Nearly 200 high school and college students gathered at the 2019 ReFresh conference hosted by Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM).
This conference equips students to handle faith challenges they will no doubt face in the university setting as they start up the new school year.
It also provides an opportunity for students to ask genuine questions in a non-judgmental atmosphere about topics where they might be struggling with doubt.
The impact was life-changing:
RZIM’s mission and passion is “to reach and challenge those who shape the ideas of a culture with the credibility of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The ministry seeks to equip future leaders by touching “both the heart and the intellect.”
To that end, the ReFresh conference allows students to come together with youth leaders and ministry professionals in order to get vital questions answered.
It’s an intense week of learning with the goal of deepening students’ faith.
With sessions on sexuality, suicide, the trustworthiness of the Bible, sexism, and more, no question is off limits. Christians and skeptics alike are invited to discover God’s truth and learn how it applies to their lives.
“As students, you know what it’s like to be surrounded by questions,” said the organizers.
“It can be easy to feel overwhelmed. In the face of so many questions, how can you keep your faith strong? Are you prepared to answer the questions and objections of your friends and classmates?”
RZIM’s goal for the ReFresh conference was to give students “the space to think through some of the toughest challenges to Christianity,” and that was certainly the takeaway for many attendees.
Students are encouraged to ask questions during and after sessions with the speakers – which has a powerful impact on many young people.
“You’re affirming the fact that a student has a voice, that there’s dignity in that question, and then it’s being answered, right then and there,” said one of the youth leaders at the conference.
The practice of answering these questions honestly and Biblically was life-changing for many of the students in attendance.
One student admitted that she was often afraid to ask questions about faith and Christian living. “Questions that I was always so afraid to ask the people at my church, or the people that were my friends, or my family…they won’t have an answer for that. That question doesn’t even make sense.”
“Those questions were met with such compassion and love and understanding that I feel like I came out of it with some amazing answers,” she went on to say, excited about the opportunity to share those answers with peers in the future.
Another student talked about tackling her own assumptions about God and the Bible.
“My friends at school always told me that the God of the Old Testament was homophobic, He was sexist, and I had a lot of preconceived notions about who this God was,” she admitted.
“I found that both the discussion groups and the talks allowed me to gain a clear understanding of what Jesus stands for, and I truly began to love that as a part of Christianity instead of thinking that it was something that … detracted from my faith.”
Her view of Jesus has been changed forever and she’s ready to answer those who want to know who God is and why He matters.
Over and over throughout the conference, students found that the speakers and staff were ready to address their questions with joy and love.
“I think that feeling of being known and seen as a whole person has helped students…feel like they’re understood,” said another youth leader. Instead of dismissing questions as a lack of faith, students learned to bring them to God and hear what He has to say about their lives.
“Everything was made personal and everything was connected back to Jesus,” another student said. The conference speakers and staff “made it matter not just to my head, but to my heart,” he continued.
These deep and intimate connections help students continue their discussions and their questions long after the conference has concluded.
“It doesn’t stop here. You’re building that foundation to continue it in real life.”
The conference attendees learned over and over that their Christian worldview is meant to influence every part of their lives.
Skeptics were led closer to Christ through the honest and clear application of Scripture, and the Christian students were energized and encouraged to live out their faith on campuses all across the nation.
May the ideas addressed at ReFresh continue to lead many more to Christ!
Learn more about ReFresh and the other ministries of RZIM here.