It’s called Winterfest. Each year 400-500 students from across Northern Illinois and Northwest Indiana gather for this incredible conference. And each year, God shows up in powerful ways. But there was a different vibe in the air this time around. Just three weeks prior James Chambers, our division’s evangelism specialist, shared his dream to see more non-Christians attend this conference. The response from the staff team was overwhelming. By the time Winterfest began over 55 students had registered for “Finding God”, a track specifically designed to be a safe place for skeptics to come and find answers to their questions about Christianity.
One of these students was an international student from my own campus, the University of Illinois at Chicago. Though he came to UIC as a skeptic he eventually made friends with a couple of students in our chapter and decided to come to Winterfest. On the opening night of the conference, at our evening gathering, he told us why he had come: “I am hoping to make some new friends and I hope that God is one of them.”
By the second night, this student was the honorary guest at his own spiritual birthday party. A few hours earlier he had given his life to Christ. When I asked him what made the difference, he responded, “I was interested in Jesus, but I didn’t know much about him. Now I have a better recognition of who he is and I know that he died to save me, that he loves me, and that I can talk to God because of him. Today I am a new me.” He was just one of 15 students who became Christians that weekend. Furthermore, many other students are returning to campus with a different perspective on Christianity than they had before and are continuing to ask questions and look for answers with their Christian friends.
Conferences like Winterfest are part of the reason that I serve in InterVarsity. It is amazing to watch young people meet God in ways that they never had before and walk away, their lives transformed by the encounter.
To give you just a brief snapshot of the weekend, here are some images of our time together: